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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Prof. Selwyn Ryan on the Crime Problem...

I haven't disappeared. In fact, I've spent the last two weeks writing for a decidedly smaller audience. A group of Queen's Royal College alumni have been in lengthy discussion and debate on the state of the country, and in particular, the problem of crime. We are working though to transition our discussions into something more, and you may hear about that in the near future.

In the mean time, other writings on crime and criminality - not rhetoric and la couray mind you, but academic and reasoned writing - have been attracting my attention and interest. Professor Selwyn Ryan has a very interesting piece on the subject in the Sunday Express of February 11th, 2007. Under the caption, "The Jamaicanisation of Trinidad [LINK]," Professor Ryan notes similarities in social changes in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, and looks at the respective Government's actions in attempting to address growing crime problems.

Jumping out at me in his article though is support of something that I have been saying for some time - that the crime problem did not simply rear its head overnight, but took generations to develop, and thus requires careful planning and time to unravel and address. Professor Ryan writes:
The Jamaican and Guyanese experiences make it pellucidly clear that there are no quick fixes for the crime problem, and certainly none that can be achieved by relying on states of emergency, extra-judicial executions or highly paid consultants whose experience is grounded in other legal and bureaucratic cultures. As one master don is eliminated, a battle ensues for the succession, in effect decentralising control of the crime syndicates.
The crime problem is the result of many things that we did collectively as a society over the years and about which some said that "we like it so". Some of the problems were the by-product of things that we inherited by reason of the fact that we live in a particular geographical space. Others were the result of the opportunistic behaviour of our business and professional elites.
As Attorney General John Jeremie recently pointed out, the collapse of the criminal justice system did not occur overnight. Collapse was due in part to the activities of attorneys who once upon a time conspired to attack the heart of the system by making files and witnesses "disappear" mysteriously; it was also due to the activities of clever senior lawyers who, for the benefit of their own pockets, ensured a multitude of court appearances and the inapplicability of paper committals; it was due as well to the activities of opposition MPs who have a vested interest in failure and call for change and performance but ensure it does not happen lest it support the efforts of the Government in power.
The entire article makes for very interesting reading, and one hopes that coming from an academic of Professor Ryan's standing, it receives the thought and recognition that it deserves, and is not brushed off as pro-PNM grandiloquence.

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