“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:
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:
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.
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.