Dear editor: Is T&T Transparency Institute really a worthy NGO?

“[…] We are not serious/Very few conscious/So I cannot agree with mih own chorus!…”

from the first verse of Dis Place nice by Brother Valentino.

Iconic calypsonian Brother Valentino.

“[…] Your silence will not protect you…”

Audre Lorde, on the false beliefs and toxic consequences earned from calculated or cowardly silences.

“Last call to all corporates. Support this worthy NGO if you can,” was the rallying note from an erstwhile colleague who served on the Board of the T&T Transparency Institute (TTTI).

This was an appeal to boost ticket sales for the TTTI’s fundraising dinner carded for 22 May 2024, but it ultimately provoked me into making these pointed observations. So here goes.

TTTI fundraiser.
(via TTTI)

For some years now, it has become increasingly clear that TTTI had drifted from its purpose with less and less work, of lower and lower quality, emerging from that NGO of which I am an ordinary member.

One can scarcely believe that this was once a vibrant, outspoken and well-informed NGO with dedicated leaders such as Victor Hart, Richard Joseph, Deryck Murray and Annette des Iles—not that we can ever forget the recently departed Reginald Dumas and Boyd Reid.

I am making serious alIegations, so let me show the extent to which the TTTI has strayed from its purpose.

The threat of transparency…
(via Toonpool)

Apart from its bewildering silence and lack of support during the recent campaign to have the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act proclaimed, one can scarcely recall the last time any TTTI representative was on TV, radio or in the printed press.

TTTI’s webpage offers a June 2021 item as the latest in its Press & Media Releases tab (almost three years ago), with its latest news item being the January 2024 Launch of the Corruption Perceptions Index, to which I will return.

TTTI’s IG account has two posts with 10 followers to date. TTTI’s FB page is moribund with not one single local issue highlighted in the whole of 2023.

Image: A satirical take on political transparency.

On Twitter, TTTI is also moribund (only 146 followers), with its most recent post being an anodyne International Women’s Day flyer dated 8th March 2023.

The most recent local issue or event is its Town Hall meeting on 27th October 2020 against gender-based violence in T&T. Clearly, both of those are important issues, but what is the nexus with TTTI’s mission?

The newly-elected TTTI Chair, Ms Donna Jack-Hill, presented the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index on 30th January 2024 and some of her comments on the need for an independent and robust judiciary were widely misunderstood to be pointed at T&T’s judicial officers.

Chief justice Ivor Archie (front, centre) speaks at the opening of the law term.
(via Newsday)

A strong backlash emerged with press releases from the Law Association and the Judiciary, together with several newspaper articles/editorials.

As unfortunate as it was, the misreporting of those TTTI statements and the public backlash presented a good opportunity to clear the air, and for the new chair to reset standards.

It is my view that this required a timely and solid response from TTTI, since the press reports on the 2023 CPI were deeply critical of TTTI’s credibility.

Anything to report?

I am not aware that any public comment or clarification was made, so perhaps this Gala Dinner will be yet another chance to correct the record and find a new voice—albeit too long in coming. We will see.

In 100 years’ time, historians will struggle to understand how in a land like ours, an organisation like ours (yes, I am a true member of TTTI) could have said so little at a time like this.

Careerists who are concerned to bolster their CV and careful to avoid offending anyone with more power or money than themselves are a clear and present danger to our Republic—especially when they maintain an intentional silence in the face of epic wrongdoing.

Image: The lighter side of corporate responsibility.

Sad to say, but TTTI’s apparent reluctance to clarify or raise its voice is redolent of the evasions and strategic silences of our ruling class. Silence is the enemy of progress.

I welcome a response to these issues from TTTI.

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