Noble: Fixing our ‘superfluous’ mess; how the Judiciary, President, and Prime Minister stood up

EPL Infrafred Sauna

Within the last two years, the world has had two pivotal moments: the arrival of Covid-19 and the development of the vaccine. The virus started small but has taken lives and wrecked economies, changing the way we live forever. 

Even though ‘Operation Warp Speed’ delivered vaccines way ahead of schedule in December 2020, many met this news with great scepticism and still do up to today. 

Image: A satirical take on anti-vaxxers…

Here, we have been living with unrelenting sadness. We have been like deer in the headlights as we grappled with the effects of the virus. A fate made worse by the discordant discourse that fills our airwaves and papers. 

Nothing seemed to be going right. Wet paper was cutting. Were we becoming more ungovernable? 

Then we had a pivotal moment with the Judiciary’s announcement that the enabling Legal Notice that dealt with our police commissioner’s acting appointment was flawed. The trouble is that we, the people of the half-empty glass,  appear to treat that declaration as though it was the virus when it ought to have been greeted as the vaccine. 

Our Judiciary held the line. We should rejoice!

The courageous Justice Nadia Kangaloo drew the line on incompetence and self-obsession, which had enveloped us like a fog, creating distrust. She faced down the insidious initial challenge from Anand Ramlogan that sought to cast aspersions on her impartiality. 

Photo: Justice Nadia Kangaloo.

This piece of hollow hypocrisy was laid bare. It appeared to be engineered to capture the Sunday headlines; since he behaved like the proverbial shamefaced child on Monday and withdrew the challenge. But this action provided grist for the mill of the blinded. 

Unfazed, Kangaloo J boldly and expeditiously schooled all. The filings revealed that President Paula-Mae Weekes had, on 13 August, written to the Police Service Commission, noting the deficiency of the Legal Notice and her inability to send their list to the Parliament under that notice. 

The morphing story line about the President’s behaviour is curious at best. How did President Weekes get possession of the letter from the Police Service Commission Chair?

A highly paid lawyer assured us that Bliss Seepersad had met someone and forgot to or did not deliver it. When and where did the ‘interface’ or ‘interference ’ happen? How did the contact between the two individuals prevent and disturb the other from doing their duty? 

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) presents a letter of appointment to Police Service Commissioner chair Bliss Seepersad.
(Copyright Office of the President)

It depends on whose story you buy, unless you wish to go to court for an interpretation. Why has nobody gone there?

Unable to chew gum and walk, many should not have freely dispensed advice and threats. It was malice at work, throwing mud and hoping for some to stick. It is the height of audacity to call on President Weekes to resign when one has exhibited abysmal judgement in selecting ministers (and sundry other appointees), requiring annual ‘realignments’! 

This is not a ‘whataboutism’ excuse; this points to the innate inability to judge character. ‘Superfluous’ can be applied to many public officeholders today—seemingly unable to do their core job, they seek to poke their noses into other corners.

Spin bowlers will spin the Kangaloo sage judgment but will not be able to wipe away the shame. Long before Anand came Dave Persad, the outcast from both political parties. More clear-sighted than either Faris Al-Rawi or Roger Kawalsingh, he identified the Notice as a train wreck waiting to happen. 

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
(via TTPS)

How did all the esteemed lawyers in Parliament not see this? Simple. We have schoolchildren in our Parliament. They fight imaginary wars for the sake of theatre and ignore the reality of distressed citizens. Like children, they lie by telling the truth.

When asked whether they completed their homework, the reply was that they had done the maths. Without context, this true statement does not answer the question. It is misleading.

The Opposition Leader and the Chief Whip misled; they did not do their Budget homework but then attempted to deflect attention by pointing to the President’s imagined conduct. They did not pity a struggling nation, pincered by job losses and rising costs of living. Instead, they jumped on the cause of vile accusations, playing to the gallery. 

President Anthony Carmona, in 2013, warned:

“The impulse to engage in theatrics may well prove irresistible when one is in sight of television cameras. However, indulging in forms of communication that denigrate and degrade not only compromises the substance of a debate but, more importantly, it signals to the larger public, and especially to our impressionable children, that crass behaviour and disrespect are acceptable modes of conduct and communication. 

Photo: Senator David Nakhid, who made an unsuccessful bid to become Tunapuna MP.
(via UNC)

“Wherever we find ourselves, our conduct should reflect the gravity of the responsibility entrusted to us.” 

No, David Nahkid was not in Parliament then, but that advice fits the narcissists of today. 

The Opposition Leader and Mr Roodal Moonilal forgot the lesson that then Prime Minister Patrick Manning taught them after the 2006 budget debate collapsed. He advised:

“[…] The government proposes its position; then honourable members opposite give us their alternative, you examine what the government has to say.

