We had a successful launch of The Daly Commentaries. There is a Facebook page bearing that name. In the words of the editor, Judy Raymond, these columns “share the sweetness as well as the adversities of life in this simultaneously frustrating and glorious little country.”
Her words are apt at this very moment. I am enjoying the culmination of decades of steady personal accomplishment and a record of public service in the Senate and on various Boards, Commissions and Committees.
With the publication of my first book right after appearing in Hatuey, I am pleased currently to be a lawyer (Senior Counsel at an early age) author/actor/arts foundation Chairman and apprentice pan player, but I continue to live in and protest—sometimes at significant personal cost—the bitter frustration of life in a murderous land.
A grievous part of the adversities of life in Trinidad and Tobago is the murder rate and the accompanying impunity that is swaggeringly enjoyed by the killers and by those of whose criminal empires the killers are a part.
It became apparent to me during the time of the Patrick Manning PNM administration that many of our rulers and other persons of influence did not actually care about violent crime as long as the victims were not members of their “un-responsible elite”—Lloyd Best’s accurate phrase—or someone to whose coattails they could hang to project a superficial image for themselves.
There has been a persistent lack of awareness that any “plan” to deal with violent crime has to address the structural deficiencies of our governance and justice system and a host of socio economic imbalances.
These deficiencies have negatively influenced the development of cultural norms that would support a relatively just and ordered society. The deficiencies have taken us in the opposite direction and down a path of a range of anti-social responses, which many citizens feel are fully justified.
For over 15 years, we have been playing around with legislation to get rid of preliminary inquiries that clog up the courts. Likewise we have been completely unable to restructure the organisation and discipline of the Police Service and positively to motivate it. Last week’s Police update on major investigations was not inspiring.
A Minister of National Security cannot possibly go into the field and “fix” the crime problem. His function—on his own initiative and in conjunction with other Ministries and critical stakeholders, like the Judiciary—is to provide policies and recommend legislation that address the structural deficiencies in the system by which we investigate crime and administer criminal justice.
I have previously commented extensively on these deficiencies but I return to them, first to urge the new Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM government to deal with them. This Government cannot get a free pass on this. It has to delve deep into many think tanks of its own and of others to gain an understanding of the problem of rampant violent crime and the equally corrosive impunity with which it is committed.
Secondly, the new Attorney General, like his predecessors, has recently made the same ritualistic, early in office mistake of threatening killers with the currently stymied death penalty. This is not a positive sign of new or innovative thinking.
From time to time I have had to infuse a stiff dose of reality into utterances on the death penalty. By way of examples, once in 2011 part of a professional opinion I had given was read in Parliament.
Earlier in July 2010 I wrote a column entitled: “The fallacy about hanging” when Jack Warner, while acting as Prime Minister in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led Government, purported to give an instruction to the then Attorney General about carrying out the death penalty.
I wrote then: “Why are glib statements about the implementation of the death penalty wrong? Decisions of the Privy Council have placed restrictions on the carrying out of the death penalty so that the mandatory punishment for murder has been effectively qualified for a long time now. These judicial decisions are as much part of the law as the provision in the Offences against the Person Act for the mandatory death penalty.”
The following words of the Privy Council indicate that nothing short of a constitutional amendment can revive the death penalty for implementation: “If the requisite legislative support for a change in the constitution is forthcoming, a deliberate departure from fundamental human rights may be made, profoundly regrettable although this may be. That is the prerogative of the legislature. If departure from fundamental human rights is desired, that is the way it should be done. The constitution should be amended explicitly.”
When will we begin to think more deeply and not just about the death penalty?
The question is: How do we manage the coercive power of the State and questionable interlocking relationships so that policing is able to penetrate the upper reaches of criminal enterprise in our murderous land?