Friday, January 26, 2007

Abu Ghraib, Trinidad & Tobago

As if inspired by the colonial perversions meted out by American soldiers against their Iraqi wards in Abu Ghraib prison, Trinidadian police invaded the home and arrested a Muslim activist and businessman who had encouraged a rally against the ruling Peoples National Movement for its imposition of highly unpopular foreign aluminum smelters and its seeming acquiescence to rampant crime and kidnappings.

Inshan Ishmael, the activist who also directs the Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN), was arrested under--of all things--the Anti-Terrorism Act. He was then stripped of his clothing and made to squat naked on the floor of the police station to which he was abducted.

His crime? Posting a handbill without indicating his name or address as the publisher (yet one can clearly see his name and three phone numbers on the handbill), an offence in Trinidad that can result in a maximum fine of $1,000 TT (about $180 US) or six months in prison. Moreover, he was arrested without the required warrant--a warrant is needed unless someone is caught by police in the very act of committing a crime. Ishmael was having a barbecue with his family when police goons in plain clothes came to seize him. Moreover, a rally he had legally organized was then cancelled, only to be reinstated later by the high court.

Ishmael had called for a two-day shutdown of the country in protest against the PNM's increasingly despotic hold on the country. Clearly the police are being used as personal pawns of an authoritarian Prime Minister who apparently believes that his latest act of high-handed stupidity will escape broader notice. Given the "wannabe" nature of the Afro-Trinidadian political elite in the PNM, which for so long has desperately craved to become like the colonial Anglo-Saxon master it replaced, the Americans provided a ready made formula for humiliating opponents and justifying all manner of criminality under the code of "anti-terrorism."

Nevertheless, recent polls suggest that the PNM would win easily again in national elections. This is not entirely surprising, as the PNM has been very effective at diverting state funds into personal patronage projects, so that even those who might otherwise balk at corruption and dictatorship are heeding the pleas of their empty bellies to remain silent.

No comments: