|JUSTIFYING CRIME BY Anand Ramlogan
Attorney General Glenda Morean stated yesterday that one of the major reasons for the uncontrollable crime situation was the fact that the former UNC regime neglected a certain section of the population”. (Express, Jan 2nd). This, she said, justified the PNM government’s social programmes which would bring relief to these “disadvantaged members of society”.
The Commissioner’s pain in wondering why families would see unemployed youths coming home with expensive sneakers, jeans and guns and say nothing in the face of police statistics which showed that North Trinidad was the most unsafe area in the country with close to 100 murders in 2002 is genuine. Yet, instead of appreciating his frustration and hurt over the senseless human slaughters, he was slammed for saying that one race was committing these evil murders. Headlines such as “Guy blames one race for murders in Laventille” and several callers on radio programmes slammed him for ‘condemning his own race’. He became an ungrateful black man instead of a concerned human being.
The UNC, in its short 6 years in power destroyed Laventille. Overnight, this well-educated, gainfully employed, crime-free community was transformed into a hellhole. It quickly became a breeding ground for restless young criminals. The youths suddenly dropped out of secondary schools, university, and professional life. They promptly resigned their well-paying jobs and decided to use their life’s savings to buy Reebok’s and Nikes, expensive jeans, gold for their front teeth and guns.
After 30 years of living a decent life under the PNM, they inexplicably turned to a life of crime. Local sociologists concluded that these youths could not bear to live under a UNC government because they knew that Panday’s Indo-Trinidadian supporters would invade their professions and be given their jobs by the devious racist UNC. And so it came to pass. Instead of sending Sadiq Baksh with tractors to clean the clogged, filthy drains and install streetlights, Panday encouraged Indians to fight Afro-Trinidadians for their jobs. They took over the public service and state enterprises. Panday built high-rise NHA apartment buildings and gave them to poor Indian families who had suffered 30 years of PNM neglect.
Ethnic-based, tit-for-tat discrimination by political administrations breeds resentment and disharmony. Let us hope and pray that Prime Minister Manning puts a stop to this type of politics. A good start would be to abandon the partisan baliser ties and show that this is a government for the entire nation and not just the PNM and its supporters.
|Legal wishes for 2003
By Anand Ramlogan Email: - firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
1. Crime - A competent and effective Minister of National Security withsome idea of how to fight crime and less nonsensical expensive public relations stunts which as "operation anaconda". Prosecution and conviction of kidnappers including those masterminding these crimes. A Prime Minister who will show zero tolerance for crime rather than meeting with gang leaders
to 'beg' them to stop robbing and murdering innocent citizens whilst marketing it as "alternative dispute resolution" and saying the nation should be grateful to them for being willing to meet with him and talk.
2. Judiciary - Computer Aided Transcript (CAT) reporters who can simultaneously record court proceedings as they occur, to expedite the delivery of justice and help clear the backlog of cases. The waiting time for a trial in both criminal and civil cases should be no more than one year. To achieve this, the number of judges and magistrates should be increased. New modern court buildings to house Magistrates Courts with supporting technology and staff is needed. Urgent upgrading of the Forensic Sciences Centre, blood testing, probation and other critical support services for the efficient administration of justice is also necessary.
3. Police Service - A proper complaints authority with resources and legal teeth that can genuinely investigate complaints against police officers. These investigations must be conducted by independent persons in recognition of the fact that "police investigating police" is a complete waste of time, effort and money. Mandatory random drug tests for police officers and an end to bribe taking and corruption on the police service. A decent increase in the salary of police officers who literally put their lives on the line each day.
4. Protection for witnesses - One of the main reasons for the lack of co-operation from the public in reporting and solving crimes is the disastrous failure of the state to guarantee and provide protection for witnesses in the past. The terrifying mafia style execution of state witnesses in the past has left the average man in fear, with the indelible impression that the murdering might and will of the criminal is more powerful that the feeble protection offered by the state.
5. Crime stoppers - The laudable idea of a hotline for the public to anonymously phone in tips about criminal activity is seriously compromised by inaction on the part of the authorities and their failure to properly promote and advertise this concept. The average man in the street does not know the telephone number for the crime stoppers hotline but the government bombards us with smiling Ministers and useless political propaganda each day on the prime time viewing each day.
6. Commission of Enquiry into the construction of the Airport - The meandering political path of this marathon Enquiry has cost this nation a precious fortune by now. It was established to score political points over the UNC in the run-up to the general election and served its purpose well, but enough is enough. Not a single witness has been cross-examined to date
and inadmissible heresay evidence (which cannot be used in a court of law) is constantly allowed with blaring headlines the next day. State-sponsored, legal character assassination continues unabated and the Commission seems oblivious to the growing public weariness. Never before has an inquiry been conducted after criminal charges were laid whilst criminal trials are pending in connection with the same subject matter. History shows that the normal practice is that the report of the Commission precedes and prompts the laying of criminal charges. For example, the recent enquiry into the escape of convicted drug lord Deochan Ramdhanie was the basis for the subsequent arrest and charging of several police officers. The Scott Drug report was the same.
The present Enquiry is scandalously one-sided and judging by the witnesses, one can easily mistake it for a PNM party group. After accusing the former regime of having employed to many Indians during the construction of the airport (remember that front page cry on all our newspapers?), less that 1% of the witnesses who were involved in the airport
project that have been called to testify are of East Indian descent.
Either the UNC was not racial and clearly entrusted this mega-project in the hands of non-Indians alone, the charge of "too many Indians" being employed at the airport was ridiculously false and racist or, Indo-Trinidadians who did play a part have been deliberately sidelined to fulfill the political intent and ambition of this Enquiry - which is it?
And I wonder, how come nobody's crying about there being "too many Africans employed at the airport" now? Where are these voices for racial equality? Perhaps the Commission will deal with this blatant racial imbalance in its report and slam the airport for discriminating against Indo-Trinidadians in its employment practices. The cost of this Enquiry might very well rival the cost of the excesses at the airport upon completion. Grounds for another inquiry perhaps? If there is evidence to charge people then do so and let the law take its course but end this political circus now!
Just a few thoughts; bye for now then and Happy New
|PROTECTING INDEPENDENCE By Anand Ramlogan
"The question is not whether in fact he was or was not biased. The Court cannot enquire into that. In the administration of justice, whether by a recognised legal public court or by persons who, although not a legal public court, are acting in a similar capacity, public policy requires that in order that there should be no doubt about the purity of the administration,
any person who is to take part in it should not be in such a position that he might be suspected of being biased" Lord Esher, in the case of Allinson -v-- General Council of Medical Education in 1891.
These words sang out in my mind as I read the exclusive Guardian (26th Nov) report about the appointment of Mr Augustus Ramrekersingh as a judge of the Industrial Court. Mr Ramrekersingh is a former deputy political leader of the PNM. He is also a former PNM senator and cabinet minister. He was appointed with 2 others, Ms Lenore Harris and Ruby Thompson-Boddie.
According to the story, these appointments have caused great disquiet and unease because of the individuals appointed and the manner in which the government made the appointments.
In the case of Harris and Thompson-Bodie, the former President of the court had apparently protested their re-appointment after their tenure had expired. They were nevertheless suddenly re-appointed 'out of the blue' without undergoing any interviews.
In the case of Ramrekasingh, the controversy surrounds his obvious political links with the ruling party and the propriety of his appointment. I have no doubt that he is able and well qualified for the post but the real question has to do with public perception. How would we have felt if Panday had appointed Carlos John or Robin Montano a judge of the Industrial Court?
The administration of justice will only be effective if it enjoys public confidence. Political appointments erode, rather than inspire, public confidence. Political appointments should never contaminate the judiciary. This will undermine the perception of independence, which is critical to the effective delivery of justice.
The article stated that officials felt that Harris and Boddie were "brought back by AG Glenda Morean" and that the vacancies should have been advertised. If the established practice is that vacancies are advertised and interviews are held then why this unexplained departure?
The courts are there to serve the people and not vice versa. It belongs to the public. John public is entitled to know about these matters because it impacts on the delivery of justice to one and all.
The whole idea of judges changing with new governments is repulsive. Judges in the Industrial court should enjoy security of tenure. At the moment, these judges are appointed to serve for 3-5 years. This means that the government can always apply subtle political pressure and use the lucrative issue of re-appointment as leverage. In the report of the Mackay Commission
of Enquiry into the Administration of Justice Lord Mackay commented on this vexing issue as follows:-
"It is primarily in the interests of Judicial independence that judges enjoy security of tenure and in this connection we recommend that where as in the Industrial Court, judges are exercising judicial functions, they should enjoy security of tenure up to a fixed age".
This recommendation has apparently fallen on deaf ears. The 3 distinguished Commissioners of international repute were unanimous in this recommendation. Lord Mackay is a former Privy Council law Lord and Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Justice Austin Amissah is the Chief Justice of Botswana and Justice Dr LM Singhvi is a former Chief Justice of India and the vice-chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. But why worry? Who Cares? After all, if we give these judges security of tenure, politicians will lose a 'sweet' lucrative avenue for dispensing political patronage.
They will also have to give up the invisible 'big stick' that allows them to 'have a say' or exert some measure of control over the administration of justice in the Industrial Court (where incidentally, the government is a frequent party to industrial relation legal matters involving strikes, hiring, promotion etc).
Now that the issue of constitutional reform is being hotly debated, this issue about the precarious position of the Industrial Court should be thrown into the pot and dealt with. The procedure for appointment should be free from political influence and prejudice and the judges should enjoy security of tenure until the normal retirement age. Anything less is bound to undermine the independence of the institution and public confidence.
|"Democracy malfunctions and the will of the people is distorted when elected
officials are allowed to 'own' and treat their seats like personal property
with which they are free to wheel and deal."
THE RIGHT OF RECALL By Anand Ramlogan
Last week I highlighted what I consider to be a major deficiency in our parliamentary democracy. This flaw is the fact the only remedy our political system provides for breach of the social contract that comes into existence when someone votes for a representative comes once every 5 years in the form of a general election.
