The idea that any Trinbagonian could even consider engaging in a pre-meditated attack on his own people and within his own Carnival is so beyond the pale of the imagination as to be dismissed as just another Trini rumour. And yet, this is what the public was told by the T&T Police Service (TTPS) following the arrest of four persons said to be involved in a criminal conspiracy to disrupt Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
The statement issued on Thursday by TTPS public information officer, ASP Michael Jackman, indicated that the arrests were prompted by information relayed to local authorities by unnamed international partners. Assuming that the information relayed was credible, the national community will be thankful to have dodged this bullet to Carnival’s heart.
While ASP Jackman’s statement was short on details, the alarm raised against the police by the head of a small Islamic group has turned public attention to its direction. Given the nature of the information presented at the emergency news conference, and the international coverage the issue received, one would have expected the Acting Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security to lead the presentation and provide some level of assurance to the public, having foiled the alleged conspiracy.
Instead, they absented themselves, leaving the public to make of the information what they would.
This is not the first time that Carnival is being threatened with crime. There is hardly a Carnival that dawns without a lead-up of anxiety, only for it to dissipate with the first sounds of jouvert as Carnival breaks across the land. Throughout it all, the loyalty of the Carnival faithful, here at home and those who have made the pilgrimage from abroad, has never wavered.
They have defied every rumour and report to go out and stand up for their Carnival by playing their mas with gusto.
It would therefore be no surprise if this latest development had minimal impact, if any, on Carnival attendance and participation.
The reality is that there is no safer public space than Carnival given the massive combination of public and private security. Not only is the police more visible on Carnival days than at any other time of the year; their work is augmented by the thousands of private security personnel both inside and outside bands ensuring the protection of every masquerader and every property.
In addition, the average Trinbagonian reveller has mastered the art of enjoying themselves while keeping their eyes on their loved ones and everyone else around them. Such formal and informal vigilance has been Carnival’s safety net for over a hundred years and should keep it safe in 2018.
In protecting the public and Carnival this year, we expect police officers to operate with professionalism, intelligence and respect and to avoid exacerbating public anxieties by unproductive and provocative attitudes.
Equally, we encourage the public to be alert to their surroundings and to co-operate respectfully with the police. No room must be ceded to the mischief-makers who are bent on sowing conflict and fear. It is up to all of us to protect the sacred space that is Trinidad Carnival.