Home / View Point / Martin Daly / Undernourished democracy; moral decay spreads to Flow and Integrity Commission

Undernourished democracy; moral decay spreads to Flow and Integrity Commission

I am not a seer man but I do try to pierce the fete and freeness veil drawn to conceal and dumb down the real and pressing issues facing our little country.

For that reason, like several of my fellow columnists, I am not impressed with the false images which are constantly touted and peddled to us, none more so than the milk and honey version of our economy.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

The electorate is currently being induced to salivate at the slew of rosy promises falling off the election platforms. However such promises are out of sync with the reality of falling oil and gas prices.

The last national Budget was premised on US$80 a barrel. It was revised downwards to US$45. Now the oil price is US$38.

How will the rosy promises be kept?

Last week’s column critiqued pledging too much credit on the energy sector card. Likewise, other commentators were warning about the unsustainable cost of the manifesto promises of the two main contenders in the imminent General Election.

Almost simultaneously the oil price dropped to US$40 per barrel.

The problem is many have so long worshipped the graven images of fete, freeness and false status that those images prevail over truth and reality.

Photo: A Tribe masquerader enjoys herself on Carnival Tuesday. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: A Tribe masquerader enjoys herself on Carnival Tuesday.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Indifference to poor governance is ingrained to an extent that Terrence Farrell has asserted that our economy has been recklessly endangered.

Indifference has a high price. It inhibits the development of moral authority.

That is why, for example, the Debates Commission failed so humiliatingly, coming as it did from a section of the society generally quiet on matters of governance vital to the country but seeking to jump into the political gayelle and pompously pat itself on the back for a flawed intervention.

Professing to help the nation mature requires much more than a flawed intervention. Continuing attempts to save the egg-laden face of the Debates Commission are futile.

Flow, a cable channel provider whose belly must be already full to bursting, has also insulted our intelligence by seeking to justify charging its subscribers the same money for significantly less product.

Surely the inanities of the Debates Commission and Flow must be hugely embarrassing to the private sector.

Photo: Flow has vowed to maintain its prices, despite drastically reducing its channels on offer.
Photo: Flow has vowed to maintain its prices, despite drastically reducing its channels on offer.

Meanwhile action by the pock-marked Integrity Commission is puzzling us again.

What would motivate the Integrity Commission to re-open the Leader of the Opposition’s 2004 declaration of assets and liabilities, eleven years later, in the face of that Commission’s previous Court defeat in litigation brought by Dr. Rowley?

Was it vexatious to give a 14-day deadline to respond to a request for information in the middle of a bitterly contested General Election?

Graven images are a biblical reference carrying the authority of a commandment, one of ten hallowed prescriptions. Biblical scholars assert that the commandment against worshipping graven images is important because we become what we worship and if we worship idols we become deaf and blind to the true word of God.

Respectfully put into a secular context, it might be said that if we worship freeness we become freeloaders; coarsely put, we does eat ah food and spit out principle.

I suggest that where we are at the moment is that many more of those who have been indifferent to decades of poor or corrupt governance are becoming victims themselves.

Photo: Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The accelerating institutional decay, against which they issued little protest when it began or as it visibly accelerated, will ultimately disrupt their nice living too.

Our visit to the polling booth is a week away. What to do in there? An equally important question is what to do afterward?

Many know that the act of voting once, every five years or so, does not give us sufficient leverage over our Government, whomever we elect. I don’t know when we will ever find belly enough to speak out at least as part of a group—one not stimulated exclusively by narrow self interest—if the individual heart is too faint, but we should bear in mind the corrosive effect of silence and indifference.

A well known US educator and writer defined the threat to democracy as follows: “The death of democracy is not likely to be assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment”.

While election campaigns are conducted, like the current one, with little serious discussion of major issues and, as long as those with the capacity to speak up or make a contribution to the general good remain silent or are indifferent to institutional decay, our democracy will remain undernourished.

Photo: The Integrity Commission has continued to operate despite the resignations of Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan (front row, right) and Justice Sebastian Ventour (back row, second from right), after questionable public pronouncements. (Courtesy Integrity Commission)
Photo: The Integrity Commission has continued to operate despite the resignations of Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan (front row, right) and Justice Sebastian Ventour (back row, second from right), after questionable public pronouncements.
(Courtesy Integrity Commission)

In these last weeks reckless operatives have been spreading visceral fear.  There is also “a corruption is inevitable” narrative that seeks to have the nation accept corruption whatever the under the table cost of visible infrastructural projects and regardless whether part of the Treasury is effectively handed over to favoured members of a State funded ‘contractocracy.’

Will our democracy decline from undernourishment to being terminally poisoned?

AboutMartin 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.

