Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our lost boys

In light of today's front page, I thought I'd post the columns I wrote the last three times this happened. I can't find the one I wrote for Sean Luke, but when I do I'll post it. Please forgive me if I'm somewhat incommunicado these days. I'm sure you understand why.


(For Akiel Chambers)

Several years ago, I had the dubious distinction of seeing members of our police force at the scene of a crime. The crime had taken place at the house of an associate in the early hours of the morning, the time they were accustomed to occurring back then, before criminals became more emboldened and waited for their victims in the brightness of day.

Frantic calls to the police resulted in us being told that they would be there in a while, despite their being told that due to the nature of the crime there was a very good chance that the perpetrators may still be nearby noting the results of their actions. When they eventually came, they were appallingly ill prepared for the task ahead. The witness spent over half an hour getting the officer taking the report to understand what she had seen. The other officer, meanwhile, was picking up evidence with his bare hands.

Those of us who had grown up watching cop dramas looked on in horror. We knew this to be a major mistake that could ruin fingerprints and contaminate evidence. The officer accepted the offer of a pair of rubber household gloves. He didn’t even bother to put them on.

Those of us who stood watching pointed to the bushes at the end of the street that lead off to a forested area. Walking through this area lead one to the Eastern Main Road. The witness had seen the perpetrators take off into this bushy area and then stop. We suggested to the police officer that maybe both he and his partner – who had spent most of the time thus far essentially walking around the premises and talking on the phone – go into the bushes as there was a good chance that, even if the criminals weren’t there, there may be further evidence.

The officers took one look at the bushes and said no, the men were long gone and they didn’t leave anything behind. I remember looking at the policemen’s stomachs swelling grotesquely over their belts and not being surprised at their reluctance. After all, these were men who couldn’t be bothered to put on a pair of gloves.

So this latest example of investigative inefficiency in the Akiel Chambers case causes no surprise. After all, this case has been mishandled and mismanaged since Akiel’s death back in 1998. Back then the police ruled his cause of death as accidental drowning. And to this day, apparently, they persist in that view. This is despite the fact that when he first went missing , the pool was checked and his body was not there. This is also despite the fact that the autopsy revealed that he had been sexually molested just before his death and that evidence strongly suggested he had been suffocated during the act. What person, realising he is drowning, will assume a crouching position? How could a child drown in front of so many people with no one witnessing it?

Accusations of evidence tampering and contamination surprise no one, especially those of us who have had any first hand experience with the police service. What is surprising, and very, very disturbing in its implications, is the callous and brazen indifference Akiel’s family and the public at large are being treated with. Twenty months of supplementary investigation have lead the police to announce they have no “clear suspect” in a murder case they still treat as an accident. And this is despite the presence from the onset of the investigation of DNA evidence that could have revealed – at the very least – who his rapist was, if not his murderer.

The lack of accountability has created a miasma of incompetence that reeks to the heavens. One cannot help but wonder, are we supposed to believe our police force is so inefficient or is something else, something more sinister, at play. So now the excuse isn’t that there are no gloves. The excuse is that there is no legislature that allows the police to collect DNA samples from possible suspects, even though there is no law that says they cannot. Strange, this sudden desire to play strictly by the rules, when it has not been the case before, especially in this case. And suddenly, there is vacillation over accepting Charles James’ offer to fund the DNA testing in the United States, when gifts of cars to assist police in cases being investigated have not been a problem in the past.

The case I outlined earlier was never solved; it was ruled that there were no suspects. The evidence that had been improperly collected was improperly stored. The case went nowhere until all parties involved eventually moved ahead with the business of living. This cannot happen in Akiel’s case. We cannot allow the molestation of a boy to be dismissed as unimportant. We cannot allow his death to go unanswered and unpunished. To keep quiet about this enduring example of gross complacency and ineptitude is to accept it and to accept it, is to accept a degeneration and degradation of our collective social conscious.


(For Dane Andrews)

When I was in primary school, there was a girl in my class who had no friends. She had the tragic misfortune of being both white and poor – a terrible combination as anyone from the Caribbean knows. To be white of skin and empty of pocket seems to us to go against the very laws of nature, and as children, forever in tune to the adult world around us, we subconsciously adopted their attitudes for our own.

