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All jangle and riot: Daly reiterates the problem with our governance structure

Over more than a decade, my columns have contained an explanation of what I discern to be the deficiencies of the systems by which we are governed and reference to some possible solutions.

These columns also seek to show the link between those deficiencies, leadership condonation of them and the negative events plaguing us, including the volume of murders committed with impunity day after day.

Photo: Prolific columnist Martin Daly SC launched "The Daly Commentaries" in 2015.
Photo: Prolific columnist Martin Daly SC launched “The Daly Commentaries” in 2015.

Basically, we’re spinning top in mud. As events have become more and more foul and the huge volumes of bloodsucking monies paid out of the Treasury to the cronies of the system are exposed, it is clear that many of the human, financial and other disasters foreshadowed in these columns are the ones unfolding before the eyes of a jaded, angry and frustrated public. Political cronies and grasshoppers have benefitted from staggering sums paid for services as diverse as legal and landscaping.

It is clear also that many of my robust criticisms of arrogant and destructive statements—such as former, and now deceased, Prime Minister Patrick Manning describing a murder outside MovieTowne as “collateral damage”—were fully justified.

The damage of murder was mainstream then and not at all collateral. Belatedly, that is now apparent to those then in denial. Mainstream has become a deluge. No one ever joined me in my repeated calls for an apology for that ridiculous statement.

By contrast, the air has been thick with demands for apologies from Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, for flippantly patting himself on the back for being able to increase the price of fuel three times and “they haven’t rioted yet”, and at the same time making reference to the Government’s intention to make a wage offer of 0-0-0 for the triennium 2017 to 2020.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left), Finance Minister Colm Imbert (centre) and former Trinidad and Tobago international hockey goalkeeper Joey Lewis at a sod turning event. (Courtesy DMRCTT)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left), Finance Minister Colm Imbert (centre) and former Trinidad and Tobago international hockey goalkeeper Joey Lewis at a sod turning event.
(Courtesy DMRCTT)

Mr Imbert is a man who enjoys good legal submissions. Perhaps I should let him know that in a satire of English barristers a judge describes poor submissions as “all jangle and riot”, meaning as discordant as the jangling of metal and as chaotic as a riot.

It is commendable therefore that, a few days ago, he has unreservedly apologised for those remarks—particularly as we have an infamous occasion in our recent history when the statement “there shall be no looting” was followed by the pillaging of Port of Spain and parts of the East West corridor.

Some of the negative developments I have foreseen have already come to pass.  The causes are being very belatedly recognised.  For example, in 2002, I wrote a column entitled Interfering intravenously detailing why the State enterprise system was a set up for waste, undue influence and corruption.

Describing the set up as veins spread throughout the body of public administration running below the surface of the political skin, I asserted that, through those veins, the politicians interfere intravenously with the supply of everything in order unfairly or corruptly to obtain unfair benefits for the followers of the party-in-power to the exclusion of others.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and her then Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner at the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Women's Under-17 World Cup. (Courtesy FIFA.com)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and her then Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner at the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Women’s Under-17 World Cup.
(Courtesy FIFA.com)

I gave many examples of the profligate use of the system by the political favourites of the day, while the Ministers had deniability and the power to blame and fire the state enterprise operatives while keeping themselves relatively unscathed.

Ministers and satellites have regularly tapped into those veins and enjoyed juicy rewards.  It facilitates semi-legal greed.  It is commercial riot and plunder.

That column was submitted to the Uff Commission, as a result of which I was invited to give evidence as a concerned citizen. That Commission made recommendations partly as a result of that submission, but they were not implemented.  Recently I have delivered it to the Economic Advisory Board.

An editorial in this newspaper on Monday last, entitled Building a bulwark around public $$, 14 years later, recognised the vice of these politically manipulated enterprises, pretty much as I had described it.  The editorial recognised “once unimagined abuses” and “decades of financial scandals.” This column foreshadowed the abuses and scandals a long time ago.

What has happened at the dangerous intersection of politics and business are bold faced “erasures of the line between public business and personal aggrandizement.” The latter phrase is that of a well-known columnist in the United States, used to describe last week’s sleazy Presidential election, in which seven out of ten citizens did not regard either candidate as trustworthy.

Photo: United States presidential nominees Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton.
Photo: United States presidential nominees Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton.

Generally speaking, however, the US institutions are likely to retain cohesion and efficiency. To rub salt into the wound of comparison, their police department will continue to apprehend suspected murderers and have them prosecuted, intervene in domestic violence situations before fatality and manage traffic.

For the reasons outlined in last Sunday’s column, we have sunk way below that horizon of normal civilisation, no matter how many J’Ouverts we play and paint up we body.

Can we stir ourselves and collectively recognise that civilisation and sound institutional values require a lot more than the jangle and riot of dysfunction and bacchanal?

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.

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20 comments

  1. It is time Dr Rowley take a firm stand on ministers who are fixing themselves. Fire them.

  2. Proportional Representation was tried recently so that more persons can be given a voice – voices that may not be aligned to the major political parties…..and yet a certain ‘propagandist leader’ called it foolishness in Point Fortin a few days ago, and stated that “they want to control Diego Martin…” To the loud applause of his listeners. Nuff said.

