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A very Trini protest

Published: 
Friday, February 26, 2016

Trini activists faced a fundamental challenge this week: were they committed enough to protest FOR Ian Alleyne? The answers ranged from, “No” to “Hell, no!”, with a few, “Buhwhamudders” in-between but, well, really, could anyone? Feminists, militants, agitators, conservationists and conservatives all baulked at the hurdle of standing up for an important principle in a thoroughly unappealing instant case.

Instead, they protested a Trini-straw man/Good Friday Bobolee; until Wednesday, when another couple of teenaged boys were murdered, and they had new grist for the gossip mill that must be fed, call-in radio show hosts (in Trinidad, it’s not “talk radio” but “ole-talk radio”) were demanding that CNC3 TV have its broadcast licence revoked; some of the most active activists speculated whether CNC3 and/or Ian Alleyne had committed a crime and, if so, whether everyone from old Dr Sabga down ought not to be jailed for insulting the nation.

When the rule of law itself was being beaten to a pulp before their eyes.

And not a damned watchdog barked.

Last week, Ian Alleyne, the bizarrely popular host—it must be those white sunglasses—of the most popular show on this newspaper’s sister television station, CNC3 TV (83,464 Facebook “likes”), was arrested by Inspector Roger Alexander, the police officer host of Beyond the Tape, the TV6 copy of Crimewatch (74, 894 Facebook “likes”). 

The arrest was made while both TV show hosts were jockeying for position in trying to get the story at the home of a man accused by his wife of beating her. (No journalist, investigative or common or garden, has so far discovered whether the accused man’s company is a sponsor of Beyond the Tape—yet another reef potentially lurking under what Trinis are diving into headfirst as safe water.)

Trinis chose, instead, to rage against the ANSA McAl machine that houses both CNC3 TV and the Guardian. In Crimewatch’s coverage of the incident, you see, Crimewatch—Ian Alleyne—deliberately edited out the cussword that got Alleyne arrested; perhaps following his own best instincts, Alleyne then publicly insisted he had not used “obscene” language; regrettably, for that particular cunning plan, an unedited version of the video quickly surfaced in which Alleyne is quite clearly heard using a four-letter Anglo-Saxon word that begins with “f” and ends with “k” and isn’t “firetruck”. (And there’s another reef: was TV6 motivated by responsible journalism, or by response to the ratings?)

The usual suspects swarmed to gallery themselves as champions of the common man against the corporate behemoth that treated the nation so contemptibly. The radio ole-talk show hosts approached it in their own style, comprising 80 per cent grand charge, ten per cent stupidity and ten per cent ignorance (five per cent each of the Standard English and Trini meanings of “ignorance”: “Something,” declared one host, “is rotten in the state of France.” Another one—or, to use Trinidad radio English, a next one—spoke about an eighty-year-old man, whom he described as an “octo-geranium”; his co-hosts were well impressed by his nonchalant deployment of such a big word.)

When you strip away the sensationalism—the minor cussword and the major TV station rivalry, and if you can get past Ian Alleyne’s personality—which, admittedly, is like saying, “apart from that, Mrs Kennedy, how was Dallas?”—there has not been a clearer case of abuse of power since that great day of “total policing” last March, when, in furtherance of their own salary negotiation and for no other reason whatever, Trinidad’s police service ran “road checks” that brought the country literally to a standstill, trapping people in traffic jams that lasted up to seven hours. 

If my memory serves—and on the rare occasions it does, it is likely to spit in my soup—only Sunday Express commentator (and senior counsel) Martin Daly and I mentioned this astonishing behaviour from the people sworn to protect us from same; I thought it might constitute treason.

Any first-year lawyer in an unstained robe would tell you that, when police want to arrest someone who hasn’t actually done anything wrong, they charge such hapless sufferers with the trio of offences of “using language to the annoyance, obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty and resisting arrest.” 

From my own experience at the criminal bar 30 years ago—and I was at the bar table, not in the dock—magistrates, when forced to convict people on evidence everyone knows is really a case of police giving them a case, often reprimand and discharge, thereby satisfying police ego while avoiding smearing innocent citizens’ reputations.

What really happened last week was that one crime show host used his powers of arrest where the other one could only use his white sunglasses. Alexander arrested Alleyne for saying a four-letter word—and, perhaps en passant, advanced the million-dollar value of the ratings war between them. Anyone who saw the tape would understand the cussing; if it were me being shoved around and slammed into cars, an involuntary, “WTF” might well have escaped.

But few seem to understand the importance of ASP Michael Pierre subsequently publicly declaring there will be no investigation of possible excessive use of force by Inspector Alexander. (Excessive means “more than is necessary,” not “more than Trini police accustomed to using.”) Beyond the Tape, Pierre said, is an official TTPS programme sanctioned by the commissioner.

Matter fix.

Just like the many possible victims of alleged police murder in “hot spots,” Ian Alleyne will have no recourse to law.

But it’s okay, because a lot of us don’t like him; and, look, he try to fool we. And, once we get to throw stones at the Great House windows, we feel we are responsible citizens.

BC Pires will be arrested for using language to the annoyance of the status quo, resisting firetruckeries and obstructing Trinis in their rush to judgment. Read more of his writing at www.BCPires.com.

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