Her status was not just determined by the inability of her ethnicity and wealth to coincide though. She was taller than most of us – a tragedy in itself – and was the only girl in a family of boys, her mother having died when she was younger. Her father we didn’t know much about, except that he wasn’t the type to notice when school skirts needed replacing and hair needed brushing. She carried her motherlessness like a banner on her shoulder that anyone could see. She didn’t fit in with the rest of us whose hair was always slicked back and secured firmly with baubles and red ribbons. And the boys didn’t want her. So she skulked around the school yard during recess, during lunch, trying to fold her tall frame into a less conspicuous size.

She also didn’t fit in because she was being sexually molested. We all knew it, to varying degrees, even those of us who didn’t know the words or what they described. We just vaguely knew it had to do with the touching of “piggies” and “poonkies” and firmly belonged in the realm of the adult world. We knew there was something wrong with the relationship she had with her father. She had a precocious knowledge of what men and women did at night, a knowledge that, far from impressing us, disturbed us immensely and made us shun her more.

She would sit in class for hours on end rubbing herself back and forth against the edge of the bench until the teacher grew disturbed and shouted at her to stop. We were all disturbed by this monomania and by the stories another classmate who lived next to her told, stories she’d overheard from adults who spoke of the “poor child” and the “nastiness of white people”. We looked at this victim of “damn slackness” who was being “interfered with” and even though we didn’t know what it was, we knew instinctively that it was terrible.

In secondary school too there were girls who were being “interfered with”. Problem girls who drank and cursed and quiet girls who spoke only when spoken to and ate lunch silently at their desks, all of them sufferers of the same fate. Once again we picked up the attitudes of the adults around us and only rewarded with friendship those who managed to conceal. In the world of the convent that prepares you for entry into a perfect life one has to learn to pretend that one’s life is, already, perfect.

As an adult I’ve met guys, dated guys, am friends with guys who’d had broken relationships with girls who had been abused. It’s never spoken about the way it is on TV or in the movies, with the terrible hushed expectancy, the tears and unbridled horror at the revelation. The boyfriend, husband, lover doesn’t swear vengeance on their behalf. It’s sad, but it’s a commonplace sadness. There’s always someone who’s had it worse. You’re always luckier than somebody else. There are always blessings to be counted.

And looking back, my primary school self, my secondary school self and even my adult self had no idea what should have been done or even what could have been done. There were no ad campaigns, no adult spoke to us about this terrible thing that infiltrated all our lives, only in differing degrees. If it had happened to any of us, we would have had no idea what to do. The experts all say that you should tell an adult you trust but many times the adults already knew and, in subconscious consent, chose to ignore. Some were the perpetrators themselves. And in the case of Dane Andrews and Akiel Chambers, in fact, in the case of most victims of abuse, it’s someone you know and trust whom you follow willingly to your own destruction.

And now the villagers are tumbling over themselves to speak about what everybody knew about before but no one chose to speak about. And what about the children who aren’t killed and so no one ever speaks about them because they’re just one more in a world where there is always one more?

So another child has been raped and murdered. Another family cries as the child no one thought they would outlive is buried. And we all wait to see if once again, another child who has been destroyed because of ignorance and silence will go unavenged.


Alexia said...

Hottie girl I feel your pain as I write this I am have been reading the express & guardian over & over & thinking how many more children must suffer. I began reading comments ppl were leaving, below is some quotes that I think spk volumes about our country, our non-chalant, casual, laid-back, unconcerned way of thinking.

"It is difficult to read about these & other stories & Trinidadians are just letting roll off their backs, like water off a duck's back."

"We are always in reactive never proactive."