I received hundreds of e-mail messages from people all over the world who identify with this kind of democratic impotence and powerlessness. Today, I wish to explore and develop my idea of giving the people a "right of recall".
Part of the reason people 'disconnect' from the democratic process is because they feel they have no direct power or influence after they've stained their fingers. What remedy does our system give them if they're dissatisfied with the performance of their elected representatives?
The concept of the 'shadow MP' doesn't work in practice because there is no real incentive for him to 'shadow' the elected representative who beat him in the elections. His only hope is that in 5 years time, he will be able to compete with him in the next general elections assuming he is chosen as his party's candidate to contest the seat. If the loosing candidate knows that
he has the opportunity to remove or unseat his successful opponent via a petition signed by, a stipulated percentage (50% or 60%?) of the registered voters who voted in the last elections, he will have an incentive to monitor the performance of the representative.
The right of recall is, in my view, essential to a functioning democracy. It will restore power to the people by giving them with the right to 'withdraw' their vote for elected representatives who do not perform. It is the natural form of democratic pressure that will compel representatives to perform.
Elected representatives are 'hired' by the people who vote for them. They are hired and paid by the people. Why then, shouldn't the people have the right to 'fire' them if they're dissatisfied with their performance?
If we had a right of recall in T&T our political history would have been different. When Panday was expelled from the NAR and he defected, Nizam Mohammed, Bhoe Tiwarie, Winston Dookeran, Brinsley Samaroo and the other MP's who were elected on Panday's political strength would not have been able to remain in government on the pretext that this was "for the people". The people would not have had to wait for 4 years to vote them out as they eventually did. They would have been able to recall them by petition.
Democracy malfunctions and the will of the people is distorted when elected officials are allowed to 'own' and treat their seats like personal property with which they are free to wheel and deal.
Dr Rupert Griffith and Vincent Lasse would not have been able to cross the floor on the PNM if the people had the power to recall them. Ramesh, Ralph and Trevor might not have been able to declare their independence from Panday and pledge allegiance to the PNM in on the aborted attempt to form a new government. In fact, the law against 'crossing the floor' that was passed by Parliament but never implemented (because the relevant standing orders have never been made) would become unnecessary.
The people would be the primary and ultimate beneficiaries of the right to recall. Political leaders who are so scared to implement the crossing of the floor Act will not be able to saddle people with incompetent representatives who do not perform.
It will hopefully herald the beginning of the end to the " If I put ah crapauh, yuh have to vote fuh dem" political culture where maximum leaders choose people of their own liking who remain loyal to the leader but give no representation to the people who elected them. People would be able to demand strong, effective representatives who can march and protest with them
and really 'represent' them in Parliament or local government.
Constitutional reform must involve giving the electorate a right of recall. Once 6 months has elapsed, any elected MP or councilor must be subject to a power of recall vested in the people who elected them to serve. A petition signed by a stipulated majority percentage (say 51 or 60 percent) of the voters that elected that official can be presented to the President via the EBC or the Speaker in Parliament and a bye-election must be called within 3 months. To prevent recall by 'voter padding' only people who were registered to vote when the official was elected should have the right to recall.
If people choose not to recall incompetent, lazy absentee representatives then they deserve this kind of representation and cannot complain about neglect like they did during the recent flooding disaster. The people will be able to pass judgement representatives who promise them the world around election time and them ignore them for the next 5 years while they travel first-class as government officials or collect a paycheck as opposition MP's for doing absolutely nothing for the people. This is my idea for electoral and constitutional reform -- power to the people.
|"The problem with our political system is that the remedy for breach of the
social contract that comes into existence when someone votes for a representative comes once every 5 years in the form of a general election"
FLOODS & POLITICS by Anand Ramlogan
One of the most startling things about the recent floods was the reaction of the people. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard people from affected areas in Arima, Arouca, Chaguanas and San Fernando angrily condemn their political representatives for their broken promises and inaction. One African woman pointed to a huge hole in the road that was transformed into a river, saying MP Penelope Beckles had visited that spot a mere week before the general election with promises to fix it if the people in the area voted for her.
Other residents wanted to cash in on their political deal and were livid with rage! Camille Robinson-Regis, Dr Adesh Nanan and a UNC councillor all came in for blows as weak bridges washed away in Brasso and other areas and rural communities were marooned.
It seems as though one positive side effect of these floods is that it highlighted the neglected areas and forced government to address the lack of basic infrastructure and amenities. The condition of some of these "roads" and "bridges" is an indictment on all governments.
Incredibly, after the oil boom in the 70's and early 80's and the much-touted gas boom of the present/future. We are yet to provide decent roads, strong bridges and proper drainage and clear water courses.
Ours is a culture of pre-election spending in a shameless attempt to capture votes. Poor-quality pre-election road-paving frenzy is now a common feature of general elections. After that, representatives are usually to busy "running government" (that is, flying first-class to unnecessary, obscure conferences all over the world) to continue this type if basic development.
Work suddenly halts or slows down after the election is over. Just check the widening of the lanes from Bel Air to the Gulf City traffic light for a good example.
Work came to an abrupt halt after the elections without any explanation. It's these for all to see. A constant reminder of how foolish our politics is. One man told me he was thankful for the floods because without natural disasters many rural communities will never get any national attention and government expenditure. If the floods don't wash away the weak bridges then they dangerously remain. Year after year, the same areas flood with no political solution to the problem. Are we really so bankrupt of ideas?
The problem with our political system is that the remedy for breach of the social contract that comes into existence when someone votes for a representative comes every 5 years in the form of a general election. I have been advocating for people to have the right to remove their elected representatives at any time via a petition to the President signed by more than one-half of the registered electors in a particular constituency or local government district. The President, upon receiving such a petition should be able to declare the seat vacant and announce a bye-election (provided the EBC verifies the registration status of the petitioners).
Constitutional and electoral reform must restore power to the people. Ours is a one-day democracy, where people happily place their 'X' once every 5 years (or 3 years for local government elections) and then disconnect from the political process of democracy. Their democratic power is hogtied and chained to this one precious day of voting that comes to an unceremonious end at 6pm once every 5 years.
I'm certain that some of the people who were duped into voting for particular persons or parties might be willing to re-consider their position and sign a petition to 'fire' their elected official for non-performance and neglect. It's an idea that we should all consider.
|THE INJUSTICE OF JUSTICE
by Anand Ramlogan
Over 4 years ago, on August 9th, 1998, 22-year-old boy called Richard Ramnarace was shot at point blank range by police constable Visham
Boodoosingh at a bar in Penal owned by Boodoosingh's wife. Ramnarace had gone to the local restaurant and bar with his brother and 2 friends for a
'lime' after a hard week's work. He saw two guys harassing one of his
|"A more recent problem is that some of our Judges and
Magistrates have started suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the hand and wrist causedby the many long hours of writing witnesses evidence. That our system
delivers justice under these conditions is in itself a tribute to thesesuffering but dedicated judicial officers."
DELIVERING JUSTICE By Anand Ramlogan
The blatant refusal of the prosecution's 'star witness' to give evidence against his alleged accomplice Emerine Harewood who stands accused of murdering San Juan businessman Geewan Maharaj on September 4th 1998 is cause for concern.
This 'star witness' for the prosecution (whose name the judge ordered the media not to publish to ensure his safety and protection), was granted immunity by the Director of Public Prosecutions to testify against his alleged partner-in-crime 27 year old Emerine Harewood of Trou Macaque Road, Laventille.
The State's case is that Geewan Maharaj was murdered during a robbery at his lotto outlet at the Croisee, San Juan by Harewood. Police Sergeant Oscar Silverton who laid the murder charge testified that he had recorded 3 confession statements without which the state would not and indeed, could not have commenced this murder prosecution. This 'star witness' who was granted immunity coyly said he remembered admitting to being involved in ab robbery, but could not recall anything else!
It is common for defendants to deny confession statements, which the police say they gave of their own free will. This causes the judge press 'pause' on the jury trial and conduct a "voir doire". This is a sort of on-the-spot mini-trial in the absence of the jury to determine whether the court should allow the confession statement into evidence.
There is need for urgent reform of the practice and procedure whereby confessions of accused persons are recorded. This reform must ensure that the rights of the accused are protected and observed so that it would remove any room for doubt that the confession was in fact given of his own free will. Too often defendants complain that they were beaten, starved or
threatened into signing a confession prepared statement concocted by the police. In May alone, no less than 8 people were freed as a result of police bungling.
In some countries they videotape the actual confession to show the accused actually doing the confessing, and the police taking the statement. In other jurisdictions the accused must have a legal representative, friend or relative present. Such ideas are worthy of consideration here to prevent frivolous challenges to genuine confession statements. It will militate
against police officers obtaining confession statements by unlawful means and weed out unmeritorious challenges to valid confessions in court.
In England the interview takes place in the presence of a State-appointed, independent legal advisor for the accused and the entire interview is taped. Two copies of the tape are made and one is given to the legal representative of the accused. The other is retained by the prosecution in a sealed bag and sent for transcription. They have now moved from audio recordings to audio-visual recordings. This has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of challenges to confession statements by defence lawyers in criminal trials and improved the administration of criminal justice on the whole. Challenging confession statements on the ground of duress is no longer a commonplace occurrence in criminal trials.
There is a lot of room for improvement in our justice system. Judges and Magistrates are still taking longhand notes of evidence from the witness box. This is inefficient and tedious, disrupts spontaneous cross-examination (a lying witness gets time to think while the question asked by Counsel is being written by the court), and is generally a waste of precious judicial
time. A more recent problem is that some of our Judges and Magistrates have started suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the hand and wrist caused by the many long hours of writing witnesses evidence. That our system
delivers justice under these conditions is in itself a tribute to these suffering but dedicated judicial officers.
Thankfully an Audio Digital pilot project has been launched in 2 courts that will transform oral evidence into written text in real time speed. This is great news and a huge step in the right direction and kudos must be given to the Court Executive Administrator Master Christine Ann Morris Alleyne for spearheading this effort. The government must finance
this project as a matter of priority so that all 43 Magistrates courts and our High Courts can step into the 21st century.
That apart, blood tests in paternity disputes now take over 1 year while testing of suspected drug substances takes anywhere between 6-9 months merely to confirm that the substance seized is in fact an unlawful drug. The
proposed revamp of the Forensics Science Centre is long over due. The backlog in this department reduces the citizen's journey for justice to a frustrating run on the legal conveyor belt with endless adjournments, witnesses who loose interest and a loss of confidence in our justice system. These two critical areas need urgent attention because of the important
ancillary role they play in the administration of justice.
The judiciary is one of the key pillars beneath a functioning democratic society that is free and fair. The efficient administration of justice must be a top priority for any government. Who knows, had Harewood's trial not taken over 4 years to start, the prosecution's 'star witness' might have been able to 'remember' giving his confession statement to Sgt
Silverton about the murder of the late Geewan Maharaj. The longer the system takes to deal with cases, the less likely the possibility of genuine justice. Justice delayed is truly justice denied.
|OF SNIPERS AND KIDNAPPERS by Anand Ramlogan
The joy of my friend from Washington over the arrest of the two snipers that had been terrorizing his State contrasted sharply with the sorrow of my friend whose relative had been kidnapped right here in Chaguanas. An almost impossible case of two obscure crazy snipers randomly terrorizing people in a sprawling state in a huge country was solved in less them 3 weeks while a protracted criminal assault of random kidnappings in a small island with less than 1.2 million people remained unsolved even to this day.
The cauldron of emotion containing raw hurt, anger, frustration and fright is boiling. The entire nation is worried. The Indo-Trinidadian population feels especially naked and targeted because the majority of kidnap victims have thus far been Indian businessmen and women.
The implication of the idea that they are the "natural targets" because Indians are the "rich business people" is dangerous and only increases the anxiety and depression. When a senior PNM activist can tell me this to my face and say that "dey eh killing no body; dey just re-distributing de wealth; it wrong fuh one people to have all de money in de country", my mind
goes blank and numb with pain. Does anybody really care that these people's success came by dint of sacrifice and hard work?
The nation's worries is intensified by the fact that prior to the general elections the wave of kidnappings had suddenly stopped after a 'truce' had been publicly declared and signed by "local community leaders".
Now, the wave of kidnappings seems to have ominously re-started a mere 2 weeks after election. People are terrified because there are rumors that the police know which gang is behind the kidnappings but are either afraid to do anything about it or worse yet, for reasons best known to themselves lack the will power to tackle this gang. To add to our worries,
there is also the issue of whether the government has the political will power to nip this in the bud given its campaign alliance with certaincriminal elements in our society.
In Washington, USA police today arrested 2 men (John Muhammad and John Malvo) for the random sniper attacks that led to the murder of some 10 innocent people and the wounding of another 3 in a three-week attack in the nation's capital. Ballistics tests have confirmed that the weapons seized match the bullets used in the shootings. The evidence gathered thus far shows that these two are definitely the culprits.
The stunning regularity of the sniper shootings dominated the entire media in the US. The killings prompted a sophisticated high-tech expansive investigation which, in 3 weeks yielded results.
The geographical area covered by this investigation included Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C itself. Every single person was treated as a suspect. Despite the daunting size of the area and population under siege this case was solved in 3 short weeks.
The snipers could have been anywhere in the US. Millions of people, a country larger than ours several hundred times over and yet the case is solved in less than 3 weeks.
Here in Trinidad, with a population just under 1.5 million the vast majority of serious and petty crimes remain unsolved. The police have thus far been unable to crack the present wave of kidnappings. From all accounts our local Anti-kidnapping squad is extremely proficient but clearly needs expertise of the kind that led to the arrests of these snipers.
The time has come for the Prime Minister to personally intervene in this wave of kidnapping. He must solicit foreign expertise at a government-to-government level from the FBI in the US and/or Scotland Yard in London. We simply cannot continue like this! The fiasco over Chin Lee's private sector security expert who came for 2 days and then disappeared is
over. That was a great tactical move and wonderful political public relations plaster but let's get serious.
A lot of people are beginning to wonder if 13 residents from Goodwood park or Bayside Towers had been kidnapped whether the government's response of "Hold Strain, we working on it, yuh know," would have been the same. Somehow, I doubt it. What do you think?
|DEMOCRATIC REFORM By Anand Ramlogan
The election violence in Jamaica is a powerful reminder of how lucky we are to have each other in Trinidad and Tobago. Open exchange of gunfire, murders, electors shot at whilst going to vote, stolen ballot boxes, beaten election officials and an entire family of seven wiped out are just some of the chilling highlights. Whatever our differences, we are all part of a unique society that can boast about smooth and peaceful political transitions over the years.
Our Parliament is breathing again and life seems to be returning to normalcy. The democratic antidote of general elections has worked. It has neutralized the uncertainty and fear and resuscitated our stifled Parliament. On we go with the people's business. And what is the people's business? Simple things: employment, housing, water, lights, good roads, health, education and recreational facilities. Governments somehow manage to loose sight of these basic requirements of the people. They would boast about macroeconomic issues and major capital intensive projects, rattling off impressive statistics while the poor man in Barrackpore and Laventille bawls in pain after his 10 days is over and his crop is flooded out.
The role of local government needs to be reviewed in the context of constitutional reform. The idea of decentralization was raised by the Robinson led NAR government but never fully explored. It was thought that the municipal corporations could be the machinery that would facilitate a more equitable distribution of state resources. The present limited role and function of these corporations must be reviewed. Local government councilors are oftentimes more in tune with the needs of the people than MP's. Councilors are hampered from responding to the plight of their local communities because they have no effective channel to the ear of the men with the power and resources i.e., Cabinet Ministers.
Perhaps the media needs to adjust its focus to include coverage of the monthly meetings of the various municipal and city corporations. This is where the issue of local neglect and the suffering of the poor and oppressed are highlighted while Parliament debates legislation and macro-economic issues.
One of the flaws in our parliamentary democracy is that there is no system to audit the performance or non-performance of elected officials. Ours' is a one-day democracy, where people happily place their 'X' once every five years (or three years in the case of local government elections) and then disconnect from the political process of democracy. It is as if their democratic right and responsibility is encapsulated in this one day of voting and it comes to an unceremonious end at 6pm.
This lackadaisical political culture breeds irresponsibility and neglect. It explains why quite recently, one MP was able to hold onto his seat in Parliament for 5 years even though he was working in Africa full-time. The then Speaker of the House of Representatives facilitated this immoral contempt for our democracy by continuously granting the offending MP permission to absent himself from sittings of Parliament.
Constitutional reform must restore power to the people. People only see their MP's during election time canvassing. They are otherwise inaccessible and unaccountable. Perhaps the time has come to introduce a people-based audit on the performance of elected officials. For example, if more than one-half of the registered electors in a particular constituency/local government district petition the President to remove their MP or Councilor then the President should be able to declare his seat vacant and announce a by-election, provided the EBC verifies the registration status of the petitioners. This will keep some of them on their toes!
This having been said, MP's should be given adequate personal resources (such as 5-7 full-time executive assistants paid for by the state) to ensure that the constituency office of the MP is equipped to service the needs of the people.
In the absence of this kind of critical support the efforts of diligent MP's can be easily frustrated and cause them to succumb to the unrewarding culture of non-performance.
Our present system reduces the role of the people to that of by-standers on the political periphery. They are used by politicians to win an election and largely ignored until the next election whilst the elected official looks after himself. Constitutional reform must address this apathy and promote a symbiotic relationship between the people and their elected officials, where each have a clear stake in helping the other or else our democracy will remain a one day farce that promotes non-performance.
|The Way Forward By Anand Ramlogan
As the political dust settles and our ugly racial cleavage is revealed I ask
myself, 'where do we go from here?' The depressing sense of helplessness and
sadness saw one-half the nation feting while the other half mourned its loss
of political power. The contrasting spontaneous eruption of tears of joy by
PNM supporters and sorrow by UNC supporters, two peoples sharing one homeland, exposed the fallacy of the confluence of the metaphorical Ganges
and the Nile.
|PNM Compromising DPP By Anand Ramlogan
"Charges were laid against Tim Gopeesingh by the government of the UNC, not by us! They were thrown out on a technicality; on the ground that the charges laid are not known to law. The question is, whether this was accidental or deliberate". PM Patrick Manning at a public meeting on September 25th 2002.
In his zeal to counter the political benefit of Tim Gopeesingh's acquittal Manning has dealt the independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the administration of justice a damaging punch below the belt. Headlines such as "UNC to blame for Gopeesingh's freedom" are puzzling, stupid and dangerous.
If Manning blames the UNC for the decision by Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicols to dismiss all 9 charges then I wonder if he is conversely going to praise and credit the UNC with the conviction and execution of the infamous Dole Chadee gang? What does the Prime Minister mean by suggesting the 'UNC is to blame'? Is he suggesting that the Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nichols and the then DPP Senior Counsel Mark Mohammed were secretly aligned to the UNC?
The DPP is appointed by the Judicial & Legal Services Commission (JLSC), which the Chief Justice chairs. Section 90(3) of the constitution vests the DPP with exclusive power to institute criminal proceedings against any citizen. The DPP at the time these charges were laid was respected Senior Counsel Mark Mohammed who is hailed and recognised as the best DPP in our nation's history. Mohammed has since been elevated to the position of a High Court Judge in the Supreme Court. This appointment was made by the JLSC, which was at the material time chaired by former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide.
To insinuate that Mohammed might have deliberately drafted a wrong charge in the face of compelling evidence that pointed to a different offence is madness! To stab such a rusty political dagger in Mohammed's back at a time when he is sitting as a High Court Judge (and therefore cannot defend himself) is "advantage".
Manning's ill-advised attack can have serious repercussions. At a local meeting one PNM lawyer hinted that such matters might constitute fertile ground for removal from judicial office. This attack will damage the judiciary as an institution and erode public confidence in the administration of justice. It must be nipped in the bud and roundly condemned by all right thinking members of society. Manning's foolish interference did not however, stop with his blaming of the UNC for Gopeesing's acquittal. He went on to say that he had raised the matter with Attorney General Glenda Morean and intended to deal with it.
This backed our new DPP into a bit of a corner and he was forced to go on the defensive explaining that the AG is the legal advisor to cabinet and hence there was nothing wrong in her enquiring about the case. Our bright, new, young DPP (whose appointment I publicly supported in this column) unfortunately came across in a politically apologetic manner almost as if he is a friend of the PNM. He should have simply left the 'defending' for the PNM to do because he runs the risk of fuelling speculation about the depth of his personal relationship with AG Morean and the PNM.
The perception is that the PM is trying to influence and interfere with the administration of justice because Gopeesingh's acquittal weakens the PNM's election campaign which is based on corruption. For the PM to publicly voice his disapproval of and displeasure with the court's decision and then knock on the DPP's door to inquire about the matter means that he wants to send a message. This, he is simply not allowed to do under the doctrine of separation of powers which insulates the judiciary from political influence and interference. This matter is no different to Manning calling the Marabella police station to demand information about his arrested driver. No matter what you say, the average person will not perceive it as a normal inquiry.
When the Prime Minister moves, it is the entire executive that moves for he is the head. Manning's position on this issue is clearly politically motivated and is nothing short of a blatant attempt to exert executive pressure on the DPP, the judiciary and the administration of justice. If his concern about people who get off on a technicality is genuine, then perhaps he should ask Glenda to inquire about the debt owed by the insurrectionists who murdered, rioted and looted but then got off on the technicality of a pardon. Equality of treatment is after all, a fundamental right under our constitution. Why single out Gopeesing, Mr Manning?
|By Anand Ramlogan
The sight of PNM supporters ganging up to taunt, physically threaten and assault Chaguanas Mayor Orlando Nagessar sent shivers down the nation's spine. One woman actually stated "he from Chaguanas and cyah come here!". (This, notwithstanding the fact that the EBC office in Tunapuna services 6 electoral districts including Chaguanas.) Nagessar stated that Hart pointed his finger in his face and encouraged the mob and did nothing to try and defuse the situation. Hart refused to meet with his opponent Carlos John to discuss the incident and develop a 'campaign code of ethics' and has refused to apologise to Nagessar personally for the violent incident.
From newspaper reports, Attorney Haroon Maharaj saved Nagessar by shoving him into an adjacent courtroom. Frighteningly, the mob attempted to push their way into the courtroom but was prevented from doing so by the quick-thinking lawyer who locked the door and told Nagessar to run through the back door that leads to the prisoners cell-block downstairs. Poor Nagessar ran for his life and was driven away in a police vehicle to the Tunapuna police station where he made a report.
This scene brought back memories of the mob of PNM supporters that had violently confronted and hounded businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh and the others charged with offences arising out of the construction of the airport. Back then, the former DPP Mark Mohammed S.C. requested videotapes from both television stations promising to deal with the matter. (Mohammed was subsequently elevated to the High Court bench and is now a judge.) The burning question that remains unanswered however, is how come no charges were laid against anyone? The unlawful behavior of this band of PNM supporters was shown on national television for all to see. They pursued Galbaransingh et al like hunting dogs would manicou in the full view of uniformed police officers who amazingly, did not intervene. Rupatee Mohan's plight which was recently highlighted in the Express newspaper typifies the UNC experience with the police. She claimed 2 carloads of policemen banged on her doors at 4am and terrorized her family under the pretext that they were investigating voter padding. The very police officers had been to her home at least 5 times before, at hours ranging between 1:30 am and 4 am on the very issue. The police denied the family their constitutional right to contact their Attorney and unlawfully refused to show them the search warrant they claimed to have in their possession. No charges were ever laid, of course.
The police illegally handcuffed Sadiq's niece on her first appearance at the San Fernando Magistrate's court and deliberately paraded her before the media for photographs to be taken despite the fact that they had no criminal record and there was no need to physically restrain her. They tip off reporters and newspaper photographers when they're going to execute a search warrant on Carlos John's home, going to seize bank records, or simply returning from London. Compare this level of police enthusiasm with the treatment of PNM hooliganism and unlawful behaviour.
One newspaper reported that the police said they would treat Nagessar's report "like any normal, matter". This is no normal, run-of-the-mill matter. How the police deal with this incident will signal to the PNM , the UNC and the electorate its attitude to violence and thuggery during this election season. One would have thought that the police would have moved swiftly to arrest and charge people to nip this worrying potential election violence in the bud and send a message to would-be hooligans that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Instead of a swift, no-nonsense response, what we get is a slack, naieve and ignorant reaction. The PNM mob that hounded, assaulted and abused the "Airport six" outside the PoS Magistrates court were guilty of several criminal offences including contempt of court, breach of the peace, disorderly behaviour in a public place and resisting arrest (oops, I forgot, no one tried to arrest them).
Videotape evidence was handed over to the police and the DPP at the request of former DPP Mark Mohammed, but no one was charged. Why not? Is it one rule for PNM people and another for UNC people? Do the police and DPP not realize that there is a growing public perception that UNC people are being specially targeted while PNM people are being specially protected? How come no police officer is banging on the doors of these culprits at 4 am to take statements and conduct investigations? Let us assume we had a politically independent police service that investigated the Labidco corruption scandal and Patrick Manning, Ken Julien and Malcolm Jones are charged. Or worse yet, the alleged corruption in the award of a radio licence to PNM financier and NLCB Chairman Louis Lee Sing and that Bereaux and Sing were charged. Could you imagine what would happen if UNC supporters hounded them and violently confronted them outside the court?
The rapid, quick-fire response of the police would lead to arrests and charges within 14 days! Naturally, the police would parade them before the media for pictures to be taken so that they can tacitly help the PNM in its campaign of intimidation. Why hasn't the Police commissioner disciplined the officer that illegally handcuffed Sadiq Baksh's niece? Why hasn't he suspended the officers who repeatedly terrorized Rupatee Mohan's family in the wee hours of the morning? Why the silence? Can we only reprimand and discipline the officer that truthfully leaked the story about Manning's call to the Marabella police station to inquire about his driver? The police must be firm and fair in the exercise of its duties. Blatant favoritism and special treatment for PNM supporters will only erode public confidence in the police service and cause people to retaliate and take the law into their own hands. We are traveling downhill at a rapid speed, getting closer and closer to the Guyana experience. Only the police can pull up the hand brakes. The question is though; do we have enough independent and fair-minded police officers to do the job? Come on guys, we're depending on you.
|By Anand Ramlogan
Forty years of independence is a useful juncture for us to pause and reflect on the struggles of the past to see whether we have truly cultivated a 'Trinbagonian ' cultural identity. For far too long, the spotlight has been focused on one side of the cultural stage.
The instinctive definition of a 'Trini' revolves around calypso, pan, limbo, carnival, crab and callalloo, feting in the Savannah, jumping up with Poison, Harts, Legends or Minshall and liming by Smokeys and Buntys or some other popular joint. Most of these elements are however, foreign to the large majority of East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a cultural identity which they do not share with their fellow citizens who are based in North Trinidad. (And please don't tell me about 'more Indians playing mas in Poison' ...this is a class thing for those who can afford to do so and is an unrealistic barometer to judge over 500,000 people).
The above features characterize the Afro-Trinidadian and French-Creole elite which is geo-politically based in Port of Spain. The Indian is still struggling for space and accommodation in this national identity. His cultural alienation and maginalization in the past has not stifled his unique and distinct identity which has evolved over the years and is now banging on the walls of the traditional definition of our Trini identity.
The recent government-sponsored 40 days of fete, which culminated in the Savannah, drew a massive crowd but was conspicuously and predictably largely African. The government plan of openly targeting, consolidating and reeling in the African vote was clearly working. Less than 10% of the performing artistes representing the culture of T&T were East Indians as was the crowd. This, of course, is also in keeping with the racial composition of the present administration's cabinet.
For over 30 years of PNM governance from 1956-1986 there was not a single Hindu Minister in the PNM's cabinet. We moved merrily along without anyone even noticing this glaring discrimination but if Panday had a cabinet full of Hindus without a single Christian for even one term, he would have been lynched! There isn't a single national building, monument or major roadway named after an Indian despite their success in many spheres of national life. The Eric Williams Financial Complex, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, the Hasley Crawford National stadium, Jean Pierre sports complex, Claude Noel highway, Ato Boldon and Dwight Yorke stadiums etc are just some of the many proud reminders of our outstanding African heroes. (Recently, we had Manny Ramjohn in Marabella thanks to Jack Warner). With the Naipaul/ National library fiasco the hope of having a national building named after an Indian is fast receding and this intensifies the alienation of a community that is now the majority group in society.
These harsh facts speak volumes about the historical exclusion and marginalisation of the East Indian community, which was but a mere "recalcitrant minority". In recent times, rapid progression has been made with the advent of Indian radio stations. The success of these radio stations bear testimony to the voracious appetite that always existed for Indian culture which was deliberately starved for 30 years under the PNM. Tassa, Indian dancing and chutney is slowly penetrating the traditional cultural barrier. But this is sadly due more to the efforts of private entrepreneurs that State funding and assistance.
The crowd at the Independence Day celebrations is typical of any cultural event held in the Savannah, the cultural capital and Mecca of our nation. There is nothing wrong with this. 90% of our pan men, calypsonians, limbo-dancers and the people who lime in North Trinidad are non-Indians and it is expected that they will predominate such events held in their backyard. To say that it open to Indians to join in these activities is to miss the point because it is equally open to non-Indians to join in Indian cultural activities and they choose not to. The large majority of persons in North Trinidad who read this column would scoff at this piece but ask them if they've ever been to a chutney show or the number of times they've ventured South of Grand Bazaar and you will get my point. For most people who live in North Trinidad our country ends at Grand Bazaar.
To those who justify the national status of calypso and pan on the basis that it was 'invented' here, I guess they didn't know that chutney and the dhantal were also 'invented' right here in sweet T&T by Indo-Trinidadians. These things did not come from India. They are indigenous to local Indians. Why then, shouldn't we equally proud and promote both? How many non-Indian school children even know what a dhantal is? Do they know what it sounds like? Why is this not a 'Trini' ting too?
