Noble: Lack of integrity scares me—does Mr Harford think crooks wouldn’t jook him?

“Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Image: A lighter side of the moral compass.

As a young child, I used to hear scary stories. La Diablesse, Socouyant and Douen were staples.

Telling scary stories is a fun pastime since there is no real danger. It used to be a way to frighten children and send them to bed. You would hope that with the bedsheet pulled firmly over your head, no jumbie would terrorise you.


It appears that a similar thing is happening to Trinidad and Tobago, the land that we love. Silence reigns. Our heads spin. We are drunk with blows. We keep hoping we will be spared.

The Sunday Express 21 April edition carried two shocking stories that did not evoke a word of commentary. The rich and powerful locals are facilitating the seamy underworld.

The scourge of corruption…

Mark Bassant told us about a US$2.2 million fee to secure a pardon for a criminal. Newspaper archives reveal that the two pardoned criminals were from Antigua.

The newspaper drily noted that six persons were released as part of the promised Presidential pardon planned and announced for Independence 2012. The then government had announced that it would pardon 50 criminals.

In September 2012, then Justice Minister Herbert Volney explained the delayed selection process in a telephone interview with the Guardian newspaper: “It had to be meticulous and well thought-out.”

Late former Justice Minister Herbert Volney.

He assured that the Mercy Committee was still compiling the list of names to be submitted to President George Maxwell Richards.

But Santa Claus was at work, checking the list twice! In November 2012, with Mr Volney gone, Ms Christlyn Moore told the Guardian newspaper she was “making sure everything is in order”.

We do not know whether the announced fifty pardons were ever done. But we know that President Max Richards had left office by then.

Free to go…

This alleged process smacks of the long-time sale of indulgences, a Middle Ages means of exploitation. Indulgences were sold as a monetary means of purging you from sins.

Just like the case of the pardons granted to the Muslimeen in 1990, we again have pardons that are problematic for us who live here. This method of issuing pardons leaves the door open for self-dealing by some enterprising body to destroy the rule of law for a few dollars more.

Could Mr Anand Ramlogan, our erstwhile defender of people aggrieved, find a way under the Freedom of Information Act or some other means to discover what and why this happened?

A satirical take on courtroom corruption.
(Copyright Baloo)

If he cannot find out, maybe he could pursue the changing of this ‘act of grace’ via the National Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform or other means.

Indeed, this is an opportunity to act like Martin Luther. This action of pardoning a non-national criminal for money paid to nameless attorneys goes against the intent of the Constitution.

Was this act of pardon for the public welfare or a private transaction for those with power?

Deal!

Volney said in his Guardian interview: “We do not have to inform anyone because these prisoners have been carefully selected, and we do not think they pose a threat to society. We have been very careful and sensitive to the feelings of victims and prisoners, who are also entitled to some level of privacy…”

Wow! It makes me wonder who was on the Advisory Committee! Who is the ‘we’?

“Public confidence in the fair and honourable administration of justice upon which ultimately depends the rule of law is the transcending value at stake.”

Late former Minister of Justice and High Court judge Herbert Volney.

We must bring more transparency and checks and balances to this pardon process. Transparency can prevent arbitrariness, discrimination, and political favouritism by allowing media and public scrutiny and allowing applicants to challenge deficiencies. We have a prisoner who had to apply five times!

We also had the spectacle of a former attorney-general writing to the Police Commissioner about the records of a man named Michael St John. His complaint? His client knew from undisclosed sources that the police records held damaging information about him.

He further disclosed that his client got several clean records of good character from the police! How did Mr St John or his investigator get into police records to take screenshots? On what grounds were the ‘good character’ records issued?

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher.
Photo: TTPS

The Express earlier reported that his client had two attempts on his life (the first was in 2003). It also reported that he had been arrested in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on a charge of exporting cocaine into that country.

In 2005, he was held at the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport, charged with conspiracy to conceal money and conspiracy to transfer money.

Now, we should treat some newspaper reports with caution, but why did Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj not ask the Express about their account? Why did Mr Michael Quamina SC not continue to represent the client? Inquiring minds want to know.

The lighter side of the law.
Cartoon: Mark Anderson

By Thursday this week, Mr Ronald Harford unwittingly gave an insight into our national silence, where the thinking seems to be that: crime is not a problem once I am not subjected to violence.

A former career banker, Mr Harford was involved in the 1995 titanic battle between Republic Bank and Mr Andre Monteil, the T&TEC pension fund committee and CLICO.

The Republic board was fighting what it considered to be “total disregard for agreements, Stock Exchange regulations, Insurance regulations and legal fiduciary obligations and generally dishonourable conduct”.

Former Republic Bank chairman Ronald Harford.

Did Mr Harford embrace chairman Frank Barsotti’s position or not? His recent statement leaves room for speculation.

Why does he now advocate that young business leaders choose ‘crooks’ to run our country? He used rickety logic—crooks do not remain crooks—and misinterpreted Martin Daly’s commentary.

The legendary American journalist Jimmy Breslin said: “The number one rule of thieves is that there is nothing too small to steal.”

Sigh…

This week, the New York Times provided an example in a story headlined “In Silicon Valley, You Can Be Worth Billions and It’s Not Enough”.

The man is worth $16 billion and improperly went for a deal worth $415, 726. Greed has no boundaries or time limits. Our nation knows that well.

Mr Daly’s opinion was: “The simple point is, whether the government is comprised of crooks or mooks, we, the people, end up getting the jooks.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright Newsday)

Is it that Mr Harford believes the crooks would not jook him? Or is he a classic Trini mook?

We all need to reflect on Mr Buffett’s advice. Otherwise, as Martin Daly warned, our country will head for a Haiti-like future.

This is terrifying stuff. More anon.

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