"I do agree that crime is just not isolated to Trinidad but we in North America have a government. A police system and a judicial system which is not perfect but is accountable to the citizens. We have legislations regulating everything from parking on our street to the protection of our citizens the laws are enforced so we have come to respect such laws. You know why this is so? It is so because our leaders are held accountable for their actions or inactions at election time. It is time we hold our gov't

And it is time we hold ourselves accountable. Until we change our mind set, it’s a vicious cycle that will unfortunately continue to destroy our futur.
Hottie what is there left to be said, we know we need not only to change our gov’t, but to educate, but how, how, can it be done if it’s only a few ready to take a stand for justice. I can’t remember the date when the “Unite against Crime” was organized for yet another innocent life that was lost, I remember reading the express or guardian that ppl came out to support, but grew weary and lost interest because just walking in the POS showing solidarity was not enough, ppl wanted music and to be jumping down Frederick St. And that, that right their is our problem.

Alexia said...

"When you enforce laws people obey the law. When you allow lawlessness to persist it only breeds more lawlessness."
Mr. Manning do you understading the above quote, you have allowed, you have participated, and you encourage the infestation of lawlessness.

saucydiva said...

Hottie there was a girl like that at my high school,very unkempt, always in a daze..she was being sexually molsted by her father and got pregnant by him. I saw her recently with her daughter/sister and it took me back to those days when everything was whispered and covert looks would be sent her way when she came back to school after having the baby (the prinicpal stepped in and made sure she returned to finish school.)

Pedophillia has always been something that is going on in Trinidad but no one has addressed publically,dealing with the problem full on. Instead it is always a hushed, whisper about whose father/uncle/brother is interfering with them..sometimes the whole village knows but no one goes to the authorities. Now, the abusers are not letting their victims live, especially the ones who are preying upon the boys. They have taken the abuse one step further to murder.

When uncle Patrick wants to start laying down the law on what is eroding the moral fabric of this country, he should not be looking to gambling but to making known the sex offenders,giving teachers the tools to equip them to deal with sexual molestation and domestic violence in the home as well as training for police officers and social workers to identify children who are being abused and remove them from the situation.

Too many children are suffering, remember the young girl, Dolly I think was her name, who was raped and killed by a known sex offender who had moved to their village, he also murdered her aunt before he was captured. Then there was the baby girl whose step-father beat her to death.The whole village knew he was abusing the child, both physically and sexually but no one did a thing.Then there was the baby boy who was forced to ingest cocaine..he also died. Like I said before 7 children have died at the hands of evil men and what has our Prime Minister said to date about crime? That it is on the decline........

Vami said...

i know of these stories. It is amazing how a society lets these things happen and there is no awareness. it almost is as if women in trinidad have no say or respect. they are made to take everything silently and when things are reported, no one acts on the crime.
A few years ago, a cousin of mine was molested by a 67 year old grandfather. she was 6!!!! People actually came and offered her mother money to keep the case out of court. her mom refused the money and went to court everyday until she saw the guy behind bars....and even then, they only gave him 7 years in prison...they said he was "too old" and he would die soon. these bastards! I helped raise that kid and it breaks my heart all the time...

Hottie Hottie said...

Vami, Saucy, Alexia - you know how sad it is that almost everybody who know has either been a victim of abuse/crime or know someone who has? And Alexia you are right, it is important to social stability that those at the top are seen to be held accountable. It's amazing how quickly our leaders' actions filter through society. Remember it was soon after the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal that councillers noticed a disturbing new trend among teenagers that oral/anal sex was not actually sex. When a project goes over budget, when a friend gets a contract, when bribes get accepted, when you lie and tell people who know otherwise that the system is working, it sends a message that rules can be broken when they go against your will. When Akiel, Dane and Sean were raped and killed, no prime minister felt the need to speak about it. Now a fourth child has been lost and I wait to see what Manning will say. I suspect nothing. These are crimes that shake a people's confidence in their government and their society and yet there is no motivation to console and protect. You know what frightens me? Abu Bakr said the 1990 coup had to take place because of the decay he was seeing in society. What is he seeing now?

Hottie Hottie said...

It's things like these that split you as a person. I'm wondering what right I have to complain, up here in another country, away physically from it all? But emotionally I'm not. Maybe it hurts me more than it would if I was home because the news from home is read in isolation from it. I want to fly back home and protest, to shake things up, to let my voice be heard. But heard by whom? Our Prime Minister and his minions doesn't listen, even when the majority of the population protests. He knows his unquestioning followers will line up to vote their ten days and food cards back in power and when their babies get raped and loved ones get killed they will take comfort in Manning's bs that was caused by the UNC. And if the UNC was in power it would be the same shifting of blame and mudslinging to disguise the lack of action. So what do we do? Anybody? Because right now I'm thinking it may be better to remain up here and, when I have them, raise my children in England's half a life existence than to risk their losing it at home.

