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The high price of our silence: Nakhid explains why corruption survives in T&T

Former national footballer and would-be FIFA president David Nakhid reflects on the current state of the political ballgame:

“Why do you have to speak for these African players?” Patrick Edwards, a career diplomat attached to the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London, asked me when he came to Lebanon to get me out of prison. “Where are they now? You should think about having a nice house and a nice car and doing what you were paid to do!”

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago football captain David Nakhid speaks at the 2015 Play The Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark. (Copyright Thomas Søndergaard/Play The Game)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago football captain David Nakhid speaks at the 2015 Play The Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark.
(Copyright Thomas Søndergaard/Play The Game)

That was almost a quarter of a century ago but it came back to me as vividly as if it was yesterday when I celebrated my 52nd birthday a month and a half ago. At the time, Mr Edwards’ words had had the ring of truth, had sounded like the Gospel according to St Patrick.

But when hordes of cockroaches are swarming all over your face while you are trying to sleep and prison guards are glaring menacingly when you are awake, a preacher needs no more than five minutes to convert you to his religion.

However, as a good enemy of mine would later remark to me: “It’s not the nobility in you, Nakhid, that makes you take a stand, it’s your f……g bad mind!”

And he was right! I am simply incapable of sitting on the fence.

So I bristle as Trinidad and Tobago talks and waits, posts and wait and the country’s social, economic and cultural decline inexorably gathers speed. As a people, we are waiting for our Veronica Guerin moment—Guerin was an Irish crime reporter who was murdered by drug lords on 26 June 1996—while  waiting for someone else to stop the bullet with our name on it, waiting for someone else to leave behind a son/daughter and/or a husband/wife while we bask in the glow of the dubious accomplishment that is having written a blog or having “posted” something.

Photo: A Woodbrook tribute to murdered prominent Trinidad and Tobago attorney Dana Seetahal SC. Seetahal was gunned down in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.
Photo: A Woodbrook tribute to murdered prominent Trinidad and Tobago attorney Dana Seetahal SC.
Seetahal was gunned down in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.

But we say nothing!

Listen, I am not unaware of the trials and tribulations the ordinary citizen must undergo to ensure that “three hots and a cot” are provided for the family. Nor am I oblivious to the dangers, both economic and physical, that loom when one dares to challenge the status quo in our country.

But if our citizenry knows—and we do know—that no meaningful change for our country’s betterment will ever come from any of the leadership options currently available to us, then what are we to do?

It is true that we have had glimpses of successful, purposeful mobilization in our recent history: the pressure exerted by placard-waving protesters and others on social media on Mayor Raymond Tim Kee after he misspoke, precipitated his removal from office.

And the social media uproar, liberally nourished by Wired868, in the Thema Williams/Marisa Dick saga alerted everyone—with the possible exception of the Sport Minister—to the conspiratorial shenanigans of Messrs Marquez and Lue Shue and co in the TTGF.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick pose for a photograph while sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016. (Courtesy Hannifer Dick)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick pose for a photograph while sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016.
(Courtesy Hannifer Dick)

But then what?

Has Tim Kee’s removal made the party, of which he was such a prominent member—and, more than likely, still is—any more vigilant about ensuring the safety of the ordinary citizen, about protecting ALL our citizens?

Has the whole angry song and dance generated by the successful hit job on Thema brought any clear, indignant response from any member of not just the government but the whole political class, if not on the legal level, at least on the moral and ethical level?

Don’t hold your breath; it’ll be a while. The truth is that while we swing back and forth between the PNM and the most recent incarnation of the second party, the most corrupt political class in our nation’s comparatively short history continues to benefit from our indecision and inaction, laughing all the way to and from the bank.

Tragic though Asami Nagakiya’s death surely was and as odious as was the behaviour of those who cheated Thema out of her hard-earned golden opportunity, those were but two tiny drops in a bucket compared with the vast ocean of real problems facing our nation.

Photo: Late Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya performs with Silver Stars at the 2016 Panorama. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Late Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya performs with Silver Stars at the 2016 Panorama.
(Courtesy Facebook)

The focus of our collective attention and wrath should have been—should still be—the news, no matter how matter-of-fact its publication, that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of financial transactions had been red-flagged by the Financial Inspections Unit (FIU).

But the political class has made it possible for wealthy drug lords and gun-runners to integrate themselves into our legal financial infrastructure and launder their ill-gotten wealth with impunity.

And we say nothing; we hear that news, shrug our shoulders and move right along.

