Daly Bread: Caring about Ballai and Pierre

I begin this week with a thank you to those in the airport who welcomed me home on the Saturday after Easter with the knowing look of having ‘made me out’. That includes the officers on duty commencing with the friendly immigration officer and I specially acknowledge the charming smile of the customs officer who beckoned us to her desk.

Outside the arrival hall, one person asked me if there would be ‘an article tomorrow’.

And a special round of applause to…

This welcome gave a lift to my gloom about a land full of families who have no clear path to the receipt of objective justice—a situation that I have regularly deplored, referring not only to matters before the courts, but to the many acts of discrimination and unequal treatment to which citizens are subjected based on callous indifference or downright profiling as one of those people.

Currently, among several others, Kiss Baking van driver Neil Ballai and plumber Nathan Pierre are such cases.

Ballai died at the end of March this year after his van was struck from behind on the Solomon-Hochoy Highway. Plumber Nathan Pierre is now paralysed after a stray bullet struck him in mid-December 2023 in the parking lot of Courts, Megastore, El Soccoro Branch.

The investigation into the Ballai road accident seems to have stalled. The legal process in the case of the Pierre incident has been engaged, but nevertheless Pierre is suffering from the usual bureaucratic go-slow treadmill.

On that treadmill of indifference, unless you have a contact, form prevails over substance.

Kiss Bakery delivery driver Neil Ballai was killed in a hit and run accident last month.

The Trinidad Express newspaper reported on the desperate conditions in which Pierre was living last Tuesday (9 April), and informed us as follows:

“Despite applying for the Disability Assistance Grant through the Ministry of Social Development since January, Pierre and Lawrence (his girlfriend) said their application has, as of yesterday not been processed. They got a call from the Ministry yesterday inviting them for an interview later this week; but they do not know how long the process will take.”

Much of bureaucratic time in all government agencies is spent in looking for moral hazard (“scampishness”) in ordinary citizens when, ironically, the biggest moral hazard lies in what it takes to get through with a government agency.

Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox (right) presents a Christmas hamper to San Juan resident Tricia Straker and her family on 25 December 2020.
(via Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

Cases like those of Neil Ballai and Nathan Pierre and many others that come to our attention through the media, underline vividly the absence of objective justice. When I write about these cases, I do it for the salt of our earth who keep this country running, with many of whom these columns bring me into dialogue.

When they are at the receiving end of culpable acts or omissions, many of them are left with no relief or remedy. The authorities turn a blind or indifferent eye and the privileged evade the legal process.

I frequently receive feedback that those hurting are consoled that somebody has noticed. A recent bittersweet meeting directly reminded me of the intense hurt out there and it has a link to Ballai in terms of no objective justice.

The lighter side of legal fees.

In September 2008, I wrote a column entitled Consoling Lily after a grieving mother spoke to me. She had lost her son in circumstances where she also felt no proper investigation had been done.

In February this year, 16 years later, at an office where I went to collect a package I was met with the greeting: “you don’t remember me, I am Lily. You wrote about me.”

We had a conversation, so typical of the outcome of the publication of an empathetic column, which often has a consoling effect.

A grieving mother…

It is not necessary to relate the gist of the subsequent conversation except to say that she was able to take me and Kavita into her confidence about the additional heart-breaking consequences of the original incident.

I concluded that column by reference to whether the proceeds of criminality were seeping into political and campaign finance. The challenge is to make our caring matter for citizens like Ballai and Pierre.

As some who claim leadership in so-called civil society now panic at our pitiful state, will they find the courage to help close the doors to the criminality and injustice so long condoned in several quarters?

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