The country is grateful to civil society and CCN for cooperating to rally citizens in defence of a safer Trinidad and Tobago. The educational impact of this initiative on civic engagement is as important to our democracy as any direct effect it may have on ensuing public policy. In effect, citizens are invited to lead a quiet revolution, asserting their right to increased participation in policymaking and enhanced government responsiveness to their demands.
The legitimacy of the battle cry “Together We Can Do This!” derives from the fact that it fosters a process of recognising and learning from the experiences of individuals, communities and organisations already working together to safeguard people from the epidemic of crime and violence that continues to plague our society. It also explores the scope and opportunity for deepening and broadening such collaboration. It does not simply seek to discredit the performance of institutions charged with the responsibility for our safety and security but rather to build and strengthen relationships with them to resolve the issues. Unsurprisingly, where these processes are genuine, other benefits can accrue.
The organisers clearly appreciate the value of collaborative approaches in inducing greater respect of civil society, the media and institutions and shared understanding of their relative positions and issues. The call to action resonates as an act of empowerment, an instance of self-determined change. It speaks to the conviction that in respect of crime and violence, we the people have had enough. What we have to say and how we feel on the matter must count. It’s time that institutions listen more intently to our narrative, our interpretation, our analysis and address our concerns. Therefore, it is critical for us to be at the table, to dialogue and negotiate on these matters in determining the way forward! That’s the crux of the matter.
Initial responses indicate significant support, including from official sources, for the suggested approach. In the circumstances, it is prudent to monitor, document, analyse and learn from the current enterprise. In essence, we may find it a fitting template to better address similar seemingly intractable national development issues.
Given the perceived shortcomings of the existing system of governance in the country, there is much interest in exploring alternative mechanisms. Participatory democracy can be a bit messy. But insofar as it builds public trust, strengthens civic capacity and helps the Government function better, it is undeniably superior to what currently obtains.
The initiative launched on January 6 instils hope that 2017 has dawned promisingly.
Winston R Rudder