THE sight of Avinash “Krysis” Seepersad handing out flowers and snacks on the Old Southern Main in Enterprise, one of the country's hottest ‘hot spots', caused more than a few double takes among motorists yesterday.
Seepersad, who also goes by the Islamic name Abdul Wakeel, was just weeks ago best known as the central figure in a viral video where, with some other residents of Crown Trace, he warned of gang warfare to come and advised citizens to stay out of the area.
Seepersad was linked to the head table of a gang in Enterprise said to call itself “Unruly Isis”, a group also reported to be at war with another gang, “Rasta City”.
He was grilled on his alleged criminal activities by National Security minister, Edmund Dillon and Acting COP, Wayne Dick, about three weeks ago, where he denied being a gang leader and expressed regret over the video.
But the man who yesterday stopped motorists to offer symbols of peace and apologise for any distress he and the others may have caused, appeared to approach the exercise with glee.
He later swore to the media that he is no terrorist but repeated previous statements that corruption in the police service, and an apparent lack of will to go after the big game in crime, were the engines behind this country's increasing problem with violence.
Be better, not bitter
Seepersad yesterday took an active role in a peace-making initiative hosted by the Masjidus Salaam and Waajihatul Islaamiyyah (The Islamic Front), led by Imam Umar Abdullah, that pushed the message “T&T We're Sorry…”, “Be better, Not bitter”.
The objective of the exercise was to restore faith in the community, where a series of murders have occurred in quick succession in past weeks, and to “enhance the relationships amongst the general public”.
While the groups behind the exercise were pleased with the warm reception from the public, Abdullah expressed disappointment that senior police officers who were invited did not show.
Several top-ranking officers, including head of the Central Division, ACP Surajdeen Persad and representatives of the Government, including Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan, were invited, Abdullah said.
“I haven't had word from Senior Superintendent McIntyre. You know at this point in time you may want to say that it's a level of disrespect, not having to be here, when we are showing from our end what the community and what the different organisations involved are willing to do,” Abdullah said, adding that some had declined with reasons given while others said nothing at all.
Also invited was Jamaat Al-Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu-Bakr, but he did not attend.
Members of the faction with whom an alleged war has been taking place were also absent but Abdullah said they were likely media-shy.
‘Krysis'—Pride put aside
Seepersad yesterday admitted it was difficult to place himself in the public spotlight in the manner of yesterday's exercise.
He said he made the decision to participate because he felt that even a small gesture could be the start of reclaiming Enterprise's more peaceful and productive past.
“It is hard,” Seepersad said, when asked whether he had wrestled with the decision to take part yesterday.
“It is about giving up a lot of pride to come out here.”
Seepersad said he did not own any guns and he wanted to point out that in that community, there were no residents who had the means to purchase the types of guns behind found in Trinidad.
Saying there were no guns of that calibre being made locally, Seepersad said he wanted the authorities to take notice of those who were bringing in such weapons.
He has again alleged that police corruption is a main driver behind illegal firearms possession but said “a lot of people in the lower ranks gonna have to get sellout” in order to bring the big criminals to justice.
Seepersad said life has not been easy since he was placed in the spotlight and claimed some members of the police service were using him as an excuse to harass residents and were trying to turn the community against him.
Women pleased with flowers
But many residents and commuters who were pleasantly surprised by the olive branch extended yesterday said they, too, appreciated the gesture from Seepersad and the facilitators.
They said they hoped to see a swelling of love, hope and unity in Enterprise as a result, since life in the area had become dreary and scary due to fears of being caught in the crossfire between warring gangs.
Seepersad himself led a vigorous sharing of water, snacks and bouquets, getting many a shocked look as he flagged down passing motorists from a position on the white line of the road.
The groups also distributed copies of the Holy Q'uran and literature on Islam, in what they said was an effort to help others understand the truth of the religion.
The response was, however, overwhelmingly positive and women who were presented with flowers seemed particularly pleased.
Several people said they've been hurt by the descent into violence in Enterprise and environs and they recalled that the cosmopolitan settlement was a once a model community.
Enterprise heated up last year with the murder of former alleged gang leader Selwyn ‘Robocop” Alexis, followed by the murders this year of several of Alexis' relatives, including two of his brothers, Mervyn and Sylvan Alexis.