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Daly Bread: Delusions, deceivers and duds; how ‘Marlene mess’ exposes long-standing state deficiencies

Events that rock us into further consternation about the state of our country and whether ‘we gone through’ are occurring with increasing frequency. Sadly, the responses of our rulers are superficial.

The event that dominated the news cycle last week was the arrest of Marlene McDonald on significant fraud charges and misbehaviour in public office. At the time of her arrest, she was a long-serving cabinet minister and deputy political leader of the PNM, the party currently in government.

Photo: Marlene McDonald arriving at her 2017 swearing-in ceremony at the Office of the President. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Her subsequent dismissal as a minister was her third dismissal within the four years that this government has been in office. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley faced testing questions as to why he had reinstated her after her two previous dismissals.

One excuse was that the Integrity Commission had investigated her and cleared her. This excuse reopened a debate on the value of the Integrity Commission, which has had a dysfunctional history including, as the high court found, treating Dr Rowley himself without observing the legal standards of fairness.

For what it is worth, I will restate my position on the Integrity Commission. The process of filing income and asset declarations is more trouble than it is worth. Filing drawer integrity will not protect us from corruption. The Integrity Commission’s jurisdiction should be confined to receiving complaints about breaches of the code of conduct contained in the Act. Matters believed to be criminal should be referred directly to the police.

Events surrounding Marlene’s arrest became known as ‘the Marlene mess’. It was revealed that the senator named to replace her in the cabinet had been charged for DUI in Florida, so he withdrew from the senate. Meanwhile, she was too ill to attend court and initially was on remand under police guard in a private nursing home because ‘she could not access bail’, even though granted.

Photo: Garvin Simonette
(via Trinidad Guardian)

We were told that the bail process is a lengthy one because tracing the status of any property offered as security for the bail process is ‘antiquated’ and ‘takes long’. If it is difficult for a person to access bail when she belongs to a powerful political network, comprising all those prominent persons who visited her while detained and lauded her past service, what about the ordinary citizen?

Of course, if the registration of property deeds was fully modernised, tracing the status of the property and any encumbrances on it would be easier.

So some of the ‘revelations’ of this Marlene mess are that we lack sufficient due diligence in carrying out appointments to high positions in public life, the Integrity Commission has performed unreliably and the bail process is antiquated. But these issues are not revelations at all. Will these already well-known deficiencies be tackled and reformed?

These issues come into focus only when they hurt a high-profile person or are features of a mishap. Political energies will then be sapped by the blame game, and by exchanges as to which party has more thieves, deceivers and duds than the other. Sadly, lots of those, as well as some bandit sympathisers, have been inflicted on us at great cost.

Meanwhile, real people are getting hurt by violent crime, causing all citizens to be fearful. It’s been a very long time now that our governments have lost control of many areas to bandits—a major step towards failing as a state when the constitutional government eventually loses all control.

Photo: Forensic scientists collect data at a crime scene.

I began pointing out this loss of control in 2003 after Manning had blessed ‘community leaders’ by interacting with them. Those only now fearing the dangerous outcome were in denial and deluded themselves for 15 plus years.

During the first year of the tenure of super G (as the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is known), the murderous results of blatant drug and human trafficking and the make-work programmes, along with other brazen murders, have continued unchecked.

I thank Commissioner Griffith, however, for forcing this government to confess that some state-funded make-work programmes have turned into criminal driven operations. For several decades, the parties that have been in government have recklessly permitted this.

Trite statements that ‘no one is above the law’ is another delusion.

About Martin 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 and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. I agree with Mr Daly 100%. It’s time to reopen the Landate issue