A glaring no-show

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It was a big, historic regional crime symposium in Port of Spain this past April 17 and 18, under the theme, Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge. Practically all the heads of State were there. PM Mia Mottley of Barbados. PM Dickon Mitchell of Grenada. PM Philip J Pierre of St Lucia. PM Andrew Holness of Jamaica. Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago. PM Terrance Drew of St Kitts Nevis. PM Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines. PM Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica. PM Philip Davis, of the Bahamas, the current Chair of CARICOM. They were all there, as was CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett. Indeed, this was as high-a-level of a conference as one is likely to see in these parts. Heads of government, government ministers, law and order stakeholders, and the sort, were all gathered to discuss ways to combat a rising scourge in our various territories – crime.

But there was one glaring no-show, shamefully conspicuous by his absence – He of a High Place from Antigua and Barbuda. He was AWOL. Yes, sireeeee! The big, bad sheriff in St John’s could not be bothered with attending such an important confab, never mind that we are facing a disturbing increase in crime in our fair State. After all, he had more important matters to worry about. For example, there was the life-and-death sale of the Alfa Nero, which was supposedly posing a clear and present danger to our environment. That was part of the contrived narrative offered by Those in High Places as to why this seizure and sale had to proceed as a matter of urgency. Alas! The seven learned luminaries who worked on the legal ‘i’s’ and ‘t’s’ of this matter, made a big boo-boo when they failed to advise the grasping geniuses in the Administration that the US sanctions had to first be lifted before any sale could proceed. Aw, shucks! We are now the unwitting owners of a vessel that we cannot sell, at least, not right now, and we are bleeding money in its upkeep. Talk about being suckers! We have no equals.

We are now slaves to the Alfa Nero. What was supposed to be a ‘windfall’ (their word) is now a financial millstone about our necks. Our tax-payers’ money, desperately needed to make so many of the unpaid workers and contractors whole, is being squandered on a boondoggle. Meanwhile, we understand that one of our ranking officials has been deputised to make entreaties to the US authorities, begging them to lift the sanctions.  We wish him luck, but we’re not holding out much hope. It is being reported that the US authorities are ‘not cooperating.’ Ouch! So we are stuck in Falmouth Harbour without a paddle.

Clearly, He of a High Place has a lot on his mind. Remember, he was gleefully rubbing his hands, salivating at the thought of the monies that were supposed to roll in upon the sale of the Alfa Nero. It is not difficult to imagine that he is now swearing and cursing under his breath, and in the solitude of his office, shouting a la the malevolent Scar in THE LION KING, “I am surrounded by idiots!” Scar was frustrated by the ineptitude of his henchmen, the hyenas. (Actually, in many of his vile rants, He of a High Place has often raged against his colleagues and comrades when he perceives that they are not measuring-up, or rather measuring-down, to his expectations). Such is life in Labourville.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that He of a High Place has a social media fetish. He is given to spending an inordinate amount of time trolling the various sites looking for gossip and melee, and what is worse is that he actually responds to every childish, petty, nonsensical social media posting. Like a little twit. Sigh! How a busy leader could waste time responding to these inanities – the silly, self-absorbed musings that are not worth a fart, is beyond us. Be that as it may, it is clear that he could not attend the crime symposium. Not with so much “’tory and melee inna quantity” on social media. And not with his preoccupation with damage control re the African migrant debacle. After all, with this Administration and its African migrant problem, it is now ‘operation extrication.’ So he sent Assistant Commissioner of Police, Albert Wade.

Needless to say, notwithstanding our lukewarm response to the crime symposium, it is becoming increasingly apparent that crime is a major problem here in our fair State of Antigua and Barbuda. Last week, a superette in Yorks was robbed at gunpoint. A few days before that, a businessman was relieved of a great deal of money as he exited a bank at the Woods Mall. In broad daylight, mind you. The Ottos Comprehensive School was vandalised over this past Labour Day weekend, and a few weeks earlier, hooded assailants scaled the fence at the Clarehall Secondary School in search of an adversary. During school hours. Then there were several cases of bloody violence at Fort James Beach this Labour Day. Some of those victims were seriously wounded. Add the many incidences of teenage violence among our school children – the vicious hooliganism, and so on and so forth, and the many homes and businesses that are being broken into, and it is clear that we have a problem. Oh, and let us not forget the car thefts.

To be sure, the disturbing increase in crime is not an existential threat at this time, but it is still a cause for concern, since many of the crimes are being committed with greater impunity, and a shocking disregard for other peoples’ properties, and the safety and security of the decent, law-abiding citizens of this country. We are not yet anywhere near the staggering crime statistics that we are seeing in a number of other capitals, but we must be on guard. We must remain vigilant.

In that regard, we are calling on law enforcement to step up their patrols, especially in high crime neighbourhoods. Greater police visibility is a strong deterrent to crime. Police should also increase their interaction and rapport with the various communities that they serve. Nothing beats good community policing. And the churches, schools and homes need to step-up interventions and other nurturing efforts to save our young people from venturing down paths that are a threat to society, and lead to their own destruction. Many of our young people often feel alienated, they are the victims of broken homes and dysfunctional families; crippling poverty and deprivation are their realities, and they often join gangs to feel some sort of love, albeit a perverse love, and a sense of belonging. They need to know that this is a dead-end street.

And by the way, we are putting out a call for anyone with information on the whereabouts of 18-year-old Kevin Millet Jr of Greenbay, who was reported missing on March 17, to contact the authorities at CRIME STOPPERS – 800-TIPS, or by calling the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at 462 3913/3914. We, the non-law-enforcement citizens, do not know for sure if Millet is the victim of foul play (his burnt-out car was last seen at Potworks Dam), but we are calling on those who may have seen something, or heard something, to say something. Who last saw him? What was his state of mind? Who last spoke to him? Did he have a cell phone? And what do the last few numbers that called him, or that he called, reveal to investigators? (That can easily be checked with the local phone company where his number is registered). We are praying for his safe return.

In the meantime, we call on the election authorities in this fair State, the good folks at the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) to investigate the fraudulent conduct of this past general election. According to an unwitting co-conspirator, the people of Antigua and Barbuda were stuck-up, what with the unlawful transfer of voters from one constituency to another. The will of the people was compromised by shenanigans and political mischief. Now, there’s a crime! We wuz robbed! But don’t expect the ABEC folks to respond to this electoral heist.

Al Capone, and the outlaw Jesse James, would be so proud.

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