Alexia said...

"So what do we do? Anybody? Because right now I'm thinking it may be better to remain up here and, when I have them, raise my children in England's half a life existence than to risk their losing it at home."

A personal decision for everybody that's a hard fact of reality to choose one country over yours because there is no stablity. If Trinidad continues on the path its on we will see an exodus of all the foreign investors that live, work and have their families with them in Trinidad, even the locals that have business will leave & I know some have left who families were kidnap for money.


This hurts me to say this but I am at the point of asking my entire family to migrate, but this is not the answer and it sloves nothing, because and the end of the day another loss of productive citizens contributing to trinidad economy.

I migrated with the intentions to return home one day to use my proffesonal skills that I aquired to improve & develope MY Trinidad. I will keep that dream alive because deep down in my heart there's no place like home, no matter how good you have it in another country. It starts with one person making a difference for the future of our country, our families and our children.

Mani said...

Hottie, ah here, but ah not here. This thing has me in a funk.

Afrobella said...

Hottie, I just want to say thanks for posting this and keeping these issues alive. I know how Mani feels - numb. Tears are prickling the backs of my eyes, but I have too much work to do so I move on, try to push the image of that battered child out of my mind for the hour. But I can't. I am ashamed to say this, but I've been scared to go home for a while now. I have asked my parents to consider a move, but with a mom in her mid 60;s, a dad rapidly approaching that, and no prospects for them in a foreign country - what can I really offer? And fleeing our country and leaving it for the bandits isn't an option. Something has to give. This kind of madness can't be allowed to perpetuate and fester. But my optimism is at its lowest ebb this week.

My heart goes out to every family that has suffered this kind of tragic, senseless loss.

Hottie Hottie said...

Hi Mani. Was wondering where you were.

Hottie Hottie said...

Afrobella, Alexia - I understand what you are saying. You now, you grow up thinking that if you follow the rules you'll be safe. Avoid the bad areas, bad company, wrong activities etc and you'll be fine. But that no longer applies because you're being attacked in your home by your friends. When my friend Darryn was killed outside 51 degrees it shattered me. I think part of me still hasn't got over it and probably never will. Part of what made it so terrible was that he had followed all the rules - we used to actually argue over religion because he was such a "good" Catholic, whatever that means! Everytime something like this happens I fear for my siblings, my cousins, my unborn children. I want to do my part but it seems all I have at my disposal are words. Words and a horribly impotent anger. I don't want to abandon my country. But sometimes it seems that that's what the powers that be want, to get rid of the thinking population and be left with the bandits and other negative aspects of society who will vote and keep them in power forever; a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. Since Manning likes to go and meet criminals, I wonder if he's going to visit this new molestor? He should arrange a photo shoot shaking his hand. Liek and like - one raped a child, the other raping a country.

-:¦:-·:*""*:·.-:¦:-·* cb *·-:¦:-·:*""*:·-:¦:- said...

Hottie, thanks so much for posting despite the helplessness you and a lot of other Trinis are experiencing right now.

You know, I was having a conversation with a family member yesterday and I was saying almost everything Saucy put in her post, and she responded with such resignation and nonchalance, I was just appalled! I couldn't believe her indifference.

It just further reinforces Alexia's post about the reactive vs. proactive. And, therefore, encourages the government to treat these crime and violence matters frivolously.

It's such a shame. I so wish I could do more. Seriously, is there anything I can do? I'm not based in TT, so I can't join any protests, and I'm not really willing to contribute money to an organisation that'd take my well-intentioned dollars and use it on administrative expenses and not on victims.... Any suggestions from those based in TT?

saucydiva said...

cb I think those of us living here feel helpless.....powerless. In the face of a horrible crime like the leaders get on their soap boxes and make their long winded speeches and the required exclamation of how sad the crime was.But you know what, I blame the Government first and foremost!

