Schoolmates of murdered Success Laventille Secondary students Deneilson Smith and Mark Richards, described as “real madness,” the shooting of both teens shortly after they were pulled out of a PH taxi along Picton Road, Laventille, last Thursday.

Richards, 15, and Smith, 17, were shot upwards of 25 times collectively, autopsies revealed. Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds said the killings taking place in his constituency were all about “rank, stupidity and borderlines,” while Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee described Laventille as “Hell on Earth.”

The joy and insensitive comments of some citizens on social media in describing two of Laventille’s bright, progressive young men as thugs angered many, including this writer. Based on credible reports, if nothing else, Deneilson and Mark were striving to stay out of gangs and a life of crime—something that may very well have cost them their lives.

I grew up in Belmont and was involved with sport in Morvant, Laventille, Caledonia, Harvard Club and the TTOC. I know there are untold decent young men and women born and raised in poor, under-privileged and working class communities who have made an invaluable and positive contribution to T&T.

The lives of these two young men were snuffed out in such a callous manner by gunmen, probably not much older than their victims, who after the shooting, were allegedly seen and heard to heartlessly laugh and boast: “We get two of them.” Reporters were allegedly told of a phrase, “five for five”, which meant at least five bullets for both teens.

Reports indicate that Smith was an excellent cricketer and coached during vacation where he would teach others during camp. He was the recipient of several trophies, awards and certificates for sports and academics. Richards loved football and was described as an excellent player. Sport was assisting in keeping them on the straight road.

There are stark messages for the law abiding citizens, not only of Laventille, but the rest of T&T. Trinidad and Tobago has been in denial for a while now, but even as the society recoils in outrage, we must be reminded this is not a Laventille problem or a black/afro Trinbago problem, this is a T&T problem.

For while we train our sights and guns on the foot soldiers in the so-called hot spot communities, the white collar criminals continue to operate under the radar enabling and empowering crime.

The bright future of the youth of the nation is also facing great danger due to white collar crime. The danger is not only gangs, guns and drug related criminal activity. For all the billions of dollars that have flowed through T&T as a result of oil and gas, why have we reached this state where T&T is akin to the wild wild west?

Why are certain areas in our nation killing fields where to be young, male, bright and progressive is a death sentence? Why aren’t we allowing the positive role models in sport, music, art, culture, calypso, soca and pan to reach out and resonate.

As we focus on hard, necessary and short-term interventions, remember no one wins a war no matter how justified. Interventions that reach the hearts and minds of the youth of the nation are most important. Sport matters. Sport can provide positive role models.

What is the value of billions of oil and gas dollars if we can’t live in peace and peace of mind. Rest in Peace Deneilson Smith and Mark Richards. May your untimely, brutal and callous demise not be in vain.

Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC). The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. Support #10 Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund. Make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188.