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Recession inflammation: Daly fears mix of simmering anger and economic strain

The recent departures of Raymond Tim Kee and Marlene McDonald from the respective offices of Mayor of Port of Spain and Minister of Housing respectively are still reverberating around a discussion of what is the degree of inappropriate behaviour that requires departure from office or denotes unsuitability to hold high office.

This discussion is reverberating at a time when, in the United States of America, Donald Trump has kicked down many of the barriers against moderate language and gender sensitivity on his way to likely nomination as a candidate for the office of President of the United States.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena, University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Copyright AFP 2016/Joe Raedle)
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena, University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Joe Raedle)

Trump has capitalised on an anger that millions in the United States feel, which is namely that the political system is broken and is not working for them, even as it enriches those in higher office.

I closed last Sunday’s column noting that Womantra and Fixin’ T&T had made a significant push back against negative cultural norms by their contribution to the departures of Tim Kee and McDonald.

Unfortunately, the new mood of pushback may be a decade too late and a Treasury too broke when we may have ‘Trumpish’ anger embedded in a society that has not developed stable institutions with the moral authority to encourage honesty and restraint and to dampen outrage.

In the course of regularly describing the dangers that our dysfunctional mini-State faces, I have frequently referred to the legal philosophy of HLA Hart, who was Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford, encapsulated in a book entitled The Concept of Law.

Professor Hart’s concept is that “law, coercion and morality are different but related social phenomena and that the law must be supported by the diffuse social pressure of those who accept the rules against those who reject the rules.”

Photo: Protests against Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in Woodford Square. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Protests against Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in Woodford Square.
(Courtesy Facebook)

In order for a legal system to work, a majority and social pressure, as well as legal coercion, must actively support the law. These are important elements in the promotion of conformity to standards.

That is why pushback against negative behaviour—even if such behaviour is short of the subject matter of a criminal charge—is significant.

When a society lacks the capacity to push back and to apply sustained public opinion pressure to conform to underlying standards, Trinidad and Tobago provides ample evidence that in such a situation, standards of behaviour in public office keep falling.

“If the priest could play who is we” becomes a norm diverting the willingness of the ordinary person to behave lawfully or appropriately.

Having permitted dangerous latitude to public officials, the negative output of such latitude has relentlessly undermined the willingness of the people to support social order and discipline, even in times of plenty.

Photo: Ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) pays his respects to then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Photo: Ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) pays his respects to then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The madness is embedded within the walls of those many institutions that are failing to protect the public interest. And it is a misguided belief that we can fence off ourselves from the breakdown in the protection of public interest and breaches of good and respected governance.

Enter a deep recession at a time when respect for law and legitimacy has long broken down both at a high official level and at all levels below, leaving us all vulnerable to becoming victims of crime or anti-social behaviour against which the wishful thinking of gated communities cannot protect us.

In fact, as I have suggested before, we may some time ago have already put ourselves in the middle of a form of revolution described by Professor Hart: namely “the simple breakdown of ordered legal control in the face of banditry without political pretensions to govern.”

Hart means that in this form of revolution, the bandits do not have to have control of the formal mechanisms of governance.

We may be at a stage where the bandits and even just the virulently unethical and anti-social characters have gained such control of areas of our Republic that they do not need to seize political control or become the official Government.

Photo: Former Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh, who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Former Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh, who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

They need not take on the burden of official Government. They have been permitted adequate room to operate against the public interest with impunity and to become sovereign in some areas, all in the furtherance of interests certainly not for the general welfare.

One of the most blatant blows against civilised behaviour was the vile rant of Vernella Alleyne-Toppin in the last Parliament implying rape, filled with scorn and condoned by the then Speaker, Wade Mark, who is now seeking to condone breaches of Parliamentary guidelines because the guidelines do not have the force of law.

In her commentary on the Toppin rant, Rachel Price declared: “We gone down a different path. We have allowed this level of low to flourish. Is not where we going is where we reach”.

These words may be applied with deadly accuracy to our hardened social, political and economic imbalances. I fear the angry inflammation that the recession may add to these imbalances.

Photo: Protest in La Brea. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian/Rishi Ragoonath)
Photo: Protest in La Brea.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian/Rishi Ragoonath)

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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23 comments

  1. Lasana, you placed the former PM and PP Ministers in the article, giving alluding to persons in the PP as being corrupt, and being ‘owned’ by the parasitic oligarchy who are ‘calling the shots’ from the boardrooms. However, this seems to be biased as the PNM has had a longer history of the type of behaviour alluded to in the article.

    Wouldn’t be hypocritical for us to believe that ills spoken of began in 2010, and stopped on Sept 7, 2015?

    Our political history was built for this very same result. The institutions were structured in such as way as to allow the Political elites to get away with wrongful behaviour. PNM supporters were placed in the Public Service, the Police Service, Customs etc., where the culture developed into one of ‘blindness’ or turning the other direction.

    The PP did wrong, but it is erroneous to think that the wrong began or ENDED with them. The blindness is so entrenched, that up to today, persons can just see the wrongs of the PP and not focus on the wrongs of the PNM.

    Let us try to be balanced.

    • Lasana Liburd

      You must have missed the fact that the very first Trinidad and Tobago photo used in the story was a protest against PNM treasurer and ex-POS Mayor Raymond Tim Kee. Being balanced works both ways.

