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Demming: Give us our dignity! PM must prove women are equal and act now at Angostura

“This cry for action is not new. Recall ‘Die with my Dignity’ by Singing Sandra. She was singing about sexual harassment in its worst form, yet, as a society, we did nothing. We took no action.”

The following letter to the Editor which calls for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to take action on alleged sexual harassment at Angostura was submitted to Wired868 by Dennise Demming:

Photo: I. Got. This!
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Our institutions are weak and failing daily. Sexual harassment policies are the exception rather than the norm. In developed countries the converse is true. Once again, the state has an opportunity to change this game by implementing sexual harassment policies throughout the ministries and in all State enterprises.

This administration, led by Dr Rowley, can begin at Angostura Holdings Limited where he and his Cabinet appointed Dr Rolph Balgobin as chairman. However, before the policy is implemented, Dr Balgobin must be removed. Such action will signal to women that we can sit at the table as equals without fear of predators lurking and, where they do lurk, there is a system and process through which the matter can be determined.

This cry for action is not new. Recall “Die with my Dignity” by Singing Sandra. She was singing about sexual harassment in its worst form, yet, as a society, we did nothing. We took no action. Sometimes the worse thing that can happen to an issue is for a calypso to be sung on it; it sometimes seems that once we enjoy the ditty, we forget the issue.

The fact that this issue has arisen again tells me that it continues to simmer under the surface. From my analysis of the information in the public domain, three things concern me:

Photo: Angostura chairman and former senator Rolph Balgobin.
(Courtesy Winston Garth Murrell)

Firstly, a board member and chairman of the Audit Committee was appointed as the first investigator. Just the structuring of this committee is wrong because the Chairman presided over the appointment of his peer to investigate himself. That appears to be a contravention of the rules of natural justice.

Secondly, the Diana Mahabir Wyatt Committee was established to conduct a second investigation, and this work was thwarted by the Chairman’s alleged refusal to appear and his legal intervention in the matter so that investigation was not concluded.

Thirdly, a retired judge was appointed to investigate the matter. While his findings were inconclusive, there is an impression that the perpetrator was exonerated and this is not the case; the retired judge did not act on behalf of the courts.

Meanwhile, the results of the victim’s polygraph test are being widely circulated but there is no evidence that the perpetrator was polygraphed. Once more, this appears to raise questions about the rules of natural justice.

Sexual harassment is a critical issue in Trinidad and Tobago. This matter has brought it to the forefront and requires closure so that healing can occur and women can feel safe in the workplace.

Photo: An image of sexual objectification.
(Copyright Dmytro Honcharov)

The removal of Dr Balgobin by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet who appointed him is certainly not a solution to any problem but no problem is likely to be solved until that happens.

Until and unless it does, we women shall all have a little difficulty believing that we women are seriously valued as equal contributors.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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78 comments

  1. What manner of Beast is this Character who sat as an Independent Senator ?

    • (Our jokes keep us dead and inured to the true destruction, assault and violation such acts are; making such casual keeps a glib response, if any at all.

      Its why most have no problem with the jokes the pm made on a national TV interview — our standards, perceptions and protocols.

      And beyond that casting something that is a form of violence as something of live is amazing if one were to accurately process it. It is how and why we have a culture of home violence and toxicity and call it love: from how we abuse children, to battered women, embattled men, and overall incivility, how we talk shout at each other…

      We call abuse good raising)

  2. Lasana what are your thoughts on this pre-action protocol letter to K Waithe? I’m not in TT, so not sure if or where is the support for the whistleblower. Yet check out TIMEs person of the year. Trinidad not serious yes.

    • Neither Balgobin or Angostura want to go to court to debate whether or not he is a sexual predator and what his reputation is worth.
      I’d call their bluff.

    • Lasana, again, that’s a hell of an assumption…

      I say call it too…but I would not be surprised if what comes out is not what is expected.

    • and that is hardly a far fetched assumption on my part. You would advise Rolph to go to court as his attorney?

    • my whole thing is this practice of treating allegations as fact…

      but will watch a video of a man smoking weed, admitting is weed he smoking, but always refer to THAT as alleged.

      and what blows my mind, is that the practice of treating such allegations as fact persists when we have recent evidence of alleged victims being caught or admitting to have lied when they made the allegation.

      My take remains – let it go to court and let all the evidence be aired. Otherwise we don’t know shit.

      Did you know the victim in this case has refused to participate in ANY of the investigations? If that happened in a court, the charges would be dismissed and the defendant freed as innocent…! but not in the “court” of public opinion and lacharay…

    • Kwesi, point to where I said anything was fact? And why do you think this case would hinge on the young lady who was recently fired?
      Fixin T&T did not specify an individual in the post that Balgobin is hot and sweaty about.

    • you didn’t Lasana…but many commentators are. Which is where I think Kirk may have overstepped in his use of words.

      I (re) raise the issue on the young lady recently fired because that’s what commentators on this thread are doing…then casting aspersions wildly as to why she was fired…

      My thing, we all have to be careful. you can still get slapped with a slander suit from loose comments on FB…

    • I agree with you there on loose comments Kwesi. And Kirk might have overstepped too. Mistakes happen. But thing is it can’t be libellous if it is true. And if Kirk gets ANY woman to testify to misbehaviour from Balgobin, then his decision to take him to court would backfire spectacularly.
      I’m sure Balgobin and his attorney understand the risks involved in that strategy. So I’d be very surprised if he tried to take that case all the way.

    • but lasana the defamation wasnt about Balgobin character it was about whether or not he harassed the subject…..

    • Kyon, it wasn’t. It was that the hashtags would be interpreted as an accusation on his character. It was not specific to any woman.

  3. @Wendell Williams – some valid points mentioned. Indeed sexual harassment is a critical issue (as the letter states) therefore we must also be careful to have all the facts of the matter and not convict someone without evidence – and Lok Jack should have done more in terms of giving evidence to any future employer of someone they released on account of such claims – or did the govt not seek any reference from prior employers of Balgobin? It’s unfortunate for the man that he has been previously dismissed so looks very guilty now. It’s also unfortunate for the woman – the burden of proof lies with her especially considering the timing of the accusation as far as I have been hearing. No one knows the truth but the parties involved and I don’t envy anyone on either side of this.

    • I’ve seen it but my contention is we cannot be one sided and castigate people without having full facts..sexual harassment is a serious allegation and it can have a devastating impact on ones character but that should be reconciled with some women who have a hidden agenda or those that use their gender gain public sympathy… quoting Singing Sandra’s song shows that you’ve already pronounced on the issue without giving credence to internal investigation more the proposal put forward by the victim… I find the proposal requesting the company not to pursue civil or Industrial action against her highly questionable

  4. Its Has turn out to be confusing, as settlement was requested , and thereafter a firing resulted.

  5. Everyone knows that the easiest way for a woman to “put up ” a man is to cry sexual harassment And that some men just plain stink. The problem is to sort out the mess when human relations reach to the point where character assassination is fair play in the rat race. Scoo, who’s speaking the truth in this dirty mess

  6. Firing her creates the perception of injustice

  7. Why was 8 million demanded by the lady for her resignation in addition to the company not taking any action against her in the Civil or Industrial Court??? Ask yourself that, if you don’t have the facts then desist from the one sided commentary… are we living in a society today that once a woman accuses a man of sexual harassment the we find him guilty without any investigation and then we throw him under the bus and Fires him immediately???

    • But the little married kristian boy and the wine down with jack on Utube does???

    • Glenn Burkett who in charge now. Of she so bad ent wat allyuh put dey supposed to do better. But u see Daz how intelligent his supporters are. Every time he do shit u look for something the last admin do to justify he dotishness. Dat eh go make he more competent. Nor will it make his supporters any more objective that when he so stupidness to let him know. Instead defend it by pointing to mistakes made in the last admin. He in charge ent fone Oman say so well lead like a blasted leader. He driving the bus now if he make accident he go blame the last driver. Boi is allyuh wat encouraging this man to destroy this country. But telling u dat is like talking to ah wall

  8. So you don’t agree with the findings of the learned retired judge and now you want to have him retried. How ridiculous and unfair to the accused. Get on with your life.

