February 1, 2023

Commentary: Never be normal again…

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phillip_edward_alexanderBy Phillip Edward Alexander From Caribbean News Now

Following the unspeakable horror that was the slaying of well known legal activist Dana Seetahal, there are some who are already eager for us to ‘return to normal.’ But how can we? Our new normal is a world where people can not only contemplate the execution of such a powerful and well known personality operating at the highest levels of national contribution, but have also the means to have that intention carried out. No, some changes scar the sky and cause even angels to weep, which change normal forever. And sadly, that is where we find ourselves today.

I will always remember where I was when it was first put to me that a mad man and 114 accomplices had taken the government and others hostage and was attempting to overthrow our democracy. That moment changed normal as, in the normal world prior to that people did not contemplate such actions. Normal also changed forever when former attorney general and national security minister Selwyn Richardson was executed in his own yard by persons who have never been brought to justice.

Now we have a new normal, a normal where Dana Seetahal’s vehicle could be forced to a stop and she sprayed with enough high powered ammunition to rob us all of her most valuable life.

I remember saying to someone that if only lawlessness can prosper then we ought to be lawless too, and visit onto those who committed these atrocities against the people of this country with certain death, bright and public execution even if it required personal sacrifices.

You see, to me, in a normal world the law could never be an impediment to justice, and regardless of how bleeding your liberal heart is you must understand the power of simple gestures that, if Abu Bakr and his 114 treasonous thugs were all hanged from the neck until dead, much of the violent crime that we have today we simply would not have.

And in like circumstances, if the people were afforded the satisfaction of having the ‘shot callers’ executed for the role they played in the conspiracy that ended Mr Richardson’s life, I am almost certain that that new normal would have protected Dana.

But we live in a country where governments routinely fail the people, and perhaps without a shred of irony or sarcasm that is the most normal thing about Trinidad and Tobago.

That Ish and Steve and Abu and Bilaal and Calder and Julien and Lawrence and Andre and Sam P and Johnny O and others have been allowed to thumb their noses at the rest of us foolish citizens bound by the premise of a rule of law that has no meaning to them, and because somewhere someone or someones were allowed to grow old in the material comfort and benefit of the removal of a former minister whose life was dedicated to making this country better by the cessation of the corruption that many believe eventually killed him makes a joke of our version of the rule of law.

We live in a mad country; a place where those in authority seem to have no clue as to their role in or ability to impact history, because if we weren’t, if this was a SERIOUS country, at 12:05 after the news broke that Dana Seetahal had been executed, by 12:06 we would have had Port of Spain cut off completely from the rest of the world by land sea and air in an operation and exercise that curtailed liberty until the shooters were in custody being squeezed to ‘give up’ up their bosses.

This government had the opportunity to give us a new normal, a normal where it would literally require madness to contemplate such actions because the message would have been clear that the machinery of state was dedicated to upholding the rule of law and the protection of the people.

The news the day after should have been dominated by the speed with which that state of emergency was called and, similar to the police action in the United States that ended with one of the two Boston Bombers dead and the other in custody, or that did not cease until Timothy McVeigh was executed for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma, the message would have been pellucidly clear.

Because while everyone agrees there is no real way to prevent the intentions of the insane and the murderous, there are actions to be taken after that prevent them benefitting from their crimes and from inspiring others that such activity should even be contemplated. It’s too late of course, and regardless of what is done and who if anyone is ultimately arrested, the people are already jaded and disillusioned by what is now normal.

We missed an important opportunity here, and there is probably going to be a price to pay for that failure. The people of Trinidad and Tobago are heartbroken over the loss of a loved one they never got a chance to know personally but whose death they are taking very, very personally because of who she was and all that she represented.

Now the new normal is for others contemplating a life of sacrifice and service to this country to take a long hard look at that choice where their own safety and that of their loved ones is concerned, and that, ultimately, may well be the greatest casualty of all.

With the ignoble slaying of Dana Seetahal, normal has been changed forever, and we will never return to ‘normal’ again.

Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen’s Union of Trinidad and Tobago

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