But what then of the Indian who sees carnival, pan and limbo as being indigenous to African culture? You can count the number of Indian calypsonians, and steel bands on one hand. The Indian cultural response to carnival has been its own unique brand of indigenous music and song in the form of up-beat folk songs, which evolved into chutney. Subsequent experiments and variations produced chutney-soca, chutney-parang and pichakaaree.
There are a growing number of non-Indian participants in these chutney competitions but they remain a minority, almost in direct proportion to the number of Indian participants at the annual calypso monarch competition. Most chutneys are now sung in plain English and the top chutney song at the moment racing up the local charts is sung by a black woman (Carlene Wells) from the Triveni Indian orchestra.
Some say chutney and pichakaaree is the indigenous Indian cultural response to calypso. However you choose to describe it, one thing is clear: there are two equally potent, indigenous parallel cultural streams running alongside each other with distinct ethnic support from our two major races. The cultural confluence of the 'Ganges' and the 'Nile' is but a temporary façade that occurs on stage at official government functions when we try to project a meretricious harmonious cultural image to impress foreign guests and the odd elite French Creole audience at the Country Club.
Chutney and the dholak is to the Indian, what calypso and pan is to the African. Sundar Popo and Cecil Fonrose is to the Indian what The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener is to the African. ( And in case you're wondering, yes, Cecil Fonrose is a renowned, African singer of Indian music and he is a celebrity in the Indian community). This is the reality. Describing carnival and pan as "national" will not change this social and cultural reality. A chutney or Indian cultural show has never been, and will probably never be, staged at the savannah. That does not mean that it is any less Trinidadian!
This cultural and social reality must inform the way we define the Trini identity lest we alienate one-half the country's population. All Indian orchestras now play calypso and dub with a unique chutney flavor. You will never hear the Prisons, Police or Army band playing an Indian song at our annual Independence Day celebrations- why? None of our big-name carnival bands can play a chutney or Indian song of any kind. Is 'cross-over' music only for Indian bands and artistes to cross over the cultural bridge not vice versa?
Indian culture has traditionally received token exposure and treatment by the State. The odd Indian dance at official functions, musical experiments by Mungal Patasar using the tabla and the pan, Rikki Jai and Drupatee Ramgoonai as Indian calypsonians, Jit Samaroo as a pannist extraordinaire and roti and doubles at all-inclusive Carnival fetes for the upper class are all overused as cultural 'consolation' prizes' for a group that is not allocated its fair or any space in the national identity. After 40 years of independence and 155 years of Indian arrival isn't it time to revisit and re-define the 'Trinbagonian' identity so as to include an Indian cultural dimension? The State should be funding the national Chutney Soca Monarch and Mastana Bahar as it does the National Calypso Monarch and Best Village. After all, 40,000 fete-loving Indians wining to the spicy chutney in Skinners Park, cannot be less equal than 40,000 non-Indians jamming to sweet soca music in the Savannah in a country that boasts 'every creed and race find an equal place"
|PNM Pressure for EBC By Anand Ramlogan
The EBC will be the fulcrum of our democracy in the upcoming general elections on October 7th. The EBC is a venerable institution that has weathered many election storms over the years. It has served us well even though it was essentially moulded and shaped during the PNM era. Its constitutional independence and political insularity was the brainchild of the late Dr Eric Williams.
The present Chairman of the EBC Oswald Wilson was appointed some 25 years ago by the PNM. Raoul John has been therefore over 13 years. Lance Murray has been there for over 17 years. In fact, the majority of EBC Commissioners were appointed by the PNM whilst it was in office. Only one Commissioner was appointed during the UNC's term in office by President ANR Robinson. The President appoints an EBC Commissioner after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition: Section 71(3) of the constitution. We can only assume that Presidents Sir Ellis Clarke, Justice Noor Hassanali and ANR Robinson choose distinguished individuals who would act fairly and be politically impartial in the execution of their duties as EBC Commissioners.
The administrative staff of the EBC were all hired and promoted by the Public Service Commission when the PNM was in government. Howard Cayenne was promoted to the post of Chief Elections Officer during the tenure of former Chief Justice and Chairman of the EBC Sir Issac Hayatali. Cayenne worked his way up the ranks. He has served and rowed through many elections and is experienced and extremely well qualified for the job. Like the rest of the public service, Africans comprise the majority of the EBC staff. These people were hired when the PNM was in Government and have remained there over the years. They have served us well over the years.
Since the last general election the EBC has conducted a detailed nationwide voter verification exercise to update its list of Electors. This was well publicized with jingles and regular advertisements in the print and electronic media. Both the UNC and PNM conducted their own voter verification exercise using the last electoral list to weed out suspected 'voter padders'. Earlier this year, the updated 2002 Annual list of Electors was published by the EBC (in accordance with section 29 of the Representation of the People Act) for public inspection. The public was advised and urged to inspect the said list to report any inaccuracies and object to any names. Newspaper advertisements actually published the relevant form, which members of the public could use to lodge their objection(s) to any name(s).
During this entire exercise a well-organized public relations campaign educated citizens and stressed our individual responsibility and duty to ensure the veracity and integrity of the electoral list. The slogan "To vote is your right, to register is your responsibility" sensitized everyone to their role in helping the EBC update and 'clean-up' the list of electors.
In light of the above one is hard-pressed to understand the PM Patrick Manning's unhappiness with the EBC. His government has been attacking the EBC. In recent times, it has been trying to force the EBC to accept a strategic management advisor, this being one of the recommendations of the Deyalsingh Inquiry. The Deyalsingh report is under legal challenge before the High Court but the AG Glenda Morean is nevertheless trying to hastily implement its recommendations!
Apart from the intimidating and militant tone of AG Morean's recent letter to the EBC on this issue, the government's view that cabinet can unilaterally increase the number of staff of the EBC by contract appointments is fundamentally flawed. The AG threatened the EBC that "where cabinet approval has been granted for a contract position, the relevant Minister has the authority to select the person to fill the position...".
To allow the cabinet of any ruling party to select and superimpose senior level staff for the EBC in key strategic areas of its liking is sheer madness! This would legitimize political interference with the EBC and trespass on its constitutional independence.
AG Morean's arrogant and intimidating letter to the EBC must be condemned for what it is: a bold faced and shameless attempt by the PNM to install one of its cronies in the bosom of the EBC in the hope that they may be able to artificially engineer a victory for the PNM. No cabinet of any ruling political party must dare bully and harass the EBC in this manner. The PNM should be the last to cry foul because the EBC Commissioners and administrative staff were all appointed during its tenure in government. Those that were not appointed by the PNM were appointed by the NAR under former Prime Minister ANR Robinson, who is now a PNM hero.
If the PNM has its way and it is allowed to superimpose its chosen candidate on the EBC as its strategic management advisor this would compromise the political impartiality of the EBC in the eyes of the other political parties and erode public confidence.
The EBC is crucial to our democracy. It has done a remarkable job to update and perfect the annual list of qualified electors. The blame for any inaccuracies and shortcomings might well fall on the shoulders of the political parties and citizenry who ought to have inspected and scrutinized the list to do their part. After all, the right to vote is only valuable if we value it.
|By Anand Ramlogan
"I am of the view that a criminal investigation is warranted to determine whether among other offences, offences conspiracy to Defraud and Misbehaviour in Public Office are revealed. I have accordingly forwarded to the Commissioner of Police the documentation submitted ......... with my advice that a criminal investigation be conducted". Former DPP, Senior Counsel Mark Mohammed (now High Court Judge) in a letter dated 9th day of May, 2002 to the UNC on PNM corruption in the LABIDCO fiasco.
The words above flashed across my mind as I read the headline story in this Monday's (19th August, 2002) Newsday newspaper entitled "Eyesore evidence collected from London trip". The story dealt with the return of the Head of the Police Fraud Squad, Senior Superintendent Virgil Hill from London where he had gone to conduct further investigations into the Panday bank account. Having cleverly stated that Piggot refused to answer any questions about the investigation because it was confidential and sensitive, the article nevertheless went on the state that senior police sources described the information collected as "eyesore evidence". This was within 12 hours of Piggot's return!
Assuming Piggot had refused to answer questions posed by the media, who leaked this damaging prejudicial story about "eyesore evidence" against Panday? It would have to be someone Piggot reported to within 12 hours of his return. Who would the Head of the Fraud Squad report to on an investigation into the bank account of the former Prime Minister? Who would have been privy to the information collected by Piggot and worse yet, why would they want to leak it to the Newsday knowing fully well that it would be completely unethical to disclose such matters whilst an investigation was in progress. Was it Police Commissioner Hilton Guy? If not, why didn't he condemn this politicking by his senior officers?
I waited to see if anyone would refute this article or condemn this leak. Neither the Police Commissioner nor the idiotic Christopher Holder (who dared threaten Panday with arrest because he said the police was acting in cahoots with the PNM) bothered to condemn this damaging leak which clearly flows from the apex of one of our most powerful and supposedly independent institutions. It is well known that the Privy Council has commented unfavourably on excessive adverse pre-trial publicity because it militates against the right to a fair trial by a jury of 12 unbiased minds. Who is trying to damage the administration of justice in this manner to satisfy their narrow political agenda? Our supposedly independent police force?
Is there really merit to the growing perception that there is a tacit political conspiracy between our police service and the PNM government? The racial imbalance in the police service is fertile ground for this perception given the fact that the Manning administration has openly courted the African vote and shunned East Indians. The racial composition of Manning's cabinet reflects the racial composition of the hierarchy of the police service: 90% African and 10 % Indian.