  3. I applaud S.C. Martin Daly for His WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING! A WORD TO THE WISE IS SUFFICIENT. As to whether His WORDS OF WISDOM will BEAR FRUIT, I DOUBT IT! But, I will LOVE to be PROVEN WRONG.

  4. The problem with constitutional change is that our opposition is unlikely to support any change. We need to have a committee that everyone will agree on that will look impartially at the Constitution and suggest the changes to it that will be non-partisan. Only then can we move forward.

    • And this has been the case regardless of who’s in power! So do we as a citizenry sit back and allow it? How do we mobilize influence to get it done? I’m not a fan of the victim and helpless stance

    • The opposition alone? Both ruling party AND opposition have found a way to benefit from what exists. Neither are genuinely keen on change.

    • If the government puts forward what it wants, it is unlikely to get opposition support so nothing happens. If we have the independent committee that both parties agree to, then it might be more difficult for them to disagree on implementing the changes especially if the committee holds community meetings to get a good idea of what the citizens really want.

      When I say ‘opposition’ I mean whoever is in opposition because I don’t think the party in opposition will act so differently from the other in that position at another time.

  5. This issue predates independence. He is very accurate to say that we are spinning top in mud. We continue doing so every five years unless constitutional changes are made. We are too divided by race and class to put country first.

  6. I like the article and as usual Martin is clear, timely and poignant! I however disagree once more with the narrow definition of crime as murders and other violent types. There is a total disregard for the law and as a result absolute lawlessness. The murders etc are one manifestation. The same PM Manning told us boldly that he knew who Mr. Big was but never attempted to bring him to justice. A few years before my close friend Shabaz died he told me of some graffiti on a wall in Laventille. He took me to see it and we took pictures of it. It said “politician is bandit, police is bandit, priest is bandit, so who is we? We is bandit too.” Those are chilling linkages and they reflect a nexus which many have not dared touch. The guns and drugs which pervade our streets are not the machinations of those “bad boys” in Laventille or wherever. We have decided across political lines to do nothing about Mr Big because it’s easy and convenient to say them little fellas in Laventille lazy and don’t want to work. It’s also convenient because Mr Big might have major ties that bind. That lazy line sticks and finds fertile listening because of the stereotypes of the people in Laventille. But those of us who grew up there and know the place also know that explanation to be anemic, disingenuous and somewhat tangential. As long as the high level political and corporate leadership in TT (and Martin does speak to this) are not held accountable and ALL Trinbagonians are called to task for wrongdoing, we are indeed spinning top in mud. Why? Because “politician is bandit, police is bandit, priest is bandit, so who is we? We is bandit too. “

    • Solid points. We have lost our communities and those who you referred to as bandits no longer identify with our communities. To them murder is collateral damage. They live in a sub community of steel gates, security guards and burglar proofing. Yet they belong to an arm of the state that has power over the majority. How are judges elected? In the UK there is a commission that recommends appointment where almost half of them are lay persons because judges must represent the community. What community do our judges represent? How can policemen function effectively in communities where they don’t reside, reside but disconnected or working there but have no connection to the people? Do we expect that we will lock up, prosecute and sentence persons who we wish/strive to live among for crimes committed? I don’t. Our system of representative democracy has to change. In a small society like ours a direct democracy system is needed otherwise, we will never get back our communities and we will stick with striving to be among the elites by living in a jungle of steel gates, security guards and burglar proofing.

    • Lester Logie very well said! This solution is simple yet complex

    • At a basic level, the plebs are not as dumb as the proletariats would like to think.
      Are the decisions makers too blind to see that? Or is it an inconvenient truth they would rather pretend not to see?
      Either way, it is a dangerous game of “chicken” while we hurtle to the abyss.

    • Lasana Liburd inconvenient truth, it is. Until we have real reform and it’s not just do what’s best to be re-elected in 5 yrs, there will be no change. My deeper concern is that us citizens are not demanding more or better. Have we been beaten into submission?

    • Brian, i just told a pardner that our people are like a drunk lady of extremely flexible morals at a party: ready to crumble for the first pick-up line.
      (Granted it was a private convo so I was a bit more colorful than that. Lol)
      In any case, who we wake up with is based on the luck of the draw. We’re ripe for the picking for whoever needs a sap to exploit.
      Standing up for ourselves is too much work or, bizarrely, we are afraid it might somehow make our lives more hellish to have a backbone.

    • In the last year or so–having seen Brent Sancho and David John-Williams–I now feel Jack Warner was not the problem, just a manifestation of the problem.

    • Lasana exactly. It’s a real national development issue. We’ve never really been allowed or encouraged to openly debate (in the real sense) or protest. Protest has always been a matter of convenience (e.g. Unions – only fir better pay not for productivity). I’ve said on FB a lot that until we become an objective citizenry (rather than purely partisan) we will go no where. I don’t know where the TT train is heading and that’s a tough place to be for our people. Seems like we have resigned ourselves to “oh well”

    • We are sitting down in a car with the driver veering from side to side at high speed… but nobody wants to say anything because the driver might get vexed… or maybe they might get a turn in the front seat.
      Or something so! ??

  7. count your blessings friend. To work and be able to incorporate your son. You go girl