Life and death of a Caribbean drugs baron

Those he could not buy he murdered. Darcus Howe remembers Dole Chadee, the 'little coolie boy' who was hanged last week

Darcus Howe
Sunday 06 June 1999 00:02 BST

I KNEW Dole Chadee, who was hanged for murder in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Friday. I knew his cruelty, his ruthlessness, his wickedness, his spite. He was generous, too, or at any rate he threw his money about.

I knew Chadee because he set up in business as a drug dealer in a village a couple of miles from where I was born 54 years ago. The lives of many people in the area were touched by his. My younger brother, Clyde "Southman" Howe, is serving a five-year prison term for being in possession of hundreds of thousands of dollars for which he could give no reasonable account. He was not in the business of laundering, he tells me, but was a simple bagman "for the boss". When he leaves prison, I expect he will be suitably rewarded with well-furnished accommodation. There may be hundreds of Trinidadians who are in Chadee's debt, who without his "generosity" would lead deprived lives. (With it, of course, many of them lead depraved lives.)

Two of Chadee's accomplices were also hanged on Friday and three more went to the gallows yesterday. That leaves three to go. They will meet their Maker tomorrow: the Sabbath is a day of rest for the hangman.

There is a saying on the island which summed up Chadee's power: "Who have more corn feed more fowl." Chadee was able to undermine the system of justice with his millions. Chadee routinely bought judges, juries, political parties, captains, cooks ... anybody and everybody. Those whom he could not buy, he murdered. I once heard a fairly prominent member of society dismiss him as "a little coolie boy" - Chadee was an Indian - but nobody would insult him to his face.

He ran the cocaine trade on Trinidad for the Lebanese. The government has turned a blind eye to the trade because it brings in foreign exchange on a huge scale. I have good reason to believe that Chadee had discussions with members of the government about using his funds to develop agriculture.

But his behaviour finally became unacceptable even by the corrupt standards of the Caribbean: in the past 10 years he and his gang were implicated in 30 murders.

Chadee was the first criminal to be executed for five years. The last victim of the rope was little Glen Ashley, another murderer, whom I'd known as a boy. He went screaming to the gallows while the Privy Council was hearing the case.

Once Trinidad took its traditions from Britain. Now it is following those of Latin America. The whole of the Caribbean seems to have been convinced by OK Corral justice.

That's their lookout, but let's not have the Privy Council involved in the circus. If they want to retain capital punishment, they should be left entirely to their own legal devices. Our slogan should be: "Farewell, my friends".

n Darcus Howe is a writer and broadcaster currently working on 'The White Tribe', a documentary about England, for Channel 4.

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