High esteem does not come easily in or towards our country these days. Public trust is at an all time low, not surprisingly so because of decades of poor governance and the intersection of politics and corrupt business.
Some commentators were dismissive of the idea that last Monday’s no confidence motion against the President and Vice President of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) was an event of any consequence. In addition, the general public has been turned off by legal mouthpieces for one major political party or another being paid excessive fees out of taxpayers’ pockets.
On the morning following the collapse of the no confidence motion, Dale and Tony had the event as one of their topics for interactive discussion. While, of course, call in polls are not always accurate, 89 per cent of the participants said that they no longer held lawyers in high esteem.
Not holding the lawyers in high esteem, and consequently dismissing the Law Association, does unfortunately have an impact on the wider society. That is why I expressed the view that the outcome of the no confidence motion might determine the Association’s viability as an organisation with an influential voice on matters of pending legislation and civil liberties.
The Law Association and its predecessor, the Bar Association, have a long history of coming to the forefront when partisan politics or public administration go dangerously out of line.
Sadly, there have been times when the Law Association has gone through periods of low vigilance on behalf of the public. And during those periods, there has not necessarily been a sympathetic relationship between the Law Association’s Council and the party in Government. Some Councils are more energetic and public spirited than others.
In a society in which so few people will or can take the risk of public commentary, it is important that the Law Association remains credibly able to do so. It cannot, as a practical matter, survey all its members on every occasion before commenting on something in the public domain. When a Council is selected it must enjoy the confidence of the members that it will perform its public commentary role and without fear or favour.
Failure to canvass its members before opening its mouth cannot reasonably be the basis of a no confidence motion. If a majority are dissatisfied with the Council’s expressions of opinion during the course of a year they can vote them out quite easily because elections for the Council of the Law Association are held annually.
The above reasons are the main ones why I had intended to speak against the motion, but it collapsed before it could be debated because many of those who sought to present the no confidence motion abjectly withdrew or hid in silence when the time came to man up.
Nevertheless, whatever positions the Council takes on contemporary affairs it must be taken openly. It ought not to express its views to politicians under confidential cover. The members have a right to know what is being represented on their behalf and there must be an appropriate communications strategy.
We heard again in the course of this week that our country might also be a subject of low and declining esteem abroad. This time the commentator was our high profile former national goalkeeper and now prominent ESPN analyst, Shaka Hislop.
As reported in Wired868, Shaka departed from his topic at a recent symposium and spoke from the heart “fuelled by the demonstration of talent from the entertainment portion of the symposium which included singers, free speech artists and dancers whose performances were about encouragement and spreading positive energy among their peers.”
“Living in the States,” said Shaka, “where I am forced to follow the media online, I think the view that the Trinidad media exudes internationally does not reflect the optimism and talent that the country holds.”
He continued: “I can now go back to the States knowing that Trinidad is in a far better place than the media continues to portray. It always takes my breath away to see the wealth of talent and the quality of individuals that Trinidad and Tobago continues to produce. Never mind the headlines; this country is in a very good place. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
It is delightful that someone of a different generation has commented so graphically on the dichotomy between the bad Trinbago and the creative Trinbago.
Unfortunately the bad Trinbago is not a figment of the media’s imagination. It is real and the media cannot hide it. The bad is a product of the enduring intersection of politics and corrupt business mentioned in my opening paragraph.
Taxpayers’ money, raked in by dirty business from lax governance, would be better spent in investment in the creative arts as repeatedly urged in these columns and reiterated by Shaka.