    • Let’s suppose a member of your family reportedly commits a sexual offence against another person, who thereafter spills the beans on your family member. It’s now in the public domain, and you are hiding in shame because, after all, it’s your family bringing a ‘bad name’ to you and yours. Not to mention you could be liable financially for pots and pots of money if said offence is proved.

      So, you find a retired judge, pay him a lot of bucks to ‘investigate’ your family member who is – not surprisingly – found not guilty of the offence so accused.

      The problem isn’t that the judge is wrong, that your family member is really guilty. No, the problem is that you have an ethical conflict. You have bought and paid for ‘justice’ which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It may or may not be true that your family member is not guilty as the report says, but the perception is that you have paid for a ‘not guilty’ outcome of the ‘investigation’ which, to be clear, didn’t even interview the victim of the alleged offence. In other words, it is in your interest, financially and otherwise, to have a not guilty outcome. That much is crystal clear to onlookers.

      The problem I see in most of the asinine comments here is that the majority of people do not understand the importance of an INDEPENDENT investigation, which raises and addresses ALL the issues. It is the reason why the judicial system has an independent DPP or as in England, an independent Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Let’s not conflate that with issues of when those bodies get it wrong – that remains another matter altogether, just to be clear.

  9. I reiterate goal posts in T&T shifts conveniently. Secondly it was a case of ANGOSTURA investigating itself. Thirdly, why was the lady fired and on what grounds? What it told other women, who have been harassed to shut up. sit quietly and take the harassment , because it is Mr ‘so and so”. Fourthly, was Balgobin investigated before he was appointed at Angostura, since his pass actions at Lok jack should have been told to the new employee, or was it kept secret, until this fiasco. Can’t teach an old dog from sucking egg” Men in power use sexually harrassment to laud over women. Is it the Executive’s role to get involve in this , or the Board who appointed him, but then we all know POLTRICKS is in everything.

    • the grounds for her firing were laid out for those who want to see. She was fired for malfeasance in her role…apparently as the Group CFO who did nothing while millions were allegedly siphoned to off-the-books subsidiaries that did not report to the Board?

      That’s something to be fired for…even if you were the victim of sexual harassment. Being a victim does not absolve complicity in theft at worst or incompetence at best

      • Don’t you find it a tad strange that after the FCO brought the siphoning of funds to subsidiaries that seemingly don’t exist, she was fired for financial impropriety, only AFTER the sexual harassment charges were brought?

        Seems to me the Chairman interfered with the messenger, then shot her.

  10. Ms. Demming is that what you call natural justice? You have no evidence but yet you condemn a man on the basis of one person’s alleged allegation. Where is the justice, the man was cleared but you want him fired. Ppl who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Check out when you were employed by WITCO hmm mm!

  11. I read of this situation last week. Immediately pulled any and every Angostura product from my purchase list until I am satisfied they have righted this wrong. SIMPLE.

  12. TT’s not serious. Where are the protests, the marches, the editorials by leading feminists & women’s orgs, trade unions, etc? So many women in the workplace (formal & informal) with little protection, recourse and or social support to force change and impact policy. The investigative process followed at Angostura (if accurately captured in above article) seems fundamentally flawed. As we learned from the Uber experience, corporations care about minimizing risk which leads to greater revenue and profits. HR protects against risk not the employee. That used to be the unions job.
    The whistle blower had to go. Change comes, as we have seen, when matters r taken into women’s own hands and a post goes viral. Then it can’t be ignored.

  13. My issue here is with the fairness of the statement about the retired judge. Is it accurate?

  14. What the PM have to do with this? Anyone who feel impugned by tge treatment of the lady free to boycott angostura. Discrimination going on everyday all over the world.

  15. What is this ? Is messiah status now.

  16. Buh wait. What happened with Watson duke and PSA or sitting in the THA? Read behind the scenes. This thing don’t smell right

  17. Kwesi Prescod, for starters, Balgobin was sacked at Lok Jack after a slew of sexual harassment claims including accusations of him victimizing students for not giving into his unwanted advances.
    You think he would have been able to keep a board position after that in USA or England?
    (I’m just naming two countries that dealt with High profile sexual harassment cases recently)

  18. Have you seen the story that Rhoda has heen putting together? there seems more to this than initially thought.

  19. He is the Prime Minister. Where are the voices of corporate t & t?