But let me return to the above quotation. The former DPP, Mark Mohammed SC in May 2002, instructed the Commissioner of Police to conduct a criminal investigation into the infamous LABIDCO scandal where the PNM government destroyed one of the region's finest golf courses and wasted over $120 million on the failed La Brea Industrial Estate. An independent cabinet appointed committee comprising UWI lecturers, private sector representatives and Ministry officials found that Manning and his cohorts pursued this project for blatant political mileage and ignored geo-technical reports that predicted failure. Let me quote some of the findings of the investigating committee: -
(1) The then Chairman of NGC and the then Prime Minister were appraised of the engineering, geo-technical and geological constraints associated with the development of the site. Nevertheless, the chairman of NGC advised that despite the technical constraints La Brea/Brighton was the preferred site for the new industrial estate;
(2) There was no rigorous technical, social or economical justification for La Brea/Brighton as the optimum site for the proposed new Industrial site;
(3) The government choose to site the new industrial estate in the La Brea/Point Fortin constituencies rather than at Point Lisas in the Couva South constituency for political reasons as outlined in the PNM's 1991 manifesto. At the time the proposed LNG plant would have benefited primarily the promoters and investors in the project;
(4) There was no structural decision making process to support the conclusion to establish a new industrial estate for petroleum based industries at that time;
(5) NGC committed the government to an environmental risk for which the country would have incurred an unquantifiable financial liability. Despite all factors against development of the site Cabinet in 7th day of December, 1994 took the decision to invest TT $435.7 million. After the DPP ordered an investigation Manning attempted to disguise the corruption and waste by publicly admitted that his administration had spent $120 million on the estate but that he was now (some 10 years later) going to revisit this venture in the hope of establishing a vibrant petrochemical and plastics industry (Guardian, 5th day of May, 2002).
Since May, 2002 when the DPP advised and directed the Commissioner of Police to investigate this massive PNM corruption fiasco we have had no leaks to the media from the police officers conducting this investigation. When AG Glenda Morean was pressuring the Integrity Commission by publicly complaining about the slow pace of its investigations into Panday's bank account she did not express any concern about the pace of the police investigations into criminal fraud by the same people who are in the bosom of her administration.
Each day, we read about the steps being taken by the police investigating the UNC. The PNM-friendly police leak to their political cohorts in the media when they're going to search Carlos John's home so they can surprise poor Carlos an dtake a few pictures for the front page; when they're going London to check Pandays bank account photographers and TV cameras just happen to be at the airport; the police are quick to arrest young UNC ladies (with no previous criminal records) for voter padding and parade them for photos in handcuffs. But what about the LABIDCO investigations into PNM corruption as ordered by the DPP? No parallel leaks to the media? Why protect the PNM and destroy the UNC? Why not dish out equal treatment?
My information is that certain high ranking PNM police officers are conspiring to deliberately suppress and "drag-on" this investigation to avoid causing political damage to the PNM before the imminent general elections. I'm not surprised, are you?
|The Auditor General's Pre-trial conviction By Anand
Vishnu Ramlogan and Carlos John have fallen victim to the powerful pen of the Auditor General (AG) in recent times. I say 'victim' because the onslaught was well timed to cause maximum political damage when general elections are imminent and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Nothing they do will be able to erase the damage done by these politically motivated and well-orchestrated headlines spawned by letters from the Acting Auditor General Ms Jennifer Fredricks.
What if I told you that in neither case have the AG actually prepared an Audit report as required by the constitution? Yep, that's right; there's no audit report - they're in the process of gathering information and asking questions. This is standard preliminary auditing procedure. What is being cleverly leaked and bandied about in the media is not normal annual report of the AG but management letters, which are basically queries with requests for further information and classification. These letters were addressed to the relevant company and government officials. The problem is, these letters are sneakily being simultaneously been leaked to the media by someone in the AG's department with a clear political agenda. It has all the hallmarks of a political hatchet job!
The AG is merely going through the normal procedure of information gathering. But the queries carry a political tome and seem to be designed and phrased with politics in mind, to provide fodder for the government to attack the UNC and sustain the image of corruption. The queries are reported in the media and used by the politicians as though they are facts, findings and conclusions in a final audit report. There is evidence to suggest that the AG is either playing politics, plain incompetent or deliberately misleading the public. In her management letter dated July 19th 2002 addressed to the President of TIDCO AG Jennifer Fredrick claims never to have seen Ramlogan's contract of employment. Ramlogan states that he has a copy of the very contract and that it was initialed by Ms Fredricks. How embarrassing!
One of the cardinal principles of natural justice is that a man must be told the nature of the allegations made against him and be given the opportunity to defend himself by making representations to counter the allegations. This fundamental right to be heard is being emasculated before our very eyes, where queries, questions and requests for further information in management letters are cunningly used for political character assassination.
Why hasn't the AG condemned these dangerous leaks to the media and the use of her confidential management letters for political scandal? Why is she allowing her office to be used as a political weapon? The office of the AG is fast becoming a PNM instrument of political terror. Is there a conspiracy here? Acting AG Jenifer Fredricks must either condemn these sensational media leaks and put these letters in their proper context or else accept the growing perception that she is singing from the PNM corruption hymn book so she will be promoted in the post of AG. (An acting AG is appointed to act by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition).
The office of the Auditor general is established by section 117 of the constitution. It is an independent office that is "not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority". The Auditor General must submit annual audit reports to the Speaker, the President of the Senate and the Minister of Finance (note the order of priority). Section 117(5) states that "The President of the Senate and the Speaker shall cause the report to be laid before the Senate and the Speaker shall cause the report to be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively, at the next sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives after receipt thereof". Well we all know that there's no Parliament so the constitutional structure is irreversibly fractured.
There is no Parliament and no annual AG report. So what's all this about? Following the Integrity Commission, the AG remains silent while her important and constitutionally independent office is being dragged into the political arena.
The salary and bonus figures for executive high fliers like Vishnu Ramlogan would obviously sound scandalous to the average man and is good political ammunition for the PNM but the truth is if Ramlogan's remuneration package is converted to $US it is below international standards. Vishnu Ramlogan is earning more now than when he was at TIDCO.
He could have chosen not to serve in public office and made a lot more. His successor who is serving under the PNM is getting paid the same scandalous salary. This salary was determined by reference to and is comparable with remuneration package of CEO's in the private sector. In the present global corporate village people like Carlos John, Vishnu Ramlogan and Winston Dookeran will singly pick up and migrate to the USA or UK where they can earn much more with less flack and hassle if we continue to harass them.
This type of professional level brain drain precipitates economic decline and many third world nations are still reeling from the impact of executive high-level brain drain. The damage has already been done. The sensational blaring headlines have intensified the corrupt image the UNC even though no one has been convicted to date and the High Court has ruled that the police had illegally searched Galbaransingh's property. Ramlogan and Carlos have been tainted. Forget the courts, the fact that the AG's report must be laid and debated in Parliament, the right of a man to be informed of allegations made against him and respond thereto etc. After all, we are no longer living in a functioning democracy, so what's the big deal?
|CHIN LEE'S HYPOCRISY By Anand Ramlogan
"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are American people's liberty, teeth and keystone under independence" US President George Washington "Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India's history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest" Mahatma Gandhi's Autobiography
Howard Chin Lee literally shot into the limelight when he recently shot himself in the foot with his personal firearm. As a flourishing businessman, Chin Lee felt it necessary to arm himself against potential criminal attacks. He equipped himself with a firearm to protect and defend his property, life, wealth and family. What then, are we to make of Chin Lee's present stance as Minister of National Security that he opposes the issuing of firearm licences to the Chagunas businessmen who have been under attack by bandits and kidnappers?
Prominent businessman Wilbur Balgobin was able to defend himself last week when he was attacked by armed bandits. He drew his gun and fired at his would-be kidnappers. The Chagunas police took a mere 35 minutes to respond to Balgobin's frantic and desperate calls for help after the bandits sped off in a waiting car. (The Chagunas police station is located less than 5 minutes from Balgobin's home).
Word is, poor Balgobin is now being investigated by the police for posing with a friend's firearm to demonstrate what had transpired for the media. What a joke! His personal firearm is seized and Balgobin the victim, is being investigated because he posed with a friend's licensed firearm for the media in an effort to highlight the seriousness of the crime situation.
But back to Chin Lee's shooting himself in the foot. A security guard recently shot himself in the foot and his firearm was immediately seized. He would probably never get a licence again. Accidental, careless discharge of a firearm normally results in severe action. The Police Commissioner did not seize Chin Lee's personal firearm. Such an incident, I am told by a member of our nation's Firearms Appeal Board should have caused the Police Commissioner to seize the firearm in question, launch an investigation and recommend revoke the firearm licence. This of course, did not happen here. Why not? Is it one law for Chin Lee and another for Balgobin?
What secret criteria, pray tell, qualifies businessman Chin Lee to own a personal firearm but would, at the same time disqualify Chagunas businessmen from getting theirs? Precisely what entitles Chin Lee and others to the privilege of having a gun to defend their lives, businesses and property but disentitles the Chagunas businessmen?
The Chagunas businessmen are under attack. The recent spate of kidnapping, and robberies in Chagunas has terrorized them. Like Chin Lee, they have worked hard and sacrificed their entire lives to build their business. How can Chin Lee pompously pronounce that they do not deserve firearms?
If Chin Lee truly believes that 'guns are not the answer', then he should lead by example and hand in his own first! (This would at least minimize the risk of him shooting his other foot!) He should then influence all his business colleagues in the Port-of-Spain who are objecting to allowing Chagunas businessmen possessing firearms to do likewise. Only then will they have the moral authority to talk out against arming the Chagunas businessmen so that they can defend themselves. If as Minister of National Security Chin Lee cannot feel sufficiently safe and secure to do without a personal gun what message is he sending to the rest of us?
A personal firearm, with proper training and responsible use can enable people to defend themselves while Chin Lee's 'anaconda' lazily slithers by. In the USA the second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all citizens, as a fundamental right, "the right to keep and bear arms". Our constitution does not give us such a right but it does guarantee "the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property".
Are we enjoying these rights? We have become prisoners in our own homes. Burglarproof windows, steel doors, pit bull dogs, expensive private security ( for the rich) and self-imposed curfews have become the norm for law-abiding citizens. The police took 35 minutes to arrive on the scene of a foiled kidnapping of a prominent businessman whose home is a mere 5-10 minutes away their station. Businessmen are worried for the lives of their children and loved ones. $5 Million in ransom money is paid and young Anthony Sabga is returned and Chin Lee describes the operation as a 'success'. Police advice if somebody hit your car from behind in the night is to smile and keep on driving - don't stop, because it could be a setup to try and rob and kidnap you. Women no longer go out alone at nights. Senior police officers admit that kidnapping is now a 'lucrative trade' because people are paying the ransom monies.