It was full 11 years ago that I remarked publicly that the killing fields of the East/West Corridor were only the most visible manifestation of the widespread murderous corruption that our monied drug lords had gradually caused to take root and bear poisonous fruit all across our beloved home land.

I was subsequently fired by Jack Warner and his TTFA for being a racist!

Nowadays, I can only look back with shame and embarrassment at my inability to say and do more at that time. I did call for “following the paper trail of unexplained and explained wealth.”

Photo: Bribery has long plagued Trinidad and Tobago's public sector. (Copyright Canadian Business)
Photo: Bribery has long plagued Trinidad and Tobago’s public sector.
(Copyright Canadian Business)

Easy enough, you might think. Except that, although we love to mimic our colonial masters, the mimicry seems to stop with the pretentious British accents we sometimes hear in our Parliament. It does not apparently extend to their zeal for investigating financial misdeeds.

So how do we explain the exorbitant rent paid to the wife of the country’s current Attorney General for a building that has never been used? And to sweeten the pot, this did not happen under only the current administration but under the previous one as well!

Where is the ire spawned by the news about that unused building? Did anyone think to organise a march in protest?

How do we explain the scores of empty shops with low, low prices for shoes, clothes and equipment? You can buy some of that stuff for the price of a cup of Rituals coffee!

Honestly, which of us does not know about the billions siphoned off to personal accounts by our political class? Which of us cannot see clearly all the signs of the decay of the social, economic and cultural fabric?

Photo: Former "Honourable" Government Ministers Anil Roberts (left) and Jack Warner. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Former “Honourable” Government Ministers Anil Roberts (left) and Jack Warner.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

What are we to make of the enduring relevance of a Sat Maharaj, whether we personally like him or not, to such a sizeable segment of our population?

Everything is rotten in the body politic where corruption, whether economic, cultural or moral, is endemic.

And the silence threatens to deafen us all…

About David Nakhid

David Nakhid
David Nakhid is the founder and director of the David Nakhid International Football Academy in Beirut, Lebanon and was the first Trinidad and Tobago international to play professionally in Europe. The two-time Caribbean and T&T Player of the Year and cerebral midfielder once represented FC Grasshopper (Switzerland), Waregem (Belgium), POAK (Greece), New England Revolution (US), Al Emirates (UAE) and Al Ansar (Lebanon).

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75 comments

  1. The white collar criminals would continue to strut hugely across this land. If the Government cannot pull their feet from under then, then in disgust, brave and daring citizens would blow them to hell soon. They that would risk losing their lives for love of country are gathering and not police or thieves would stop them. This group would comprise honest police, army, coast guards, air guard, and citizens. Is this country waiting for a successful coup? We must march against these glaring injustices and all those dysfunctional units that are supposed to protect our citizens from the gross exploitation by the rich thieves and drug lords that hold us to ransom.The people must march against the bad and wicked in our society. “bonis nocet quisquis pepercerit malis”= Who ever spares the bad, injures the good. Just saying what needs to be said.

  2. Is it that nobody knows a thing, or who knows who is above and beyond the law.
    Forget about petty gangbangers, who has that power?

  3. Steups…..crime on top crime below am not condoning any criminal activity committed by anyone but the white colour bandits are not haunted down like animals where we could hear that they had a shoot out with the police and get killed but the street criminals don’t stand a chance. Crime is crime jail all criminals

  4. An option is to bring some Israelis here to cleanse this country .. I heard they’re good at this … we’ll see who’s worse .. gangs or Israelis

  5. Just one of the many statistics … so you saying that this country is so large that the police cannot find those persons guilty of crimes .. they usually past it off on dead criminals when they cannot solve .. SHAME

  6. I feel you Mr Nakhid , I honestly do but the majority of Trini’s don’t give ah f…k if they have nothing to gain right now from anything, then it’s not a priority.
    We suffer from a permanent case of now-for-now- isim.

  7. And it goes on!! Almost a year gone,and those whome you labeled as thieves,and discribed their crimes,stil walk COMFORTABLE in the knowledge,that NOTHING will be done!! But there wil come a time—-

  8. Respect and admiration for your always speaking out.

  9. Sad but a true reality. Epic Leadership failure at all levels.

  10. The timing and focus (content) of this well-crafted commentary is curious (btw it bears such a strong resemblance to the writing style of someone who was working on his campaign material). I think it’s a soft ‘political speech’ for strategic profile raising….be it for football office, political office or to be regarded as providing thought leadership. Watch for it! However, as football is the pre-eminent topic on this blog, hopefully the writer (or his professional team of writers) will be asked to break their self-imposed silence about the FIFA campaign beyond the reference to the ‘house nigger’ betrayal.

