Daly Bread: Topic, topic, topic—THA ‘fix’, police killings and Covid-19 vaccines

When Trinidad and Tobago is boiling over with trouble and nonsense, as it is currently, my Freeport compere says to me ‘topic, topic, topic’.

So where to focus this week’s column? Should I comment further on the Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to break the six-six electoral deadlock in Tobago?  

Photo: Political leader of PNM Tobago Council Tracy Davidson-Celestine.
(via looptt.com)

This legislation is probably constitutionally improper because it is driven by a conflict of interest on the part of the PNM majority in the House of Representatives who supported it.  

Should I highlight that the majority are also relying on a previous consultation, which is now as stale as an old hops bread?  Or, what about the current apparent abuses of power in criminal justice, which are dangerously linked?  

The detection rate in murder investigations remains abominably low. Deprived of justice by due process, the public is in a bloodthirsty mood wanting to beat up, flog or hang any alleged suspect, who is profiled as a ‘known’ criminal.

The downside of this blood lust is that clearer minds and hearts now have to receive abuse when insisting that the death of Andrew Morris in police custody raises serious, blood curdling questions.

These questions, which arise out of the amazing discrepancies in the accounts of Morris’ death, cannot be swept aside by an avalanche of robber talk. For example, release of a criminal record cannot constitute mitigation of a death in police custody.  

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith poses over a dying suspect, who was arrested for the murder of a policeman, on 28 December 2019. 
The image is blurred as it may be disturbing to some readers.

Will it ‘be good for’ the next victim because he had an alleged gun running conversation, was ‘a tiefin one per cent’ or ‘a cockroach’, or, perhaps, was ‘always criticising’?

The robber talk also harps on no bail and anti-gang legislation as a quick fix for criminal violence.  Thanks to the recent analysis of a commentator—against whom the regular insults such as a ‘UNC mouthpiece’ cannot stick—I do not have to find words of my own to dismiss the laughable assertions that failure to pass more draconian laws is a form of support for the criminal elements.

Professor Ramesh Deosaran, is an experienced criminologist and former Police Service Commission chairman. In a recent column in the Newsday, without departure from his usual diplomatic language, he described previous restrictive bail, as well as anti-gang legislation, and questioned what had been gained from it. 

He stated: “These provisions have core constitutional implications which may be extended if, for example, there is strong evidence that these provisions brought significant results in detection, prosecution, etc since 2018.  Follow the science.”

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) chats to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in Parliament.
(Copyright Newsday)

Deosaran ended with these striking words: “In fact, why were earlier well-stocked legislation not effective? Speculation and fear-mongering will not do. We should also be careful that judges are not made to appear unduly sidelined in matters of procedural justice and fundamental freedoms.  The attorney general should reflect.”

This government has an abundance of authoritarian cabinet members, who often cannot reflect because they are blinded by hating on the media and critics.  For the same reason they cannot read many plays, nor give a coherent account of their acts and omissions; nor can they give an unqualified apology for the most obvious of mistakes.

The government has not read the vaccination diplomacy plays. If we are not more astute, we will be even further down in the line for receipt of Covid-19 vaccines, through the international Covax facility, than we already are—while shamelessly pretending there is a vaccine rollout ongoing.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, moved smartly and anticipated that vaccines manufactured in India would receive international approval. She kindly gave us some of what Barbados obtained from India.

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

The minister of health failed miserably when he did not acknowledge Barbados as the gift-giver at the outset. Could he not have simply said: “For my error in not acknowledging Barbados as the donor of vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago, I am truly and deeply sorry. I unreservedly apologise.”

Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her unattractive UNC Opposition jeered at the government’s mistake. That is part of partisan island politics. The government nevertheless has to own up when caught out.  

Blame games and other diversions will not sidetrack us from discerning how the rulers let us down and, worryingly and all too frequently, provide cause for concern.

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About 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 and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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