“They tear it apart if they feel that it is not worthy of further consideration or if they are able to identify flaws in what the government has had to say, and then they make alternative proposals so that we could get some kind of idea of what they would have done in similar circumstances and so that the national community, having alternatives available to them, can now decide, well, I prefer this rather than that, and therefore I would support this group rather than that group. That is how the debate goes…”

Photo: Late Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning (centre) waves during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port-of-Spain on 27 November 2009.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Luis Acosta)

Indeed, President Carmona also said: “… while the prepared speeches of MPs might score political points, they do not enable the listening public to scrutinise and to develop a critical understanding of national issues and how various pieces of legislation might affect them, immediately and in the longer term.” 

Who listened?  Have the parliamentarians taught us to develop a critical understanding of national issues? Or are the party leaders leading us like pied pipers to our death?

After five days of committee meetings, they slink away. They abstained! Are they content to just let the pay registers keep ticking? Steups! 

We, the citizens, remain disadvantaged and vulnerable to being pulverised by price increases and a lack of supply of essential foods. The Barrackpore constituents are still distressed. More fires will burn all over this country because they did not do their job. An empty stomach is not a good political adviser. 

They did not hold the Government accountable, and the nation lost the opportunity to think about different scenarios.

Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Mr Al-Rawi is the ignoble descendant of Lionel Seukeran, who recounted, in his autobiography (Mr Speaker, Sir, 2006 p 258), examining every detail in The Representation of the People Bill (1961). 

Then, Clause 60 was discussed at 3.50 am! Can we get back ‘Seukie’ and Simbhoonath Capildeo? They may help us identify those they called ‘inept ballast’! 

After Section 34, all our parliamentarians still mindlessly refuse to do the work. Thank God we now have President Weekes, who did not budge in our moment of controversy, unlike another personage. She knows her powers despite the urgings of learned men for her to talk out of turn. 

As a nation, we enjoy being conned. The spirit of Valmond ‘Fatman’ Jones, the ‘smart man’ impresario, lives on in our land. We still do not mind being outsmarted, we keep laughing—and the place becomes more and more violent. 

The sweet-talking man with many uniforms, Gary Griffith, seduced two successive prime ministers. Both ejected military men with superior credentials, retired Brigadier John Sandy and retired Major General Edmond Dillon, for him. 

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left, foreground) and his wife Nicole Dyer-Griffith during the 2018 Independence Day parade in Port-of-Spain.
(via Ministry of National Security)

Hilariously, the first prime minister lauded his military credentials as proof of his ability. I guess Brigadier Sandy could not hold a candle to him. And so the rot takes root.

We turned a blind eye to human rights violations, believing that he would solve crimes. It never worked. He subverted our policing. Now we patiently wait for the resolution of the Christian Chandler case. 

Crime continues as it has done for more than a decade—short respites punctuating long, murderous binges. At least, Dr Keith Rowley had the cojones to correct his error. 

What would have happened had Dr Rowley met Valmond Jones? Would we still be falling for sweet-talkers?

Our civil service buckled under the weight of incompetent officials. The 2014 Police Service Commission report clearly stated the applicable constitutional 2006 processes. Why the bungle? 

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (far right) attends a function with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and then Minister of National Security Stuart Young.
(Copyright TTPS)

Long story short. We choose to minimise the importance of institutional knowledge and competence, as exemplified by the character and legacy of Barsotti, Alleyne and the Rampersads. 

Highly-placed political incompetents can frighten insecure civil servants into acting in improper ways. Never forget the civil service reshuffle on the eve of the 2013-14 budget! 

We do not value our Civil Service. Yet unless we restore the capacity to collect data and analyse it, our most devoted public servants will continue to struggle to keep us out of trouble. 

Our civil service must be tenured and chosen on merit, not political patronage. Professional competence was the bulwark protecting our institutions. While others failed, thank God we had true patriots who knew their roles and performed them.

We need to teach civics in schools again. It may be our only hope! 

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) poses for a nostalgic photo with students of her alma mater, Bishop Anstey High School (PoS), at her inauguration ceremony on 19 March 2018.
(Courtesy Office of the President)

Let us celebrate this small win! Others may refuse to take this vaccine, but without it, our democracy will die. 

Will their scepticism kill us all, dooming us to the backwaters of the world? 

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About Noble Philip

Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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  1. What a refreshing read! So many statements I wanted to highlight. Thank you, Noble Phillip, for a tad moment. I wondered if my critical thinking skills were null and void.
    Earl Best on point.

  2. “Within the last two years, the world has had two pivotal moments: the arrival of Covid-19 and the development of the vaccine.”

    Within the last two years, Trinidad and Tobago has had a third pivotal moment, the rejection of the UNC last year.

    Within the next two weeks, Wired868 should have its own pivotal moment, rejecting the columnists who have been so nakedly exposed herein.

    What foresight to name this man Noble!

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