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OUR CARIBBEAN: T&T journalist flees for his life

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: T&T journalist flees for his life

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THE EPIDEMIC of gun killings and violence in Trinidad and Tobago continues to spread with the latest victims being two brothers, aged nine and 15, executed in their Port of Spain home at the weekend.
?A week earlier an investigative journalist, Mark Bassant, was forced to flee the country to save his life from a death threat that came from the criminal underworld.
A month ago, as readers may recall, armed criminals assassinated an outstanding high profile senior counsel of the country’s criminal justice system – Dana Seetahal – as she was driving to her home.
Now, more than a week since the news of the shocking plot to kill Bassant – a journalist of the Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) – the hierarchy of the Trinidad and Tobago police service continue to face strident criticisms for seemingly rationalising the circumstances that could have triggered the death threat from the criminal underworld.
The CCN, incidentally, is part of One Caribbean Media (OCM), of which the Nation Publishing Company is a member.
The murder of the two brothers – said to have been instrumental in several robberies – has put gun killings at some 185 and climbing, amid growing fears of citizens becoming numb to the epidemic of criminal violence.
Never have I had to read the shocking accounts of a professional journalist of the Caribbean Community who felt compelled to abandon his job and flee for his life.
What is worse, in fact scandalous and terrifying, was the information received that a few members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, with whom the investigative journalist of the CCN has been accustomed to cooperating on the assumption of shared commitment to fighting crime, were to discover a dimension of treachery that sent him fleeing from his job and country.
??Trusted police connections
?I fully share the outrage of all who have been denouncing the shocking claims of collusion and conspiracy against a journalist who had trusted his police connections. After all, they were claimed “partners” with him in combating criminality.
Other journalists must pay heed.
Based on the coverage in the T&T media, and in particular reports and commentaries in the Express newspaper, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams may well have done himself an injustice by his own convoluted response to what Bassant had reported prior going into hiding.
In particular, given the gravity of the implications of Bassant’s reported identification of the cop(s) with whom he was cooperating, was it really necessary for Commissioner Williams to go public with a response that conveyed the impression more of bias against the CCN journalist rather than signalling a commitment to bring the criminals to justice with information also made available to him?
While understandably anxious to protect the Police Force he still heads, amid mounting criticisms and disenchantment over lack of successes, or breakthroughs, in cases of murder and assassination hits, Mr Williams may well have inflamed passions beyond the corridors of the CCN enterprise that the Express so passionately reflected in an editorial of May 26.
Indeed, the Express went as far as to declare that the acting top cop was “unfit for the office of Police Commissioner”. In so doing it fortified an earlier call by a well-known respected senior counsel and columnist, Martin Daly, who had previously declared that in his own independent assessment, that Mr Williams “is not the right man for the job of Police Commissioner”.
Whatever the future of Mr Williams, the immediate challenge remains to bring to justice those who have been identified – cops and criminals – by Bassant when he felt compelled to go public with his horrifying disclosure of a claimed criminal conspiracy.

? Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.