Galleries more

Videos more

Dictionary more

Day 59 – Martin Steal Figs and the DPP should look at what Constitutes an Offense


Our DIY fruit-breakfast today was graced with a zanburzwa each from the garden. 

This is quite a victory because the birds love the scented fruit just as much as we do, and get to eat most of them. But at least we got one each. Which is more than can be said for the figs. I planted a fig tree from a cutting given to me by the mother of a friend in Rosbwa years ago, and it bears delicious fruit, fruit that is, in fact, technically lots of flowers that bloom inside the peel. Rada and Sadna have a cutting from our tree, in turn, and it produces even better-tasting figs, preferring their climate. Anyway, in the feud with birds, Ram has taken to cutting see-through plastic to make little bags to cover each fig so the birds don’t get to eat the lot before we even get up in the morning. But the martin – tir sapo – are meet competition. They have learnt to peck the bags open. Anyway, we had zanburzwa, banana, pawpaw, atemoya and acerola from the garden today on our plates. And granadilla from a friend’s garden. Not bad!

It goes without saying that the whole household still misses the two dogs. It’s a week today. Imagine the sadness of losing two dogs in one day. It makes the place quieter still.

But, the quiet is now being broken in Ragoo Lane, as the odd car and motorbike ply by with the lockdown being partially lifted. The metal workshop one street up will start making its customary noise any day. And this will replace the cacophony from the other side, where the laughing, shrieking gambling den that had developed in lockdown will no doubt be closing down, as the lockdown gets lifted. 

And the make-shift gambling den brings us a lesson in dialectics: I hate gambling. I think it is child abuse to have young children selling tombola tickets, that’s how serious my disapproval is. I believe that addiction to gambling is enabled by this exposure of young kids. To let us all, including me, have a flutter, a national lottery should do – plus a horse-racing season, an old tradition, with its socially controlled gambling. But preserve us from a whole gambling industry. Not that capitalism, especially finance capital, is not, itself, gambling. Anyway, this particular gambling den near Ragoo Lane, the one that developed in the neighbourhood during the lockdown, I welcome. Yes, I who hate gambling, welcomed it. Why? Because it replaced domestic violence. A bit of gambling on dominoes, even with the children involved, is much, much better than domestic violence. So, we judge things by the effect of an action within a given situation.

Which brings me to how today, as the lockdown lifts, I am still angry with the MSM-ML-Transfiz Government for “rewarding” the population for its fine discipline (that quelled the first wave of Covid-19) by imposing a reign of extreme repression. What is this? 

In particular, I remain outraged that any policeman can threaten any person with a Rs500,000 fine or five-year prison sentence, one-to-one in a street, for going out on a day when the first letter of your surname doesn’t tally with the day you are allowed out for shopping. The enormity of this needs a bit of more technical explanation.

In epidemiology, the science of probability par excellence, where statistics help us control an epidemic, the administrative measure of letting only one-third of the people go out, ordered by first letter of alphabet in surname, is exactly that. It is a statistical measure based on probability. The less people out, the more difficult for the virus to circulate. It’s the big picture. It’s a rough picture, drawn in huge numbers. It’s about probability. 

Any one additional individual person who goes out makes no real difference. A truly minor punishment, like a warning would seem appropriate for the first infraction of this statistically-calculated regulation, and perhaps a Rs100 fine that you have to go to Court later, in person, to pay. 

The real challenge for a Government is to help people respect this regulation, not by the threat of a stick, but by a deep understanding of how epidemics work and how this regulation helps. This way, people will want to avoid going shopping when it is not their day. And any brebi galez are just insignificant. They are either in a tight corner, or people who are still ignorant, or perhaps they are just plain ego-centric. But, they make no difference, really.

In fact, it is difficult to imagine that going out on a day that is not “your day” can, on the part of any one person, constitute a criminal offence at all. 

Where is there any mens rea? Mens rea is the Latin for knowing you are committing an offence. The philosophy of criminal law is based on the offender knowingly committing a clearly understandable offense or crime – unless it is gross negligence, for example, which involves being able to predict the high risk of one’s individual behavior. 

How can it be an offence for any one individual to go out into public when it is not his or her day? It is absurd. It makes criminal law an ass. There is as much mens rea involved as the martin stealing our figs with infraction.

Can it constitute a criminal offense at all? 

Perhaps the DPP will have to look into this before hazarding a prosecution. 


Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view.