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Who Slit Paradise’s Throat?
I’m so in love with this girl called Paradise/ I’m so sorry I lost my true love/ Somebody told me I should take some of the blame/ When I put the facts together, I hang my head in shame/ – The rock-and-roll band jointpop, from the song, “Who Shot Paradise?”
TRINIDAD IS dead. After hanging on for a few decades by a few slim threads – a Minshall King of Carnival here, a World Cup Finals qualification there – the last bit of Trinidad you could love had its throat slit for no good reason in Claire Broadbridge’s bedroom in Fondes Amandes last week.
Now, I admit my bias in her favour: Claire Broadbridge was my neighbour (and, at UWI, my teacher, too). In early 1969, my parents moved to Fondes Amandes, where I lived for 30 of the 40 years between the ages of ten and 50. More than half that time was spent at my parents’ home, three houses away from where Claire Broadbridge lived; and died. As boys, my brother and I, and our pardner, Peter O’Sullivan, whose parents’ backyard merged into the Broadbridges’, took a shortcut through their garden on our way to the river.
I would have laid eyes on Claire Broadbridge first at age ten. With her supermodel height, her slim, shapely, athletic figure, her fashion model cheekbones, with that gorgeous head of hair she tossed when her eyes flashed angrily – which was every time we trod on her flower beds – she was, to the very young version of me, stunningly beautiful.
I never grew to see any reason to change that opinion.
In a neighbourhood fairly densely populated by strong-willed, beautiful, bad-tempered white women – I only have to make a mental checklist of my friend’s mothers – yes, Keith’s, yes, Philip & Mark’s, yes, I suppose they’d nod their own heads at my mother – Claire Broadbridge stood out head and shoulders above the rest. If, today, Cersei Lannister is my favourite female character on Game of Thrones, Claire Broadbridge was the original Ice Queen at whom I dared not look directly.
And somebody slit her throat. And we’ll never know who it was; because the Trinidad that cared about its people was dead before she was.
She was the national museum curator, a tireless good cause fundraiser, a built heritage-preserver, the responsible good citizen personified, but it almost doesn’t matter how much Claire Broadbridge gave to Trinidad & Tobago. Yes, she lived in a big house in an upmarket neighbourhood – or at least as upmarket as a neighbourhood can be when one of its boundaries is the state lunatic asylum – but living in a big house ought not to be enough justification for being murdered in it.
And it does not matter at all that she happened to have been white and educated – and she would have appreciated the irony better than most that, in the New Limers’ Republic, where the only colour that truly matters is gold, it was her education that put her at risk, not her complexion.
No elderly woman anywhere in the world should be murdered, as several of our own have been, a couple just within the last week.
But, everywhere else in in the world, apart from Tobago, the murderer would be quaking in his boots, knowing he would almost certainly be caught, tried and jailed for life.
In Trinidad, the people in charge of murder investigation know next to nothing about it and care even less; they scorn the victim and declare, as open as it is unconscious, that they are on their “Homey-Side”.
If you had to bet your own money, which outcome would you back from a choice of : (a) our police make no arrest whatever; (b) our police make a wholly jokey arrest, of the nearest cocaine-spranger around, which could never stick; (c) our police make noise for better pay and poe-leece-car with tape deck and aux jack to drive?
Anyone who has had the misfortune to report a lost drivers’ permit at a police station knows that the only enquiries our police can manage are of the totally-firetrucking-useless variety, those immensely stupid firetrucking questions with glaringly obvious firetrucking answers that they ponderously ask every person they interview, instead of just glancing across the desk and jotting down quick notes: “Wha’ colour your eyes is? Wha’ colour your skin is? You does call that hairstyle ‘plaits’ or ‘locks’?” Trinidad police think they are professionals if they do sweet bugger-all to look for murderers, but write down, in a book that will be thrown away as soon as its filled, for no purpose at all, other than avoiding their real work, a minutely-detailed physical description of complainants.
Include Mumbai traffic wardens, Cuban entrepreneurs, Republican altruists and however many oxymoronic job descriptions you like and Trinidad police would still top any list of people who are dreadful at their jobs but don’t get fired. Only Trinidad politicians and the current West Indies Cricket Board president could get anywhere near them for hopeless uselessness, compounded with unjustifiable arrogance.
You want to shoot our police yourself.
But you have to check the facts and hang your head in shame.
Like governments, countries get the police forces they deserve.
Claire Broadbridge’s son, Stephen, is right in what he said to local media: the vast majority of the population lives in terror of a tiny number of men willing to perpetrate great violence in furtherance of their own enrichment.
Just like in firetrucking slavery days.
It’s a depressing thought but it does offer a small consolation to the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service, which is that it could be said that there is another group of people who get large sums of state money and squander it to even less effect.
The Emancipation Support Committee.
BC Pires is living in the past. Over and firetrucking over again, it seems