Yuh know my mom works in the courts and she says the biggest factor for the increase in crime in Trindad is that the criminals are getting released from jail or on bail on all sorts of petty technicalities; she says, imagine someone come before the judge for robbery, but the lawyers know the person has a history of violent crimes, rape etc. yuh know they will argue the prisoner did not get water while in custody or while he was being interrogated and he gets off! Or they will argue for bail, he gets out on jail and committs even more crime! She said one such guy was in for armed robbery, he got off,don't ask me how but somehow the jury set the man free (my mom's theory was had they known the man's LONG criminal history of crimes and rapes,which was kept from the jurors, they would not have freed him) she said the judge was shocked the man was released..yuh know self said man committed murder a few months later.The gov't needs to step in and make sure that repeat offenders DO NOT GET BAIL. Why are they releasing these criminals on bail when they know they have a history of the criminal behaviour!?! Lock them up and throw away the blasted key!!!

Ah next thing is,train the police officers nah, train them how to handle themselves so the prisoners will have nothing to say about being abused while in custody and get off for some stupidness like that. And, all them prisoner officers need to be fired. You tell me prisoners behind bars calling hits on people from their CELL PHONES..phones sold to them by prison officers!!!

Then, the whole kidnapping thing, is all kinda people involved in that, including law enforcement, the same ones who supposed to "protect and serve" tell me, they eh know which ones are the dirty cops and which are not? They know! But everybody have cocoa in the sun so is a big cover up!

And I blame them for not making sure the social workers do their job....imagine I know a woman who is a social worker, only in it cause she could get travelling allowance, gov't loan to buy a car plus the salary and then will turn around and say she not going and see "them people" cause she doh like going in them poor areas it does make her depressed!!!

Girl, u know if somebody in the US call the Social Services under SUSPICION that a child being abused they not making joke!That child will be removed from the home before the parents even know what hit them.

Partick only trying to sweep the problem under the carpet, pretending that crime going down because there was 16 murders so far rhis year in Caroni instead of the 17 last year! Yuh think is jokes?

Every day women are being raped at UWI. ONCE I have seen police patrols on the street in St. Augustine near campus and after that nothing! Can you beat that!!!! Not to mention the police always saying the never have a vehicle to get to the scene of the crime. If you have a burgular in your house, the only way to get the police there is to say you kill him.

So yuh see the stems from the top, the top behaving like a Ostrich, sticking they head the sand and pretending that everything is fine because they have their police escorts and body guards around them 24/7.

Hottie Hottie said...

Yuh want jokes Saucy? Hear jokes. Yuh remember a few years back a fella got killed on campus and it had big protest, student lock out teacher and thing? Well I was there in time to hear Aguiton (I think that is he name) talk about the extensive and well trained campus security. Well the joke was that around that same time a security guard from they "elite force" was tracking me and going in my bag and putting he phone number and leaving message and thing! When I tell Aguion about that he turn onme, trying to imply that I was lying. When I pull out the fella note and show him he change tune, telling me about reporting it and they will investigate. The SAME security firm that the man working with. Anybody on campus will tell you as soon as is dusk them security does crawl in dey hole fuh de night; them not patrolling! I remember 9 0'clock at night my aunt have class in the front of the school and want to use the toilet. Aye aye! Door lock. When she ask security about it, they tell she she have to use the toilets towards the BACK of campus, it done close and they not opening it. When she ask if one of them will be going with her they watch she like she mad and say no, they not supposed to go to the back of the school! Well it have few things in the world worse than a big red woman cussing yuh so she get to use the front bathroom. Look, after years of protesting and 1 student being killed, is only when Aguiton son get killed crossing the bus route that UWI get a traffic light. Yuh want jokes? Sometimes I feel Trinidad is one big joke yes. Like we hafta wait for somebody to rape and kill (heaven forbid) one the Commissioner of Police children for something to happen. ALL them police know who them crook is. But they hand tie up by the higher ups. Ask any policeman yuh know, they will tell yuh. Some a them badboy and them better protected than WE eh. And that is true talk.

saucydiva said...