    • In this case, I know only of customary in-house editing by one of our main editors, Earl Best.
      But what light can you shed on that FIFA campaign Josanne?

    • Lasana, in no way was I inferring your editor’s interference.. I think I was clear. I was moved however to ask the writer, based on the moral position taken in said article, to lead by example. I will speak but on my terms and in my time. Its hard to trust ‘journalistic’ integrity because sometimes it’s a casualty of relationships, personal and professional. We do the best we can and hopefully somewhere in the midst of bullshit and PR, some truth will shine through the smokes and mirrors!. I continue to read your pieces! one love.

    • Btw, I’m not sure if it was my mistake in posting or if in fact my comment was deleted but in a previous post I sought to disclose that CFU President Gordon Derrick was a strong supporter of Nakhid’s campaign. In the fullness of time and should those in the know choose not to re-write history, support that was promised from other quarters through efforts of Nakhid’s closet allies, never bore fruit. Also, RTK moved his support from the Prince to Nakhid and again, a lot of work was done to get the TTFA’s nomination or else he was not even going to get out the starting blocks. I won’t put my head on a block for anyone and their motives but the re-writing of recent history tells me that Football politics is nasty, corrupt and stinks to high heaven. So forgive me when in reading the posts, I know as a non-insider who had a ring-side seat, that a lot of gobar is flying around.

    • It was only because I know you do indeed have inside knowledge that I wondered if you wanted to speak some more. But I respect that you will at your own time. 😉

  11. ANd Lasana Liburd, i would give you an example of this. My big brother works for Carib Brewery. Do you remember the big stand off protest in for the entire summer 2004? He is big guy in NUGFW and they entire union and most of the workers every single day protested until Sabga gave in. He had to, because when they checked their losses after those months, it was hundreds of millions lost. You could not ever get a bear in country, they had to import some beer called Vitamin S from Jamaica. That is a prime example of when we take matters into our own hands and do it in large numbers, the powers at be has to listen otherwise no money for them. Simple as that.

    • And we have to keep union leaders honest too. We don’t want them to leverage that power for bad.

    • Yes, i know. That kind of power corrupts too. But at the end of the day, unions are necessary. The businessmen does bullshit people and through them to the waste side when things slow, all kinds of excuses to fire people when the economy is down but when ti is up and they are posting, even in this trying time they are making almost a billion dollars in profits a quarter for the year and want to cut workers, i don’t feel sorry for them at all, because they have no mercy on us the work force, greedy bastards. You see how they all of a sudden crying foul on news saying “oh the Industrial Court do like we” they only rule in favour of the Unions, nonsense!

    • I agree that unions are important. It is just that the same laziness that allows corrupt businessmen and politicians to flourish will also do the same for union leaders.
      So we have to be vigilant all the time. We cannot be lazy.

    • Nope we cannot, but i am still not having any sympathy for businessmen, none.

    • The question is, where does one begin, in a land where nothing is sacred? Where brutality is as casual as a Roti and red Solo. The ground perhaps?

    • That is where it is always has to begin, but not much people willing to come out and put in the effort to effect change. A small hand of us, what we could do?

      • Earl Best

        Critical mass is probably as effective as a majority. If you have small numbers in the right places doing the right things, that can lead to majority participation , especially in the land of what Naipaul called the “mimic men.” So I wouldn’t despair, if I were you, about being only “a small hand;” thrfee pieces of trump are better if you know what you’re doing than a hand full of Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks and 10’s in the non-trump suits.

  12. We is a mix society the first prime minister warned us of the esat indian race

  13. I think about Dana every single day.
    Will never forget that Sunday morning.

  14. What i get from Nakhid was clear. The reason why this is so, is we fault. We too bloody lazy. Forget the politicians, no matter what new entity forms, with regards to a political party, it will all be the same, unless we get up from our lazy backsides and stop this stupid mentality about, “dah nah my wuck” mentality to go out and protest, because you afraid your employer “buss yuh throat” if you stay home, or, which is normally the case, that people would not get up their lazy behinds to do any protesting, and would just sit back, take the nonsense, and jump at the opportunity when their pairs who protesting, are actually successful with their protest. They want to benefit from other people’s hard work all the time, when it is all for them to benefit too, because the whole system will change for everyone to benefit. But the fact that the laziness of people to get up and do it, will always negate any progress of changing the systems in this country for the average citizens. It will only change in the High circles, for them, not for us. Until we demand it, as what he, to me is implying everyday, not just one day and that is it, but everyday regularly, then the “powers at be” would listen. Not just the politicians i am talking about, the business people i am referring to. Because when their profits dwindle daily because of the nation actually standing up for their rights and demand it continuously, then the politicians will act.

