Editorial: Rural East, Wild West

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The news coming out of Clare Hall was not good. Seems, a band of gun-toting hoodlums had held-up a convenience store and a number of the law-abiding citizens and relieved them of their cash and valuables! While only one man was shot in the leg, there very easily could have been more bloodshed. Of course, the unimaginable terror that the victims must have experienced cannot be over-stated.
For one thing, their lives must have flashed before their eyes as they begged for mercy and complied with the perverse demands of these vermin. Suppose there was a triggerhappy fool among the lot? Or a skittish youngster on his first dead-end foray into the netherworld of stick-ups? Anything could have happened, and todays’ headline could very easily have been the painful announcement of our 21st homicide. It is safe to surmise that these harrowing thoughts will forever haunt our unfortunate brothers and sisters from Clare Hall.
They will need therapy for many moons hence, and our thoughts and fervent prayers certainly go out to them. Of course, in addition to prayer, we must take action to disabuse criminals, predators and other n’er-do-wells of the notion that they can stalk the streets of Clare Hall, Rural East and Antigua and Barbuda with impunity, “like roaring lions seeking whom they may devour.” Our fair country MUST NOT; repeat, MUST NOT, descend into ‘High Noon in Dodge City’ or ‘Shoot-out at the OK Corral.’
This anarchy MUST STOP! And concerned Antiguans must take concrete steps – “Heaven helps those who help themselves” to rectify this untenable situation. Firstly, we call on the good attorney general, our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, to up the ante in response to this brazen and cowardly act in a constituency that, by any measure, has descended into the Wild West. Clare Hall, Cassada Gardens, St. Johnston’s Village, Skerritt’s Pasture and Sutherlands were once peaceful and idyllic neighbourhoods with tidy gardens where neighbours greeted and helped each other and folks could leave their doors open without fear.
Everybody knew everybody, and there was a sense of community and kinship. Alas, those bucolic days are no more, and Rural East, in some areas, is like unto a ghetto. Roads remain unpaved and full of deep fissures. Garbage pile-ups have been reported to the authorities without a robust response. And with an unflattering name like ‘Baghdad’ (scary, crime-ridden area just east of Upper Gambles) in a certain area of the constituency, and reports of untoward behaviour in others, things cannot get much worse, never mind the ‘secret new crime-fighting strategies’ announced by the good AG.
Not that we are dismissing the government’s response to the uptick in crime and violence. Nay, we think that the new measures (e.g. stiffer penalties for gun and ammunition possession) will eventually bear much good fruit, but time is of the essence. Interestingly, the area that we now know as Rural East was once owned by the wealthy Nugent family. They would turn in their graves at some of the ‘Dodge City’ happenings on the lands that once formed part of their estate holdings. In fact, it was in response to crime, vagrancy and other societal ills that the Nugents (and they were concerned Antiguans) donated a parcel of their estate for the burial of the poor and indigent who were not allowed to be buried in the various church cemeteries alongside the rich and powerful.
We have all heard of Lady Nugent Cemetery on the Antigua Grammar School Grounds. The Nugents also built the first poor house in Antigua in the building that now houses the main offices of the Antigua Grammar School. When the Nugents and Branches decided to move the Grammar School from the old treasury building on lower High Street to Old Parham Road, the poor house was moved to its present site and named ‘The Fiennes Institute’ for the then Governor Fiennes.
The Nugents also donated some of their land for the construction of Her Majesty’s Prison, aka 1735. They also donated land for an institution to house the mentally ill (the current Clarevue) and another to house truant boys. The original reform home for boys was on Nugent property known as Skerritt’s Estate, hence the name “Skerritt” by which the reform school was known back in the day. Hmmm! Seems, Antiguans of goodwill did much for Rural East and our fair land by way of education, taking care of the indigent and the mentally ill, early intervention and reformation of boys on a path to truancy, as well as punishing crime. It was done back then, and it can be done now!
The bad guys must know that the good citizens will not tolerate this foolishness, and they must get the hell out of Dodge!

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