Check Also

My revered teacher: Daly’s tribute to the late Father Roland Quesnel

There are co-incidences in life that it is sometimes difficult to treat merely as co-incidences. …

28 comments

  1. Democracy is dying ???
    In the Welfare State???
    Really Mr. Daly. Tell us something we didnt know.
    Tell us how you would recommend we fix it.

  2. Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow attitude – what is in it for me mentality. But the ABC law will prevail, A-ttitude, B-havior, C-onsequences!

  3. We wait patiently for the next few months…

  4. For fear of providing their opponents with ammunition! But that should be the last, the very last reason to stop the critical thinking process!

  5. How can we celebrate anything???

  6. It’s all a good manifesto. I have not heard one supporter critique it.

  7. Peace Folks, Democracy has been crying out for us to be active vigilant participants on a “daily basis”, but “we” say “we” don’t get paid for that! So “we” hand over the “Management” of the country to individuals and head back to our various watering holes! Right now “we” say “we” want that to change, but there are strange things being said on the Platform…the PNM Platform, such as the “Mass Transit Rail System” as an answer to Vehicular Traffic and “we” don’t critique this Plan? Apart from the cost, how on Gods’ green earth, can we allow any Prospect to offer us “Rail”, when none in Gov’t have ever mastered “Asphalt”??? There’s no Routine M’tce, no Industry Standard, no Quality Control, no Paving/Repaving Cycle and in some cases, no Shoulders or Pavements!!! Yet, “we” pay a Tax at the Pump, that is suppose to directly contribute to the Upkeep and since it hasn’t, aren’t “we” suppose to demand an answer??? “We” have to get and stay involved….

  8. Spreads? Lololol

    “It was born in it.molded by it “

  9. It’s time for Lasana Liburd to use this online forum with people like Sunity Maharaj, Raffique Shah, Dennis Ramdeen, Martin Daily etc to demand the required changes to the constitution for check and balance and real accountability. Leh we stop the talk and start mobilization from September 8th. No honeymoon!

    • I feel the first step is to get more people interested in being involved in the process and understanding what they need. I will come out for those meetings.

    • We have to start, even if it’s 2 people. How many more years we have to see this broken system please a few and the expense of the majority? It’s 5-7 % who swing elections. 95 % believe in their “party” Google Stalin’s “sing for the land” as a premise. You, I believe, are reaching the independent minds

    • I think that you are overestimating the amount of people who are party diehards Eric. There is a large portion of the electorate that doesn’t vote because they don’t see viable alternatives.

    • And there might be a large portion of voters who are not tied to any party but chose the best alternative they see on the ballot paper.
      That is my batch. Lol. I cannot not vote. A ruling party can do too much damage. One must pick the best person on the ballot paper, flaws and all.

  10. When, not if Damian R. Scott.

  11. IF oil prices do not rebound, we shall be feeling the true effects in less than six months. The start of this will be the 2015-16 budget, which will become due less than a month after the election.

  12. Any law not supported by culture isn’t worth the paper it is written on. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the speed limit, urinating on the side of the road, whe whe or money laundering.

  13. The price actually dipped below US$40 for a while before recovering. Then after that, the seventh largest economy of the world was officially declared in recession and China’s attempts to boost the share market failed. These are perilous economic times.

    The issues about the electorate raised and others not mentioned are why I place change in our mindsets above constitutional change as a requirement for rescuing our democracy.

  14. Looks like smartphones were too expensive this year

  15. And don’t forget $200 bills wrapped up in party jerseys. I’ve heard about that trick.

  16. Free food, drinks, sound systems, wine, jam. we don’t ask policy questions on the campaign trail. and even if they are asked, brush it aside like a pesky fly – or play some more music, I suppose.

  17. Music trucks and motorcade galore. Tomorrow.is a holiday tho.

  18. rocks and hard places. Ain’t easy. As the nation chips along to those music trucks.

  19. I know it means absolutely nothing in this scenario but Lasana… Flow is replacing the channels so there will be the same number. The company isn’t charging the same amount for less. Talk to me about the perceived value of the channels being removed and I can start to understand. Also DirecTV removed these channels last year and after adding new channels have increased their prices.

  20. “Respectfully put into a secular context, it might be said that if we worship freeness we become freeloaders; coarsely put, we does eat ah food and spit out principle.”
    Excellent article.

  21. Trinidadians are not stupid. They just choose to be. They choose to be ignorant. That’s my view of society. We discuss Kanye West’s latest stunt in more detail than matters or paramount importance. Burying our heads in the sand than face the reality of what has happened to this country. And i aint even talking about PNM, UNC here.

  22. Cynicism is understandable. But we must never hold our hands up and say: I alone can’t change it.

  23. “There is also “a corruption is inevitable” narrative that seeks to have the nation accept corruption whatever the under the table cost of visible infrastructural projects and regardless whether part of the Treasury is effectively handed over to favoured members of a State funded ‘contractocracy.’ “This right here