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To The People of Laventille
This article is written to the people of Laventille and to the people of all other communities with similar social challenges. Brace yourselves. I sense that you are about to become the scapegoats for all the human development failures of past and current governments and for all evils and violence that plague this country. I am hearing talk of draconian legislation that is in the making and of the draconian approach that the protective forces and the criminal justice system are being asked to unleash on the “low life” and “feral criminals” from communities like yours in the misguided belief that this is the solution to the crime problem of Trinidad and Tobago. What is sad is that the real financiers, the gunrunners, the drug chiefs, the traders of stolen motor vehicles and vehicle parts, the money launderers, and the brains of the crime industry, who mostly live in up-market communities, would be the cheerleaders of your demise knowing that those who die or are incarcerated can easily be replaced. You are only the foot soldiers of the crime industry and expendable. Few seem to be concerned about the development of the human beings in your communities. In fact, there is a deafening silence.
Recently, a good friend took time to share with me how many of your young people become entrapped in gangs through coercion and outright threats. Many of your youngsters fear being gunned down if they choose alternative lifestyles. Once pulled into a criminal lifestyle their best chance of survival is to outdo their fellow gangsters so that they can rise to the top as soon as possible in the hope that they can improve their chances of survival. It is clear to me that a lot of good people get trapped in a criminal lifestyle as a survival choice. It is a situation of good people going astray. Most of your people are trapped in an armed prison with little personal freedom. Every day is a close call between life and death for themselves and for the lives of their families and loved ones. Is not surprising that in some communities everyone has ready access to a gun, the common tool of trade.
These young people live with the threat of death every day of their lives. To put it bluntly, the choice is often kill or be killed. For many, imprisonment by the State is a welcome development that ensures a longer life and the death penalty is a distant and very remote possibility. Few seem to appreciate the plight of your people. Your people are born with the capacity to be 100 per cent hu-man, just like all the other citizens of T&T. You are not “low life.” You are not “feral.” You are blessed with the capacity to express hu-man goodness like all other humans. You are endowed with the potential to live a fulfilled life and to pursue your divine purpose. You are not “without hope.” You are children of God like all other hu-man beings. There is beauty in your lives—a beauty that is frustrated when your people, mostly young, become encaged in a criminal world that puts them always on the run as they struggle for survival. In such situations their humanity becomes diluted and the wider community begins to cry out for their extermination. In the process, everybody becomes barbarians.
Please note that we are already fast descending into a world of barbarism with the recent support of vigilantism by some senior officials. Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela would be mortified by such an uncivil and backward development. So, brace yourselves for state-sponsored barbarism and the spilling of much blood. You should note that the powers that be seem to be obsessed with solving the crime problem through only restraining the negatives. The focus seems to be one of eliminating through death or the extended incarceration of as many of your people as is possible, failing to recognise that the armed prison within which your people are already trapped is large and has a very effective recruitment system —life in a gang or certain death. It is my hope that the wider society and, in particular, the politicians will recognise the folly of the approach of just trying to restrain negative behaviours and recognise we all have a divine responsibility to rescue and heal those among us who have gone astray within our human brotherhood. We must recognise that there is a tremendous human potential within your communities that can be applied towards the development of a great nation, rather than remain imprisoned in a world where that potential is mostly still-born. But before others can help you, you have to begin helping yourselves. You have to get on the offensive by recognising the good- ness and potential greatness that exist within your midst. You have to begin cleansing your communities yourselves. You have to begin to foster the development of the human positives. You have to begin to bring out the beauty of your people that is now obscured by the misty wave of violence and anti-social behaviours flowing through your communities.
Some of the questions that you should be asking are:
How can we reclaim and enjoy our human dignity?
How can we rescue our teen-agers from the life-draining prison of the gang world?
How can we become more responsible members of the T&T society?
How can we live more fulfilled lives?
How can we find our true freedom?
How can we raise our children to become more responsible human beings?
How can we develop and roll out a human development plan for our communities?
I believe that you must take matters into your own hands and stop waiting on the State and other well-meaning benefactors to lead you to a path of achieving human excellence. I am sure that somewhere within your midst are people with the moral authority and moral courage to lead you. It is time for them to come to the fore. Your development is not about money and resources—it is more about finding the appropriate leadership that can help to bring out the best in your people. The language of understanding, compassion and love for our fellowman must replace the language of barbarism. Feelings of hope must replace feelings of fear and hopelessness. In time your humanity will flourish. Together, let us live in hope.
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