Wednesday 9th March, 2005



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Prosecute - not persecute

By Prakash persad

[email protected]

Of late, one is having great difficulty in ascertaining, to use local parlance, “just who is the public.” Does everybody form part of the public and does everyone have equal status and rights?

Just as importantly, when is this public, you and I, ever consulted on issues that are ostensible projected as in our interests?

One surmises that in democratic systems, public offices were created to seek the interests and welfare of the entire population; to bring the lofty ideals of constitutions to the practicality of everyday living. Not to seek vested interests to the detriment of institutions, individuals and groupings.

In chapter 6 of our Constitution (clause 90 (2)) it is stated, “There shall be a Director of Public Prosecutions for Trinidad and Tobago whose office shall be a public office.”

Of late, one cannot but feel perturbed by the actions and directives emanating from this office. This sentiment is shared by not a few, many of whom are committed to the belief that country comes first.

The case of Prof Naraynsingh, including its sub/associated issues, is really troubling. No one should be above the law. On the other hand, the law should not seek, with evangelical zeal, to pursue a particular individual or individuals, unless they are a great menace to society.

It is common knowledge that there are such individuals and that they are not being pursued. What’s the fixation then with the professor?

Thousands (maybe tens of thousands) would attest to the fact that he has contributed very significantly to this country and others through social work. As a professional he is a vascular surgeon par-excellence, bringing credit to the UWI and the country.

How come the evangelical prosecution does not extend to the multitude of criminals with multiplicity of charges, who are terrorising and traumatising innocent citizenry? One is of the firm belief that the public is owed an explanation and one is kindly requested.

There are those who would rail against this request. They would bring up the issue about special treatment and about one law for this one and another for that one. But is it not only strange but also shamefully hypocritical that they are loudly silent on similar cases and others in which inaction is the order of the day?

A case in point is the still continuing kidnapping epidemic. When it is pointed out that while a few Toms and Dicks are victims, the majority are Harrylals, all sorts of pseudo-rational babble burst forth. They declare, “never mind the statistics, these poor Harrylals are really random victims of crime.”

Or they use the exception to prove the rule. The “logic” offered, which would have pleased the irrationalists to no end, goes something like this:

It has four legs, it has a tail, and it is braying, its hoofs are sounding like donkey hooves but it cannot be a donkey for it is dragging a chain. It must be a lagahoo.

There is a saying that perception is the reality. There is a hardening of the perception that one segment of the public is being singled out with the Harrylals being hit particularly hard.

How does one reconcile the incredible investigative zeal, spanning ten years, with the lack of success in apprehending the gang/s of kidnappers?

How does one interpret the single pointed determination to persecute… oh sorry a Freudian slip, to prosecute the professor even after the court dismissed the charge?

Compare that with pointed lack of action when kidnappers with extensive criminal records are walking free?

This column has previously warned about the dangers of such perceptions/beliefs in a plural society such as ours. Again a warning is being issued. Let’s stop the slide into chaos before it is too late.

This problem must be addressed in a meaningful way. Making public pronouncements that everything is seen through a lens of race and that is bad, is nothing but pathetic and cowardly attempts to hide the truth and from it.

Those who are of that view must also think that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were wrong to address the issue of race, that is, if they are consistent in their beliefs. But then hypocrites are rarely ever consistent.

No matter how intelligent we are or how hard we try, it is impossible to create laws and regulations for all and every situation. Thus it eventually comes down to the office holder; the quality of the person. The choice of holders of public office is thus a most critical one.

Holders of these offices themselves are not above the law and indeed the time has come to consider legislation to prevent citizens from paying, through state funds, for the actions of those public holders who do not act in the public interest by trying to foist their own agenda as that of the public.

In a time of a galloping crime rate, ineffective interdiction and abysmal rates of prosecution, one expects all energies to be directed to solving our pressing law-and-order problems.

The population expects the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute all criminals with equal fervour and attention.

That way no one would feel that they are being persecuted in their own country to which they have dedicated their lives, talents and resources.

Prakash Persad is Chairman of Swaha Inc

Best Village in we

A man looks at photographs of women in the armed forces pasted on a blackboard on the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain—one of several displays in observance of International Women’s Day yesterday.
Photo: Wendy-Ann Duncan

By Camille Moreno

Already aggravated by the playing of a song that encourages women to wine and jam for a ‘rough up’ by their men—clearly the DJ didn’t get the brief on the point of the observance.

My mother told me a story once about a teacher at a junior secondary school who told parents that it took students at least two hours to settle down after the start of classes, because they couldn’t shake from their heads the beat of the music that boomed in the maxi-taxis they travelled in.

I could relate. Not to the teacher but to the students. And the music doing the booming didn’t come from a maxi but from the Brian Lara Promenade, and it wasn’t Carnival Tuesday, either.

Confused, I wondered who could be blasting Onika Bostic’s All is Yours at 10 am, on a hot Tuesday morning in downtown Port-of-Spain, as I hustled to work.

As I drew nearer to RBTT’s Broadway entrance it dawned on me—it’s International Women’s Day.

I had observed the signs of its coming the day before. The old, washed-out white tents began to dot the promenade like the annoying blight on my ixora plants. The bent steel pipes to hold them up and the worn plyboard for the east/west corridor posses to prance on also littered the promenade, forcing me to abandon the shade of the trees for the scorching pavements along Independence Square.

I heard the drums even before they assembled and were played.

International Women’s Day, HIV/Aids awareness day, gender affairs day, self-empowerment day—it doesn’t matter what day the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs observes, the bram is always the same.

Bring out the Best Village in we, send out the call to the east/west corridor crews, turn up the calypso several thousand decibels louder than is appropriate for a work environment in the capital’s busy business and public administration district.

Already aggravated by the playing of a song that encourages women to wine and jam for a “rough up” by their men—clearly the DJ didn’t get the brief on the point of the observance—I braced for the full onslaught as I hit the corner.

So did the drivers, many clenching their steering wheels tight, muttering curses under their breaths as traffic crawled, while the promenade filled up with the carefully co-ordinated PNM troops from Laventille to Arima. I don’t recall seeing any buses from central or south Trinidad, or even Tobago. Thank God, I don’t think I could have handled the jamming.

The switch to Natasha Wilson’s Sweet T&T did not pacify me in the least. It was still too loud. Also irritating were the primary-school displays on how women have advanced in T&T and how the battle continues to overcome new obstacles like the increasing rate of HIV/Aids infection among the sex.

When are we ever going to get away from the billboards and cardboard posters to reflect any aspect of our cultural and social development?

When are we going to get away from the patronising Afro-Indian unity dances?

When are we going to get away from using dragging Best Village skits?

As if on cue, the Spiritual Baptist groan is raised up by a cultural group, pounding out a hymn as bele skirts flared.

How can any message get through to any woman or man in the middle of all that noise? That’s all it was. Couldn’t the ministry go into communities and talk to women and girls about how they feel about women’s day? Teams could have been sent to schools, hospitals, community centres. Conferences among NGOs, churches and other interest groups could have been organised. We need to talk, not dance every time, about our development.

Needless to say, the music still blared in my head, like it did for those students in my mother’s story, even as I got to my air-conditioned newsroom. I had to vent in our editorial meeting about why the ministry only has one style of commemorating things.

The grassroots propaganda is old and insulting. The village people know how to think and speak, Madam Minister. Let’s talk, not shout at them. I hope in 2020, we won’t still be observing women’s day or any day with the same old Best Village songs.





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