No one has been arrested or charged, far less prosecuted and convicted for these kidnappings. Rumours are spreading that there may be "lucifers" in the police service that they are actually tacitly involved in these kidnappings. We are under siege! And in the midst of all of this, our Prime Minister plans a 40 days national fete at a cost of over $5 million to celebrate our Republican status. That's the way our politicians deal with such minor problems- 'throw a fete and they goh wine and jam out dey worries'.
While Chin Lee is fighting tooth and nail against issuing guns to the Chagunas businessmen he moves with his finger on the trigger of his own personal gun. He piously contends that guns are not the solution to the crime problem but hasn't even spared a thought for the hundreds of illegal, guns that the criminals have when they confront these businessmen? Perhaps he just assumed that the criminals have licences for these guns and that after the 40 day fete to celebrate Republicanism the bandits will simply bow to him and throw their guns down at his feet. What a great crime plan!
|WORDS FROM THE PAST.. BY Anand Ramlogan
> Trinidad and Tobago has often been described as a '7-day wonder country'. The retentive capacity of the nation's memory cannot store anything for more than a week. Today I wish to quote from a speech delivered by our country's > first and only Minister Extraordinaire (as he then was) the Hon.A.N.R. Robinson. This contribution was made in the House of Representatives on the 2nd August 1996. Mr Robinson is now the President of our Republic and is known to be a man of high spiritual and moral values. His contribution in Parliament on that day reads as follows: -
"...The second point I want to make is, this attempt to associate the Member for Tobago East with the violent overthrow of government has been a practice and a pattern of PNM behaviour from the time I left the PNM.I was charged with having sat at the Prime Minister's desk, while he was making his way to Jamaica, and gone through his papers as part of the design for that coup. A newspaper inference by the PNM charged me specifically with that attempted coup; the violent overthrow of the government. I took the newspaper to court, won the case and was awarded damages, but the PNM continued to make the charge.
They sought to lock me up on several occasions. They locked me up twice, wrongfully. On one occasion I obtained damages for false imprisonment. They terrorized the population of Tobago saying that arms and ammunition were hidden. They spread the report that Cuban arms were brought from Cuba and deposited on the island. They sent policemen all over the island searching people's homes. They terrorized activists of the party that I then led. They did not find any guns and ammunition. When they locked me up they had to set > me free and had to pay damages, yet they have continued a pattern of attempted character assassination.
If they cannot understand why they are on that side of the House, it is because of the dirty campaign that they have been conducting over the years against the people of Tobago and this country whom they do not particularly favour. This personal level to which they have reduced politics-and the continuing behaviour in that mode-out of which I thought the hon. Member for Arouca South had escaped, but the direction of her leadership points the direction which she takes. Her leader came to the island of Tobago to take away what had been granted by this Parliament-to nullify the laws of this Parliament-and substitute himself for the laws passed by the Parliament. He came to lecture. [Interruption] They do not even have shame. No shame. A leader who bought a > car as an election bribe. Shameful.
Mr. Speaker, I can spend a lengthy time but the whole country knows their pattern of behaviour. When they were in trouble with their own citizens, they sent for foreign arms to defend themselves. It was the Minister of Defence of the United Kingdom, Mr. Dennis Healey, who revealed to me at a place called Lake Como in Italy at the Rockefeller Villa where he was writing his memoirs, that they sent telegrams which would have meant the British moving back into Trinidad and Tobago and taking over. Venezuela was asked to send arms to defend their skins when they were in trouble. So, it is not surprising that they were not at the religious service on Sunday. They pledged loyalty to the country and to the values that underlie our multicultural and multi-racial society.
...What I want to emphasize is this pattern of behaviour by the party that has turned out the most corrupt characters this country has ever seen and > wasted the money of this country in the most incredible fashion. [Interruption] I have to reply. They had 10 times as much money to spend in one year as they expected to spend and blew it until an hon. Member from another country had to say "it passed through them like a dose of salts". One can understand what comes from that side and why they behave in the manner that they do, and one can understand that that kind of behaviour would continue.
Mr. Speaker, my record is like an open book. They tried their best to sully it: they have tried their best to destroy me personally-physically. I stood up against guns in a village called Ste. Madeleine when the police came to stop a constitutionally convened and conducted meeting. The police was sent to stop it. I stood up against them. They set the police against a people and they were becoming hostile to the police. I said, "No, do not blame the police! Make friends with the police as a matter of self-defence. They have put you in opposition to the police who have guns. You do not have any guns! When they terrorize you and put the police against you and you become hostile to the police, understand that the police have guns. You do not have guns so make friends with the police!" There is a certain newspaper which was started for the purpose of character assassination. Seventeen copies were put into evidence by Mr. Algernon Wharton, QC, who represented me, showing the pattern of behaviour of that newspaper. They continued the pattern of behaviour...
...They persecuted persons who warned or gave a different point of view, and one of the principal persons targeted for this persecution, character assassination and even physical destruction was the Member for Tobago East. After 40 years they have not learned. The Member for Tobago East has survived. The reputation of the Member for Tobago East has survived. The dragon on the Red House; dragon down from the Red House in the dead of night-the Member for Tobago East does not operate in that fashion. The Member for Tobago East operates in the daylight. Everybody sees what he does; everybody knows and hears what he says. Let me emphasize that whatever they do, they will be fighting against ideas.
The besetting sin of the Member for Tobago East was that he stood up to the PNM and along with the supporters, he defeated them not only once, not twice, not three times but several times [Desk thumping] and on two occasions was principally responsible for the PNM's loss of power and going into the Opposition; and for that it is clear that they do not intend to cease their campaign of attempted character assassination. The more they do that Mr. Speaker, one would have thought that they would recognize that the campaign has been a failure and they would re-examine their ways and turn to different methods of achieving power. It is not for me to suggest to them how they may do so. That is their dilemma, but one way I know they will not do so is by their constant denigration of the Member for Tobago East.
The "No-vote Campaign" was one such, when they refused to bring back the Ballot Box. I remember what their leader said at the time, that the PNM would not encourage the electorate to dream the impossible dream. And what was the impossible dream? To remove the voting machines in which a large section of the population had no confidence whatsoever, and bring back the Ballot Box. That was an impossible dream. But that impossible dream became reality and it was not through violent change, but peaceful change.
The "No-vote Campaign" resulted in the appointment of a Constitution > Commission. The Report of the Constitution Commission was rejected and the > principal author of that report, one of the most distinguished sons of > Trinidad and > Tobago ever, was denigrated for three hours in this very Parliament. What > was his sin? He sought faithfully to discharge his mandate to produce a > report based on consultation throughout Trinidad and Tobago for > constitutional reform of the > country. Not long after he died. C.L.R. James had to leave; Winston Mahabir > had to leave the country also; Hugh Wooding was denigrated and he died. So > many others were silenced, and so many participated in the campaign. Where > are they > today? I would have thought that the fledgling Members of the Opposition > would have realized that they have had many predecessors up to recently and > they have just been swept like chaff before the wind. It is the one who took > the greatest risks > and who went through the greatest sacrifice in standing up against the PNM, > who has survived." > > A thousand words, in this case helps to paint a much better than a picture, > won't you say?
|PNM POLICE & UNC SADIQ By Anand Ramlogan
'Perception is important'. This is one of the first things I was told in law school. Picture this: a black man is tried and convicted by an all-white jury for committing a crime against a white person. Whether people say it or not, the irresistible urge and temptation is to say that race played a factor and the trial was not fair. Justice must not only be done but must appear to be done. Would it matter if these people were told that none of the jurors were racially prejudiced? Even if they weren't racial, the perception would take root. Human nature perhaps? This brings me to the media conference hosted by Police Commissioner Hilton Guy to deny that the police service was in any conspiracy with the PNM to frame UNC party organizer Sadiq Baksh. Let me put this political conspiracy allegation in its proper social context.
Our country has 2 major races almost equal in numbers. The majority of Africans vote PNM and the majority of Indians vote UNC. Ethnic voting is a fact. The hierarchy of the police service is almost 90% African from the rank of Corporal upwards. Based on our history of racial voting the perception (and reality) is that African police officers vote for and support the PNM.
This socio-political reality would be exchanged if it were the other way around, with the majority of police officers being Indians and my comments in this article would have been no different - I would have been arguing for the inclusion of more Africans in our police service. Which party does Mr Guy think the majority of his officers support - the UNC? The odds are, they support the PNM.
Lets not kid ourselves. There is a growing perception among UNC supporters(the majority of whom are Indians), that there is a tacit political alliance between the PNM and certain high-ranking powerful officers in the police service. The frequent leaks to the media during the police investigations into the airport which led to daily sensational, politically damaging headlines, the recent attack by Christopher Holder President of the Police Officers Association against Mr Panday, the secret invitation to the media to cover the private visit and search by the police of UNC Carlos John's home, and the handcuffing of Mr Baksh's harmless niece who was on voter padding changes etc reinforce this perception.
The ethnic composition of the police service is fertile ground for this growing perception. Should such an important institution and pillar of our democracy not reflect the racial composition of our society? The perception that we have a PNM-friendly police service because of the conspicuous absence of Indian officers is not going to go away. Fear and respect for the police might make people reluctant to voice this perception, but it is there. The professionalism and integrity of our present officers is no answer to this problem of perception - remember that all-white judge and jury trial - they were not racial. It is crucial that the police service reflect the ethnic composition of the society that it has to 'protect and serve". Ethnic balance inspires confidence and public trust.
In Britain, the government is redressing the historic racial imbalance in its police service. They have set up a "Positive Action Team " (PAT) to recruit non-white officers with emphasis on Indians and Africans. PAT's aim is to dismantle barriers and promote change through the visible recruitment of ethnic minorities.
What is 'positive action"? It is a term derived from the Race Relations Act which allows an organization to offer extra support, advice education and encouragement to any under represented group. PAT's role is to assist the metropolitan police in achieving its target of 25% ethnic minority officers by 2009. This is a Home office directive as set out in government policy documents "Dismantling Barriers".