      • Lasana, would you agree that placing PP Ministers gives a stronger message than protestors against Tim Kee? Had you shown PNM Ministers, then I would have thought that you were being balanced.

        If the image of protestors gave an appropriate message, why didn’t you show protestors against the PP instead of Ministers?

        We were socialised into overlooking the wrongs of the PNM Lasana. This has nothing to do with PNM/UNC, but holding ALL parties accountable.

  2. On the note of mischief and misbehavior in office, what is your views on the result of the Emailgate faisco Mr Lasana Liburd?
    Should any person be reprimanded for making fools of an entire nation if said nation in willing and ready to be made fools of?

    • Lasana Liburd

      I’ve always said the fact that it took so long to decide one way or the other if the emails had any substance to them might suggest that it was worth calling attention to them.
      If it took the police years to figure out, why shouldn’t Rowley have erred on the side of caution?

      • Why did Dr Rowley wait 6 months to reveal the matter in Parliament, when – if he thought they were real – he could have passed the docs to the Police. The time it took to close the matter had nothing to do with its authenticity, but was based on protocol and bureaucracy.

        Time, in and of itself, is not a barometer for truth. Did he really err on the side of caution, having kept the docs for so long with info of a possible murder?

        Had he informed the Police at the first instance, persons phones could have been tapped and more info revealed.

        Dr. Rowley indeed erred, but not on the side of caution.

  3. What I like to call the ”nigger vs. coolie ‘,syndrome has contributed immensely to the deterioration of this society,where we accept and reject behaviour of our leaders,based on who forms the government.Instead of making demands as united Trinidadians,we accept nonsense from who looks like us and reject it from those who do not look like us,all to our detriment.

  4. The fermenting anger is so real.

  5. Earl Best

    Martin, spot on, as usual. I wonder, though whether the “honour” you so readily confer on Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and the then Speaker of the House, Wade Mark, for “the vile rant (…) in the last Parliament implying rape, filled with scorn” does not belong to the teenaged Granny Quila, whose social media rant was arguably much more shocking because it was totally unexpected. I, for one, always felt the PP to be capable of setting the bar so low that one would have to reach UP to touch bottom.

    • Earl Best: What about placing a missile and cocaine in a sitting Minister’s water tank, and nothing came out of it, despite persons knowing that it was orchestrated by senior members of another political party? Is that low as well?

      Let us aim for consistency.

  6. I was going to point that out Lasana but thought better. Before elections I was harrassed and got threats to my family, now I think its nastier and knowing sone of the connections, nothing would surprise me. People are being used and not even realising how silly it looks.

    • Once stirred up, that anger isn’t subsiding easily. That did help to remove Tim Kee, for instance. Raw emotion.
      But there are sure to be more negative spin offs too.

    • Sometimes the sycos stir themselves up in order to justify their behaviour but fail to see they are just pawns in a bigger game and down the line the politicians have not a care for them

    • Part of our problem is that people have a sense of entitlement which is not in tune with the state of our economy. Many do not expect to work either hard or at all while others do not understand the sacrifices that are going to be required. Reducing URP and CEPEP, reviewing GATE, removing/reducing the fuel subsidy and the expected retrenchments will be met with some of the anger you are speaking about because it is other people and not me who have to suffer. At times like this, I remember the Chinese curse – ‘may you live in interesting times’. Well folks, we have been well and truly cursed!

    • Lol. Well, I do feel there can be the the misperception that it it the smaller man who is leaching off the system. In truth, it is more the opposite. So I would certainly argue with them doing that Judy-ann when people in gated communities still getting paid millions every year for empty buildings, just for example.
      There can be no peace without justice.

    • An England Premier League star told me once something Alan Shearer said to him. And that is the bigger you get, the more you despise your own fans.
      You literally lose more and more respect for them as their efforts to make you happy and provide hero worship becomes increasingly pathetic.
      Not everyone might agree. But I feel I get where Shearer was coming from.

    • But Lasana, it is as unfair to look at the people in gated communities as it is to look at people in Laventille. Most of the people who live in the gated communities may get paid millions but it may be because they are at the higher management levels in most companies and are paid commensurate with their responsibilities. People at all levels will be retrenched and we know that people of all levels enjoy GATE and fuel subsidies, and also do not work as hard as they should.

      Our problems, as they relate to work habits and the sense of entitlement, are across the board in our society. I also think that cleaning up the crooks, that are also across the same board, will result in less that 10% (maybe 5% might be more realistic) of our population being directly complicit.

    • Not at all Judy-ann. I am not talking about the people in gated companies who work hard at their craft and get to the top.
      I’m saying that when the man in Laventille pulls a scam, it is for a couple hundred or thousand generally.
      What is the cost of a venture from SIS, Ish or Duprey that relies on State funding?
      We have a tendency to only see the guys in Laventille as being burdens on taxpayers. And that is very unfair and untrue in my opinion.
      When Ish was fighting his extradition, he was still getting million dollar slices of projects like the Point Fortin highway.
      We need to see some of these monstrously overpriced projects for what they are, which is URP ghost gangs to the thousandth power.

    • OK. I can go with that, Lasana!

  7. I have seen a rise in temperatures online over the last couple months. Even before the change in government. And it is very unnerving.

  8. I fear that this assessment is extremely dot on the mark. .