This is an opinion piece, which means, this is my opinion on a particular subject matter. You will either agree or disagree and I welcome debates in the comments, as long as no one gets emotional.
After hearing the radio reports on Monday morning, we drove into Port of Spain, braving the toxic smoke billowing out of the Beetham landfill. From afar, you could see the thick smog blanket the capital city from ground level all the up to the top of the Twin Towers. This was no ruse, this was bona fide madness.
The reports of the origin of the fire were pouring in that day; from police killing a Beetham resident to a small fire going out of control from the night before. Eventually, it was confirmed: Beetham residents lit the landfill ablaze in protest of police shooting a resident in his leg, who was committing an act of terrorism: throwing rocks into the Beetham Highway at passing vehicles, and then eventually, at the Police. Is this not an issue of National Security?
I’ll start with some definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary:
Terrorism: the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
Arson: the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property
Toxic: very bad, unpleasant, or harmful
Now, any being who can develop a complete sentence can rationalise four things:
1. Setting a landfill on fire as a form of protest is a form of terrorism
2. The product of setting a landfill on fire, the smoke, is toxic and poisonous
3. Any toxic air should not be inhaled, since it can lead to illness, and sometimes, death
4. Committing arson on a landfill, poisoning thousands of people is an act of terrorism, and those responsible should be held accountable
The EMA’s stand on the smoke’s toxicity
Yesterday through various media, we were told by the head of the Environmental Management Authority that the smoke from burning waste in the Beetham was not toxic, and was safe to inhale. Contradictory to that, unconfirmed reports surfaced from several public hospitals and health facilities indicating a significant rise in patients with respiratory issues in connection with the smoke inhalation from the Capital City. Is it that they are completely ignoring the health reports, or are they trying to blind the general public with these claims of safety?
In May 2002, TriData Corporation prepared a report for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Fire Administration, and National Fire Data Center regarding Landfill Fires. These are excerpts from that report:
Landfill fires threaten the environment through toxic pollutants emitted into the air, water, and soil. (p.1)
Landfill emissions are the result of the decomposition of organic materials in the landfill (including yard waste, household waste, food waste, and paper). Because of the nature of the construction of landfills, this decomposition is anaerobic and results in the production of large quantities of methane (which is highly flammable) and carbon dioxide. (p. 8)
In addition to regulations governing the emission of landfill gases, federal law also regulates the incineration or open burning of waste. Federal law specifically prohibited open burning of MSW at municipal landfills in 1979 (40 CFR 257). (p. 9)
According to the above, the United States has banned the incineration or opening burning of waste, due to its toxic effects on the environment. Here is another snippet from that report, which shows what happened to those responsible for deliberately poisoning the environment via intentional incineration:
Although not a landfill fire, the Wade Dump fire in February 1978 clearly illustrates the dangers posed by fires involving unknown hazardous materials. Firefighters responded to a suspected tire fire at an abandoned rubber shredding plant on the Delaware River outside of Philadelphia. They were unaware that the property’s owner and namesake, Melvin Wade, had transformed the plant into one of the most toxic hazardous waste dumpsites in U.S. history. By the night of the fire, more than 3 million gallons of cyanide, benzene, toluene, and other chemicals were stored on the site—plus thousands of junk tires. The burning chemicals produced multicolored smoke and noxious fumes, which alerted firefighters to the unusual nature of the fire they were fighting. Intensified by chemicals and other fuels, the fire raged for hours. Drums of chemicals exploded, injuring firefighters and even damaging fire trucks. As the night progressed, firefighters and other emergency workers noticed that the chemicals were dissolving their protective gear and making it difficult for them to breathe; more than 40 firefighters were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment. Over the past 20 or more years, dozens of those who were present at the Wade Dump fire have become ill, and many have died from cancers and other diseases. Melvin Wade and others responsible for creating the toxic site were found criminally responsible for their actions. (p. 17)
What does the international community say about terrorism?
According to international law, terrorism is illegal, and unacceptable. Why then is it allowed here in “Sweet T&T”? That’s right, we cannot even get pedestrians to use a designated crossing, and prohibit drivers from driving on the shoulder in traffic. Trinidad is a lawless place, treacherous and corrupt.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, “Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:
1. Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
2. Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
3. Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
Well, I can only say that if we were in the United States, those responsible would spend the remainder of their limited lives in jail; but that’s wishful thinking, because we’re in Trinidad, where criminals walk freely, and police officers are more corrupt than the Italian Parliament.
There has been four occasions in the last four years where Beetham residents protested barbarically, and nothing has been done to stop this primitive, savage madness; July 2011, December 2012, September 2013, and now, January 2014. When will this end? How many people have to suffer before the Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of National Security wake up and realise that those responsible for this manner of terrorism need to be charged?
Terrorism’s Impact on our Business and Tourism
Given our proximity to the United States, and our latest seized shipment of “Trinidad Juices”, I don’t think that local terrorism is helping our international reputation. Trinidad is already a red-flagged country, known for its widespread crime and high murder rate; add terrorism to that list, and I can’t see Carnival 2014 being a rabid success in terms of Tourism. So, everyone hurts for the sake of a few. This cannot be allowed to continue. Businesses and investments are going to be hurt badly by situations like these, and they only seem to be on the rise.
For the last 31 days, we’ve had eleven oil spills, the use of the incredibly toxic Corexit, 43 murders (subject to change by the minute), a US$100 million cocaine shipment intercepted by US Customs, countless rape and molestation cases and now, five days of toxic air caused by local terrorists. This to me says: “Don’t come to Trinidad, your kids will be raped/molested, you’ll die either by a bullet, cutlass, Corexit or toxic air, and you’ll be branded “drugs” like a Columbian.” Wait and see, Trinidadians will soon not be able to enter the US; we’ll be on a blacklist like the rest of the world’s terrorists and drug lords.
Sweet T&T in a sweet hot mess, oui.
The author would like to acknowledge that certain citation and reference examples were taken from the following publications and that these publications influenced that way in which the author arranged the document.
TriData Corporation (2002), Landfill Fires: Their Magnitude, Characteristics, And Mitigation, [Online], Available: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa-225.pdf [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014]
Federal Beureau of Investigation, Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code. [Online], Available: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/terrorism-definition [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014]
TTCrime.com (Crime Statitics for 2014) [Online], Available: http://www.ttcrime.com/stats.php [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014]
All media articles are from Trinidad Guardian [Online] [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014]