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Trinidad: Police commissioner, community leader in peace talks after fatal shootings

By Mark Bassant

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Cedric “Burkie” Burke (Nicole Drayton photo)

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — “I think the Mus­lim who is re­al Mus­lim in this coun­try not at war, and who is re­al Rasta­far­i­an is not at war. This is a bunch of clowns with guns.”

That was the re­sponse of com­mu­ni­ty leader Cedric “Burkie” Burke to the sup­posed on­go­ing gang war be­tween the Mus­lim and Ras­ta City gangs yes­ter­day, in the wake of the dri­ve-by shoot­ing that took place along Pi­o­neer Dri­ve, Sea Lots, on Sun­day night that left two dead and six oth­ers in­jured. The at­tack was be­lieved to have been a hit on Burke.

Speak­ing frankly to Guardian Me­dia in Sea Lots yes­ter­day, Burke said the time for mourn­ing was lim­it­ed and the com­mu­ni­ty need­ed to pick up the pieces. He con­demned the vi­o­lent act that snuffed out the lives of his friends Rawlye Williams, 37 and ca­lyp­son­ian Patrick “Re­veal­er” Lewis, who were killed af­ter men from a ve­hi­cle opened fire on a group of men play­ing a game of pok­er.

“It is an il­lit­er­ate, un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion. A bunch of cow­ards to at­tack a bunch of nor­mal peo­ple just sit­ting down lim­ing to be at­tacked for no rea­son. Every­body in Trinidad and To­ba­go faces the il­lit­er­a­cy and every­body run and say gang-re­lat­ed and says it is Mus­lim and Ras­ta,” an up­set Burke said.

Three days af­ter the shoot­ing, with fu­ner­al arrange­ments still be­ing fi­nalised, an un­easy calm has re­turned to the streets of Sea Lots.

Burke, how­ev­er, dis­missed ru­mours that the at­tack was a di­rect mes­sage to him and said it had not fazed him.

“It takes much more than that for me to be afraid. I was in my house and it had an earth­quake, the hard­est earth­quake I feel and no­body could con­trol that. So if you have to be afraid, you have to be afraid it will have an earth­quake or a storm or you get in an ac­ci­dent. So I don’t live afraid, so things like that will nev­er get me to be afraid.”

Guardian Me­dia was in­formed that Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith vis­it­ed Burke in the area on Tues­day night and urged him to keep the peace. Burke yes­ter­day con­firmed he spoke to the Com­mis­sion­er.

“We had a brief con­ver­sa­tion and he gave us a form of com­fort by let­ting us know he un­der­stands it wasn’t our fault and we were not the one who at­tacked. He gave us the as­sur­ance that the po­lice pres­ence in the com­mu­ni­ty was not meant to be in­tim­i­dat­ing or ha­rass­ing us, but for our pro­tec­tion and for when we were hav­ing the wake,” Burke said.

“Af­ter talk­ing to him we know he is fac­ing chal­lenges. He was sim­ple and sound­ed gen­uine. He didn’t add salt to our wounds.”

Al­so con­tact­ed yes­ter­day, Grif­fith con­firmed that he had spo­ken to Burke and an­oth­er com­mu­ni­ty leader in the Port-of-Spain area on the same night and cau­tioned both to keep the peace.

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