PAT organizes recruitment drives in ethnic minority areas to specially target Asian and Africans. They run 'candidate support sessions' to gently encourage and persuade candidates to join the police service. The minimum height requirement has long been abolished and physical fitness is judged by reference to the candidate's height and weight. This is helpful to ethnic groups that are naturally smaller in height and built. Recruitment for the technical and administrative departments of the police service is treated differently to the rest of the service.
A survey of the police service found that "the prevailing police culture was predominantly white and male, excluding those who were different. There were varied opinions as to the level of racism in the police and in particular whether it was any more prevalent than in wider society, but its existence was not questioned. Perceptions ranged from 'inherently racist' to 'an intransigent minority'. However, officers agreed that the power and responsibilities they had meant that the police had to be seen to be better than other institutions'. (Home Office; Attitudes of People policy document 2000).
The introduction of an 'ethnic monitoring policy' for the police service in London is worthy of emulation. Indians are not an ethnic minority here. The racial gap must be bridged. The last rounds of promotions in the police service show that the racial status quo is likely to continue for the next 10-20 years with Indians continuing to be nothing more than an inconspicuous minority in the hierarchy of our police service. Mr Guy and his deputy Commissioners Messrs Snaggs and Grant must address this problem now. Preaching that the police service is not PNM without acknowledging and redressing this problem of a racial imbalance with its obvious political implications will only reinforce the perception that the service is PNM.
I shall end by quoting the first paragraph of the Equal Opportunities policy of the London police: "The Metropolitan police seek to employ a workforce which reflects the diversity of backgrounds and cultures within which we operate and provide a working environment free from any form of harassment intimidation, bullying, victimization or unjustifiable discrimination". Over to you, Mr Guy.
|Loosing Our Way of Life By Anand Ramlogan
One of the special things that made Trinidad and Tobago a paradise was its people. Our reputation for kindness, warmth and hospitality is internationally acknowledged and known. We could boast that 'yuh cyah geh lorse in Trinidad, man' because you could always stop just about anyone and ask directions. If your car stalled on the highway or you got into an accident good Samaritans would forget their outing and unhesitatingly stop to help out. There were no strangers; strangers were friends you had not met. All of this is changing (or has already changed). People are now scared to stop to help 'strangers'. Our way of life is quickly changing.
Based on the present trend the murder rate for this year is likely to break all records: eighty-two murders in 7 months and 1 week. I am heartened to hear that the government has finally decided to import foreign expertise to help our local law enforcement agencies in their loosing battle against the rampant and escalating crime situation. Let us hope it is not too late.
There is an evil and savage dimension to criminal activity in Trinidad. Our nation is paralysed with fear. Simple robbery is no longer "simple". It must involve some element of damage, rape, bodily harm, murder etc. The bandits are young and armed. The headline in Wednesday's newspapers said it all: "5 shot in 4 hours". Gang shootings and public assignations are now commonplace.
Frighteningly, the police, despite their best efforts, seem unable to cope with this onslaught of crime. Arrests and convictions are rare. A friend's car was recently stolen from outside TSTT in San Fernando. I asked whether he reported the matter to the police and his immediate response was "yeah but dat is jus fuh style because yuh know dem eh goh do nothing. I goh have to find meh car myself". This just about sums up our malaise. (The sad thing is though, my friend did in fact recover his car by dint of his own effort.)
Tonight a charity show is being held to help raise funds for Chutney singer Anil Suchit. Docs Engineering and George Singh are organizing the show. It starts at 8pm at the Docs Sporting Complex in Caroni. Anil's story is heart breaking. He lived in a 'modest' 2 bedroom in a poverty-stricken area called 'Bangladesh' with his wife Jenifer and two children five year old Anjellia and four month old Kevan. On the 22nd June 2002 at around 9:30 pm, his wife was cooking when shouts of "police, police! Open up!" rang out. The Suchits refused to open their doors and the electricity was suddenly cut off. Three masked bandits literally chopped their way into the house by mashing up the bedroom window. (This was the only window without burglar proofing and poor Suchit was saving up to secure it with burglar proofing later that month.)
As the bandits rummaged through their bedroom Suchit's wife begged them to take whatever they wanted but leave them alone. Instead, they took 2 cell phones and Anil's wallet and then attacked her husband, savagely chopping him on the head, left arm and on both legs. Anil was then beaten mercilessly with a baton. Little Angellia grabbed onto her father's legs and started screaming. She was kicked off by one of the bandits who was about to chop the 5 year old but was mercifully spared when the leader of the gang stopped him. Baby Kevan was snatched from his mother's arms and flung onto a bed that was then set on fire with gasoline. The house was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. The family tried to rum out but was ordered back inside the blazing inferno by the bandits. Shortly after the bandits left Anil, covered in blood and bleeding profusely from his chop wounds, crawled through the passageway of the front door and collapsed in a heap. Neighbours who miraculously managed to pull them out before they were cremated alive saved the family. Thank God for the courage and goodness of these neighbours.
Suchit lost everything in the blaze. What sort of evil is this? If people shout 'police'! outside your home at night what are you supposed to do? To date no one has been arrested for this horrible crime. This fact feeds our growing sense of insecurity.
A nation gripped by fear and petrified by daily kidnappings, robberies, shooting and murders, our way of life is under serious threat. The way we live is rapidly changing in response to criminal activity. The diseased tail is wagging the dog and forcing social change. This change, my brothers and sisters, is certainly not one that is "forged from the love of liberty" but is one "forged from the evil of criminal activity".
Let us show that we will not allow the bandits to suffocate our essential goodness. Spare a moment's prayer for recovering Anil Suchit and the many other victims who have suffered at the hands of these animalistic bandits. Let us support the Suchit family by attending the fund-raising charity show tonight at the Docs Sporting Complex in Caroni. Cheque contributions can also be mailed to Anil Suchit C/o The Chutney Organisation of T&T, PO Box 147, San Fernando. May God bless our nation.
|HOLD IT, Mr. HOLDER... By Anand Ramlogan
Chief Justice (CJ) Satnarine Sharma's strong maiden speech at the ceremonial opening of the new law term (2002-2003) confirmed that former CJ Michael de la Bastide had passed the baton of leadership of the judiciary into safe hands. In a powerful and candid address the new CJ tackled head-on the appalling state of the Magistrates court system, the need an independent budget for the judiciary and the frightening inaction of the Commissioner of Police (COP) and the Minister of National Security to the cries from the Magistracy for protection in light of death threats.
The dilapidated and sub-human condition of some of our Magistrates courts is well documented. The sad sight of a sweating dedicated Magistrate fully clothed in jacket and tie, trying to dispense justice and do battle against the heat with an old, noisy, rickety fan in a small, smelly courtroom is all too familiar. The lack of technology and the consequent slow, grinding pace of justice has meant that the poor man's court is tethering on the brink of collapse.
What grabbed the headlines however, was the CJ's startling revelations about the frequency and number of death threats to Magistrates and the reaction of the Minister of Nation Security Howard Chin Lee and the Commissioner of Police Hilton Guy to the frightening situation.
According to Sharma, former CJ de la Bastide wrote Chin Lee and Guy on February 2002 to express his grave concerns about the lack of proper security for Magistrates. Mr. de la Bastide had enclosed a letter from the Magistrates that documented some of their complaints. A cursory glance reveals that a Magistrate had her home firebombed, intruders were leaving bullets with Magistrate's names on them in the Magistrate's private office at the courthouse (which is guarded by police officers), death threats from prisoners in open court, slashed car tyres at the special court car park for Magistrates, physical attacks from prisoners in open court etc.
The most alarming illustration of the Magistrates' predicament is the fact some were informed by the police that underworld assassination and murder contracts had been taken out of their lives. In one instance, a Special Branch inspector and Superintendent of police actually informed the Magistrate that he should be ready to shoot to defend himself; but on additional security was offered!
De la Bastide received no response to his first letter of February 22nd and on June 4th again wrote Chin Lee and Guy, diplomatically and doubtfully suggesting that perhaps his previous letter was not received. Astonishingly, there was no response to this letter either. The CJ quite rightly described the disrespectful lack of response "an act of gross discourtesy and as affront to the office of the CJ not to have even acknowledged receipt of the letters, let alone deal with the request for a meeting to formulate plans for the security of the Magistrates".
In any civilized democracy with respect for the rule of law, immediate apologies and an urgent meeting would have followed suit. Instead, we have Ag Inspector Christopher Holder, President of the Police Social and Welfare Association trying to defend Guy via a misplaced and arrogant attack against CJ Sharma.
In a media release Holder accused the CJ of adopting the "Woodford Square Model" of debate and advised Sharma to be "more temperate". This rude and insolent response serves to reinforce the CJ's point about the disrespect shown to his office and by extension the entire judiciary. This unfortunate, blatant attempt to belittle CJ Sharma is clearly premised on the mistaken assumption that Sharma must/would tolerate such derogatory and below-the-belt responses because he is new to the office and should want to steer clear of controversy.
Holder is clearly out of his (little) league. His unjustifiable, attack and gutter-type, political response underscores the wider problem of indiscipline in the police service. Holder is presently acting as an Inspector of Police and is in line for promotion. If these are the kind of police officers who progress in the police service the present malaise is quite understandable. In what could be interpreted as a veiled threat, Holder also gratuitously advised Sharma to be "more sensitive to the integrity of the very important security detail and not strip it in public". Nowhere in his wonderful press release did Holder deal with the real, and only issue raised by CJ Sharma viz, the gross discourtesy of the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security in failing to even acknowledge, (far less reply to or deal with) 2 letters from former CJ De la Bastide about the worrying lack of security for Magistrates who are targeted by frequent death threats from criminal elements. Common sense would tell us that this is indefensible and wrong.
Get a grip Mr. Holder; your tactless 'Woodford style' attack on CJ Sharma is arrogant, as it is tasteless, and insulting. I trust that you will have the food sense to apologise in due course and one day understand your role as an officer in the administration of justice. But then again, common sense is not so common now, is it?