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Impact of organised crime on national security
Before I delve into the relevant and serious subject of transnational organised crime and its insidious influences on our national security apparatus, democracy, rule of law and human rights and banking sectors, with suggested recommendations on how the government should review their policies and national security strategy, I would like to comment briefly on two matters of national public interest.
First, a rather disturbing notion and growing trend of the People’s Partnership (PP) governance style is its consistent and perhaps inherent capacity to commit blunders on a weekly basis. Two recent examples of decision-making blunders reared their ugly heads in Parliament involving Brigadier Peter Joseph, formerly of the Ministry of National Security, and Cheryl Miller, of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.
Brigadier Joseph’s character, reputation and professionalism were allegedly maligned and he was falsely accused of mismanagement, and questionable financial impropriety, resulting in his dismissal without the opportunity to defend and disabuse the allegations proffered against him.
This act was allegedly committed on the altar of political expediency without any compelling evidence and cogent arguments. Despite the compensation Brigadier Joseph received, it took the wisdom and prudence of Speaker of the House Wade Mark to hopefully remedy the publicly misconstrued ideas and political propaganda about the Brigadier.
That in itself does not eliminate the character damage done to him locally, regionally and internationally. Was that new politics or the style of new governance? This is a very dangerous precedent, as was Reshmi’s appointment to the SIA.
In a similar vein, while enough comments have been made about the forcible confinement of Cheryl Miller at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, the reality is that a tremendous injustice has been inflicted on a citizen of this country, with absolutely no regard for the constitution, due process, her human dignity, rights and liberty.
While these two unfortunate incidents encouraged a bit of public-mudslinging, they can hardly have strengthened the public’s perception of good governance and transparency. On the other hand, the PP government continues to gradually erode whatever semblance of sanity remains. True enough, there may be an existing crisis in governance, but it is becoming more like a “state of emergency” in governance.
Secondly, the continued disenfranchisement of large sectors of the employed population may be paving the way for seeds of social unrest and potential rebellion. The PP’s adopted course of political behaviour does not suggest a government that wants to distinguish between political and principled criticism.
For example, a political critique of the PP’s governance mechanisms and decisions would be one which took issue with the results reached. A principled critique would focus more on the way decisions were reached by the government than on the results themselves.
In this regard, two books worth reading by the PP officials are Out of Control by Leslie Cockburn, about the Reagan Administration’s secret war in Nicaragua, the illegal arms pipeline and the contra drug connection and The Shadow Factory by James Bamford, which exposes the ultra secret National Security Agency from 9/11 to eavesdropping on America.
Now let us meaningfully address the dominant issue of transnational organised crime in Trinidad and Tobago and how it is impacting on our democratic institutions and on the rule of law.
What is organised crime?
In the United States, a definition of organised crime to be found in federal status is set out by Public Law 90-351, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968: “Organised crime means the unlawful activities of members of a highly organised, disciplined association engaged in supplying Illegal goods and services, including but not limited to gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, narcotics, labour racketeering, and other unlawful activities of members of such associations.”
This statute defines organised crime less in terms of unlawful activities than in terms of those who commit them. It also lists a number of unlawful activities, but these are not necessarily those that define organised crime.
The German Federal Bureau of Investigation defines organised crime as “the planned commission of criminal offences, determined by the pursuit of profit and power, which individually or as a whole, are of considerable importance, whenever more than two persons involved collaborate for a prolonged or indefinite period of time, each with own appointed tasks (a) by using commercial or business-like structures, or (b) by using violence or other means suitable for intimidation, or (c) by exerting influence on politics, the media, public administration, judicial authorities or the economy.”
Trends in transnational crime
Experts and scholars like Phil Williams and Margaret Beare have pointed out how developments in the technological world have facilitated the growth of transnational organised crimes. Improvements in telecommunications, including telephone, fax and computer networks, the explosive increase in the use of computers in business and development of electronic systems in the banking and financial sectors to shift enormous amounts of cash around the world very rapidly.
Significantly, as legal businesses are expanding internationally in response to the globalisation of markets, so too are criminal enterprises seeking to develop their illicit activities at the international level. Trinidad and Tobago is not exempt.
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