  15. Well said David Nakhid. Jamela Khan, like David was listening in to our convo.

  16. The usual outrage without solutions. The corruption of the old school network/tie remains unmentioned. As part of that elite network, no comment speaks as loudly as a trumpet

  17. This country is filled with the “The law is for my neighbour not I” mentality…. it is why we elect basically ourselves (mirror image)

  18. All you have to do is look to those attempting to avoid prosecution.

  19. In order to avoid prosecution, it makes sense that the leading authority on criminal law in the Caribbean was eliminated

  20. Very good article . The crime and corruption problem can be solved when people in authority stop shielding their friends and family from prosecution . I hope the DPP acts on the ColeMan report fast !

    • You have answered the question right there. In countries as small as ours, in a region as small as ours the moral and social task is too great a burden to bear for the office of the DPP or the AG. We have to engage outside forces – international legal avenues with greater power to quell the evil that lies within. Which of us is willing to sacrifice our life to take on the magnitude of evil? Why should we have to ask it of ourselves? It must be collective but who is guarding the guards? Republican status is a farce. Self governance has failed.

    • Agreed.Saying that for years.Seek foreign help and jail from a side.

  21. Is he going to form a political party to start talking now and be ready for the next elections?! I agree we need a viable alternative certainly to the PNM, as, after the last 5 years of the UNC government, I don’t think they should be allowed near government again if they do not change (visibly and certainly) the people currently at the forefront of that party. We need a new viable and acceptable alternative party now, not 3 months before the next elections. As a matter of fact, they should have been gearing up already for the local gov’t elections that are due in a short while from now. We need to see what they are capable of.

    Of course a problem could well be that a new party cannot get a toehold in Central thus keeping us where we currently are.

    • Well, Nakhid doesn’t even live here for starters. But I feel it is the people who have to get more involved in the process. A big part of the problem is the electorate. Maybe we should start there.
      Akins Olatunji Vidale and Jason Louis Julien would argue that a third party already exists of course.

    • Another part of the problem is a dearth of good investigative journalism

    • It does not matter if we replace this gov’t with a new entity, as long as we pull strings to get our children into”prestige” schools…..call our good pardner to get our children a cushy gov’t work….pay the officer a $400 not to get a speeding ticket….do nothing whole week then claim OT Sat & Sun…complain about speed limits while driving 120 Km/h…etc etc..as long as we don’t want to fix self first it will do nothing…not one flatulence!

    • Nigel Phillip That is why part of what this government has to do, is to make us obey the laws of the land. We really do not need more, just follow the ones we already have! The speeding enforcement could be a start.

    • Let the Gov’t start obeying laws first. We aren’t children. And we can see when they are being hypocrites. Either we must all obey the law or it will never work.

    • I agree…. SOOOO much hinges on doing what is right! Not because people are looking but because it is THE right thing to do & that it has effects & long term consequences. The Laws & Penalties must work & apply to all!!!

    • Hypocrisy could also be expecting Gov’t to uphold laws while citizens break them and then be vexed with the gov’t

    • A huge part of our problem is when we have people like the president talking down at us and telling us “do the right thing…because it’s the right thing to do”….and then tiefing $18,000 a month from us. I don’t need any hypocrite telling me to do the right thing because I do it all the time….and when no one’s looking. And there are plenty people who think like me. But sadly the vast majority has a mentality that they could do what they want because they could get away with it.

    • Precisely how I feel Rose-Marie!

    • Rose-Marie Ingrid Lemessy-Forde Agreed Rose Marie…but I try to be law abiding not for those hypos but for my child…as an example and because it is the right thing to do

    • Well said Rose-Marie Ingrid Lemessy-Forde

    • And that’s me too Nigel. But it’s a pet peeve of mine when these politicians stand on their pulpit and preach about doing this and that. Because for years now right thinking people have realized that the only example most of them could give us is what NOT to do. But that doesn’t stop them from preaching and talking down to us like children. They all do it. ..the president is worst of all though. If they would just shut up and do the right thing themselves we’d notice.

  22. I guess the song writer was right eh. “We like it so”…..Them really good yes.

  23. it’s sad how weak they’ve made us believe ourselves to be