These days I feel like Marvin Gaye, the singer of the 1971 Billboard hit “What’s going on?”
Confronted by the incessant kangkalang, his lyrics become most relevant.
Mother, mother/ There’s too many of you crying/
Brother, brother, brother/ There’s far too many of you dying
Father, father,/ We don’t need to escalate/You know we’ve got to find a way/ To bring some lovin’ here today, yeah…
How do we find a way for our nation to overcome its social and other problems and its killing fields? Why are we witnessing 1925 Franz Kafka’s novel The Process coming to life? Why are we seeing the intricate world of law and justice turn into an indecipherable dead-end trap and now fear that we will face a nightmare of terrible consequences?
Unfortunately, we have arrived at a point where our leaders suggest that the Piarco Airport cases represent political persecution. They isolated and failed to discuss the more recent similar occurrences being adjudicated by Justices Rahim and Aboud.
Apparently, they cannot contemplate that a person can be a political figure or a close associate and still allegedly commit a crime. Such persons should not expect immunity by virtue of being in the political opposition.
The origins of this long-lasting saga are ignored. On 12 September 1996, the United National Congress Cabinet appointed a task force to expedite the Piarco Airport Development Project. Businessman and UNC financier Ishwar Galbaransingh, the then chairman of the Tourism and Industrial Development Company, was named to that committee.
On 24 October 1996, the Airport’s general manager Richard Saunders wrote to the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry, reiterating its support of its initially named contractor. On 5 November 1996, the task force, including Galbaransigh, submitted an Interim Report to Cabinet recommending the appointment of Hillman as lead consultant, rejecting the original contractor for the project.
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, the then attorney general, brought Robert Lindquist in 2000 to examine the Piarco contracts.
We recall the 2001 role of Maharaj, Trevor Sudama and Ralph Maraj and their defiant stand in defeating three pieces of legislation because of the allegations of state corruption, causing the Panday government to collapse.
Basdeo Panday then called the 2001 elections, which resulted in a tie that allowed President ANR Robinson to deliver his “bad habits are gathered at slow degrees, as streams running into rivers, and rivers into seas” speech. He reminded us that men and institutions remain free only when respect is shown for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law.
We cried and are still crying.
How many of the delays resulted from legal challenges by the gentlemen who are now protesting the time taken? Have we forgotten the 2011 Queen’s Counsel’s advice in associated proceedings purportedly given to the then attorney general Anand Ramlogan?
“The present extradition proceedings have been going on for five and a half years. The claimants are well funded and determined to assert every possible right of appeal and have demonstrated their determination to do so at every appeal.” (20 December 2011, Newsday)
Having lived through this experience, one should appreciate the need for substantial investment in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Mark Mohammed, the DPP in 2002, and other experienced officers have gone to the Judiciary. The lure of money and the politicising of the Law Association has meant that fewer attorneys enter public service.
A November 2016 Parliamentary report spoke to challenges faced by the DPP in recruiting and retaining state counsel and the security risks prosecutors and their families face. Prosecutors were said to be subject to threats from accused persons and their supporters in and out of court.
The DPP reported that sometimes, his staff required armed police guards. He lamented that the Salaries Review Commission did not think the situation required payment of a risk allowance. The DPP had also indicated that there were not sufficient attorneys to attend to matters at the various courts.
Yet in 2022, the DPP’s office was upbraided in court for its lack of preparation. Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Gregory Smith and Vasheist Kokaram rebuked two senior officers in the DPP’s office for their unpreparedness to examine a witness in a Tobago murder trial.
Justice Yorke- Soo Hon, in accusing the DPP’s department of being “experts in apologies”, said, “I have heard the most eloquent apologies… Do not anticipate the court. Come ready.”
Meanwhile, brothers are dying or left to wither away in the Remand Yard.
Why are our leaders publicly escalating things? The DPP, Dr Keith Rowley, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissesar, the Attorney General…
The Chief Justice and the DPP have history between them. Anyone claiming that this shortage of resources is new has not been paying attention.
How is this public escalation of differences helpful? Who benefits? Why the display of ego? Machismo does not heal and find a path to solutions. Crime will continue while the peacocks strut.
In the fray about the security concerns surrounding the proposed DPP office building, it was noted that it was close to East Port of Spain, as though the Laventille residents posed the substantial challenge.
The unfortunate case of Dana Seetahal’s killing was cited as proof of the need for a more secure building. However, our attention is being directed to the wrong places. We have more to fear from our country’s incestuous relationship between the political powers and the money chasers.
Let us not forget who is on trial for Dana Seetahal’s murder and where it happened, nor the infamous situation involving radio DJ Kevaughn “Lurbz” Savory, which the police claim was a hit.
A study (Piff et al, 2012) using seven studies demonstrated that the greedy wealthy are likelier to break the law. Using experimental and real-life methods, the authors reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.
One of their findings reflects our local experience about how drivers treat pedestrians. The higher-end vehicle drivers were more intolerant of pedestrians and broke more regulations.
They confirmed the views of Plato and Aristotle that greed is at the root of personal immorality—they argued that greed drives desires for material gain at the expense of ethical standards. Greed is a robust determinant of unethical behaviour.
We need laws that reduce the incentives and opportunities for corruption and robust, well-resourced institutions that enforce those laws and deprive corrupt officials and their private-sector accomplices of impunity in their efforts to get rich at the public’s expense.
Why has the Procurement legislation not been implemented? Why are we still debating the need for resources for the DPP at a time when we are expanding the number of courts due to increased crime? Why do we not pass campaign financing legislation?
What’s going on? We are living a nightmarish existence. We need to break the paralysis of political polarisation and slanted media reports.
Our landscape provides the perfect cover/ready excuses (under resourced is generally the cry) for these non-performers in high offices to thrive. Our environment is littered with persons (politicians, public service officials/managers etc) who routinely fail to discharge their duties without any redress available to taxpayers/citizens who are being denied critical services.