I know girl, that is why I say that kidnapping ting is REAL people involved. One of the persons who was murdered two years ago, kidnap victim Damian Schneider,was kidnapppend as soon as his father sold some property and came into some money.Now, I know the father very well, and the amount the kidnappers asked for as a ransom was exactly what he sold his property for!! Yuh think is jokes, how they know how much money the man have in he bank account?????

And just look at Clint Huggins, BIG police involved with Dole Chadee gang, he was an example of a corrupt police officer who in the end turn "state witness".And it have plenty like he out there. Them police working for peanuts and have ten woman to mind, yuh think they doh fall for bribe and corruption? Like I say, it start from the top..all who feel they are not criminals because they only giving they "fiend" a contract and getting a lil cut, blue collar criminals they call them all of them in the same damn boat as the murders, rapists, drug pushers and bandits!

Hottie Hottie said...

Saucy, you brought up a valid point. A few years ago I met the woman who was the first civilian HR Manager in the police force. This woman told me about the dehumanising manner in which these officers are treated within the force. You only get rank and by extension basic respect when you reach the top levels of the force. So you have a situation where ordinary officers are treated like shit and when they achieve status they in turn treat their subordinates like shit as revenge for what they experienced. She tried to introduce mandatory counseling for all officers because you are penalized if you go for voluntary counseling – you are seen as weak and soft and passed over for promotion etc. The officers were glad when the mandatory sessions were introduced because they could get the help they needed but could hide behind the fact that they were forced to attend. The sessions were scraped. You have officers who undertake seriously stressful activities for weeks at a time and afterwards are expected to just jump back into normal life like nothing. So you find that for a police officer, life becomes one big display of machismo – the womanizing, the violence, the arrogance. When everything around you erodes your sense of self and sense of manhood, you become obsessed with proving it. I know a guy who’s a police officer and he goes out everyday without a bullet proof vest. You know why? Because there is only one vest in the station and they have to take turns wearing it. He’s a Hindu and squeamish so he has a problem with sharing so intimate a garment. As I would too. Imagine that. ONE VEST! But Manning testing jet plane.

warrior like me said...

Hi Hottie,

I'm reading these comments and getting even more depressed. I feel like today is Vent Day.

You guys are all right. And let me tell you, I know for a fact, the Police Commisioner himself is one of those people whose hands are tied. He and all takes orders from above. He may not say it on TV and it may not appear so, but he has good ideas, he just can't make them a reality.

Let me make it clear, I'm not making excuses for anyone, but I will be fair as I can be.

Honestly, I think when in a position of authority like Prime Minister you really have a responsibility to serve your people. To do whatever it takes to make all aspects of the lives of your people better. Now I've sat in meetings with Mr. Manning and heard him talk with passion about the people of T&T and what he wants to see for them. And is not like he have to lie, cuz it was no media around, nobody to impress, just him and his closest (I was only there by flukes and he certainly didn't have me to study). And I remember feeling torn, because he made alot of sense. BUT as I said on Saucy's blog, the things he talking about are just treating with symptoms and not with the disease. And contrary to what he may think, nice, tall glass buildings will not help all the children being brutally murdered and having their innocence stolen.

Our laws are a HOT MESS!! It has to start there, cause you can't do anything that is against the law even if it seems like justice. And it'll be a trickle down effect from there. And I will say this too: every action taken by gov't needs a majority in parliament to pass, and if everytime a prposal goes to parliament, like the no bail for certain types of crimes issue, our opposition votes against it, nothing will ever get done. So we losing right around with an irresponsible gov't and worthless opposition.

Bottome line, we are living in a very dark time, and I don't think there is one person in Trinidad who would be opposed to some very stringent laws for criminals. Things need to get going with legislative reform........YESTERDAY!!

And we also as Saucy quite rightly said, need people to do their jobs. And as one of other posts said, to keep our leaders accountable, and yes, the opposition to.

At the end of the day, the gov't can't stop every crime, being realistic. BUT they should make it a prioroty to be able to say that they have done EVERYTHING on their end to ensure that this country is in order. And THAT is what they are not doing.