A former minister in Trinidad and Tobago has called for a state of emergency to address rising crime that's "strangling the lifeline of the country," becoming the latest elite to weigh in on whether this extreme measure is the best way to reduce insecurity in the Caribbean nation.
"Now we have areas in Trinidad where there are daily killing zones … Crime is on a rampage, it's strangling the lifeline of the country," former Minister of the People and Social Development Glen Ramadarsingh said in an interview with Caribbean News Now. "Terror and bloodshed everyday in the newspapers, it's a very difficult time for our country."
Ramadarsingh's comments supporting a state of emergency come after three business associations signed a joint letter in late January expressing concern about the "ridiculous state of lawlessness and criminal activities in our country." The associations pleaded with the government to "take control of the burgeoning crime situation even if it means calling for a limited State of Emergency in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago."
"It appears we are becoming a land of anarchy and chaos," the letter reads.
Not everyone agrees.
"Can anyone tell me what the police would do under a SoE [State of Emergency] that they cannot do now?" asked former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday on Facebook in early February. "A State of Emergency cannot be a way of solving crime. If that is the case, then why not recommend a total State of Emergency forever. We have to come better than that."
InSight Crime Analysis
While there is disagreement about whether a state of emergency is appropriate, all sides seem to agree that the crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago is getting worse. The small, dual-island nation witnessed at least 461 homicides in 2016, which translates to a murder rate of 32.9 per 100,000 inhabitants and an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
Another potential reason for the heightened awareness surrounding crime is the ease with which violent episodes can be recorded and shared on social media. Both the business associations and former Minister Ramadarsingh cited recent videos on social media showing cases of violence and even human trafficking.
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But, as former Prime Minister Panday noted, a state of emergency is little more than a stopgap measure for a structural issue. Indeed, a previous state of emergency that was put in place in August 2011 was lifted that December after businesses complained that a curfew was hurting the economy.