Darcus Howe is accused of letting his country down

I tell the truth about violence in Trinidad, and I am accused of letting my country down

Yet again I have offended the powers that be in the Caribbean, this time in the country of my birth, Trinidad and Tobago. This is not new. Most of my political writing is based in the huge hinterland of post-Second World War migration. And, from time to time this inevitably leads me to write about the governance of those countries from which we migrants came.

I visit the Caribbean fairly often, renewing my contacts with a whole range of people from different sections of society, and reporting news and views of what is going on. Only a few months ago, a feature in a Trinidad paper gave a distorted version of what I had written in this column - a distortion that suited the political views of the author and which I took in my stride. I face no persecution when I return there, except some surveillance from local special branch police. And that, too, I take in my stride.

The source of the current dissatisfaction is my column last week on urban gun violence among young blacks in the UK, which mentioned that it takes place in Trinidad on a much larger scale. Several e-mails and a couple of telephone calls accused me of letting my country down. But the statistics bear me out. The number of deaths through gun violence is likely to reach 200 by the end of the year, and this out of a population of 1.2 million.

In any week the daily newspapers reveal a society in near panic over this issue. Citizens complain that they are forced to stay indoors after nightfall in fear of their lives. Now, the government has drafted the army in to the realms of policing - in what amounts to a militarisation of the state.

The recently formed anti-crime squad is headed by a brigadier and involves an increasing number of soldiers. This has led to protests from the police unions, which have advised their members not to co-operate with the army.

The violence extends to kidnapping, which has reached epidemic proportions. It is a form of class war waged against the monied classes by the urban unemployed. The flight of capital to Miami and the severe reduction in local investment are reflections of the fear that has gripped this island state. Only last year the British government warned its citizens against travelling to Trinidad and Tobago. It was an overreaction, but a very understandable one.

I will not desist from my political commentary on the degeneration of the islands into violent barbarism. As I said in my replies to the hostile e-mailers: "I am not in the business of PR!" Only the merciless reality will do.

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