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Dear Editor: That’s rubbish! How emotion rules and facts get short shrift in T&T

“A Chief Justice… ‘with a pattern of breaking rules.’ Like a Rott on a roti, a lot of people, I expect, will jump on that phrase. Why? Well, about half will merely see another example of a successful black man being persecuted. Not all 50% but a substantial proportion of that remainder is likely to get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT, etc.

“Fallacious arguments are common so we need to be very clear on what really is a fallacious argument, a fallacy. It is NOT an error of fact; instead, it is ‘an error in reasoning’ or, more simply, wrong thinking.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which deals with the Trinis penchant for using emotion to build up and break down arguments, was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England.

Photo: Wait… Wha?!
(Copyright Shuttershock)

I am regularly disappointed to see critical thinking/logic escape citizens when issues are raised in the public domain. In plain language, people tend to argue from emotive viewpoints, whether that emotion comes from tribal solidarity or from ‘feelings.’

Many persons have no clue what lies in the backdrop of issues; worse, they do not understand the legal or political implications issues may have.

Sometimes, issues go far beyond what citizens think they “know.” One recent example, ongoing for many months, is the sad saga of a Chief Justice (CJ) with a pattern of breaking rules.

“…with a pattern of breaking rules.” Like a Rott on a roti, a lot of people, I expect, will jump on that phrase. Why? Well, about half will merely see another example of a successful black man being persecuted. Not all 50% but a substantial proportion of that remainder is likely to get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT, etc.

In both instances, those who react like that will not look at the indisputable fact that the CJ did break rules in several different matters. (My focus here is not the CJ per se so I shall not rehash the relevant facts which are already in the public domain). Instead, they will advance fallacious arguments.

The core issue is ONLY whether the CJ broke any rules. Did he?

No? We need evidence. Yes? We need evidence. Don’t know? We need evidence.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
(Copyright Office of The President)

His behaviour in office is not, as it should be, above suspicion and, therefore, one way or the other, an investigation is necessary.

Fallacious arguments are common so we need to be very clear on what is a fallacious argument. What really is a fallacy? It is NOT an error of fact; instead, it is ‘an error in reasoning’ or, more simply, wrong thinking. Fallacies are perhaps the ones most commonly in use but there are some 300 types of bad arguments, including, for example, cherry-picking, reductio ad absurdum and shoehorning.

Here is another example of bad thinking. An employer uses an improper or unfair process to ‘discipline’ an employee. The employer arrives at a decision and insists the decision is fair. Employee points out that the disciplinary process does not meet the rules of natural justice so is procedurally incorrect. Employer insists that it is not a legal matter, it’s “our internal policy.”

This is a classic example of the kind of dispute which often ends up in court—and costs both sides time and money and erodes goodwill. It must be obvious that no internal policy can ignore legal rules. We all must obey the law and any employer attempting to discipline without reference to what the law is will ultimately lose. You simply cannot ignore the law in favour of some policy which breaches the rules. Policies have to be guided by the law.

So people who want to make a meaningful contribution to their societies should know for certain how to spot a bad argument.

And how to refute it.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (centre) is flanked by Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar (left) and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a law student and a student of human nature and culture, who prefers cool logic to emotional ranting. A Trinidadian living in England, he observes the world through two lenses—and strives to share both views in his writing.

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9 comments

  1. Or like a roti spewing cold “channa of lies” to obtain political mileage!

  2. i think the real issue is the structure and the efficiency of the whole judiciary

  3. While i think some of these charges against the CJ are spurious….

    I do no think that there is any mechanism in the law to investigate the Chief Justice….and if there is….can someone enlighten me!?

    Thanks!

    • OK, so we leave it as it is and move on…..right ! If the People do not and do not have any say or opinion is it that we are too stupid and/or uneducated that WE must remain as minions and accordingly behave in accordance with the “instruction” from these whom we are expected to follow without question ? How in hell can we expect that these people, Judges, Politicians, Commissioners, etc when they continue to demonstrate and act on a “morality of their own” that we must understand and act on their “directives” and not follow their own examples and patterns of behavior ? You people are quite prepared to criticise PoTT but not CJ, don’t count people like me who you think could be as ignorant as you are to offer my support.

    • Sadly, you miss the point. The writer clearly points out the danger of arguing from emotional perspectives, which you are obviously doing. Better to step back, and do an analysis of the entire situation from a logical point of view and then comment.

      But be careful of those 300 fallacious arguments! They are more common than you would believe.

  4. So these Judges work only about 9 months for the year, get paid high salaries, pension benefits, security and even annual leave of 6 weeks and telling me that I am being paid too much when you fail to give judgments, procrastinate, complain, blame others…….well people of this Country please wake up or get f%&$#@ by these elites and 1 Percenter’s.

  5. Navigating through the legal minefield in Trinidad and Tobago is not and never has been an easy challenge. Too many legal minds are rooted in tribalism and cannot get past that, despite all the titles and accolades they adorn themselves with. Too many of the legal decisions emanating from the highest courts of this land have been over turned in another jurisdiction, namely the Privy Council. Many other decisions have been unable to reach there simply because of the costs involved. Many legal decisions are based on the “big fish syndrome” where the title QC and SC are used to intimidate lesser mortals. And most lawyers don’t know the law, beginning with the legal profession, as can be seen in the body called the LATT. This explains, in part, why the justice system in this land is a dysfunctional as it is.

  6. Martin Daly has disappointed me on this matter, he has been quick to encourage one branch of the state to force it’s will based on his perceived feeling “public outcry”. Dr. Rowley is loudmouthed fool sometimes but he smart enough to learn from lessons of the past.I am saddened that the young must witness the folly of their leaders ” passion” for bad ideas!