national dirty secrets get out
from the top ranks to the lowest, turmoil reigns inside the
T&T Police Service, the still bigger story is that the
country takes it all in stride.
Constables are bringing class-action lawsuits against a new
promotion system. Serious unanswered questions, meanwhile,
becloud officers acting as commissioner and deputy commissioner.
A punch-drunk public shrugs it all off. When last did a chamber
of commerce, or the once-activist chamber of chambers, thunder
for an inquiry into the police?
Certainly, some faith has been lost in the self-correcting
capacity of the operating systems in this countrys public
affairs. Fearing the answer, nobody will venture to assess
Meanwhile, prayerful hope is invested in every least exercise
in democratic self-government, such as in the Trinity Cross
committee set up to advise the Prime Minister on short deadline.
Its members earnestly show up for the photo opportunity of
receiving their instruments, and they voice optimism
that some work may even get done by the end of June.
Fixing the national awards merits attentions of a committee
comprising academics of professor rank; the head of a business
chamber; the head of the Public Service; and the bespoke creator
of heraldic designs.
Their work, to which no million-dollar price tag is attached,
occupies the centre stage of public attention.
Now, is the Trinity Cross Review Committee expected
to produce work, or just to choreograph a prime ministerial
gesture of response to a misguided public controversy?
Hardly anyone in this controversy calls attention to the fact
that the national awards are really the prime
The national dirty secret is that discontent over the Trinity
and other awards simmered to boiling point over how prime
ministers have used the awards as handouts from their goodies
bag of patronage.
The six years of Indian prime ministership did not redress
much. Research by Anand Ramlogan in 2004 showed that since
1969, Indo-Trinidadians had received 12 per cent of the Trinity
Crosses; 6.5 per cent of the Public Service Medal of Merit
Gold; 18 per cent of the Humming Bird Gold and 17 per cent
of the Chaconia Gold.
is this possible, he asked, in a society where
Indo-Trinidadians comprise half the population?
In a column last week, George John, acclaimed dean of T&T
journalists, dismissed such questioning as the ravings of
In a speech two years before, Ken Gordon, acclaimed dean of
T&T publishers, founder of the Principles of Fairness
movement, answered the Ramlogan question.
He said their low share of national awards was attributable
to the fact that for long, Indo-Trinidadians hadnt taken
much part in the activities for which achievement was recognised.
In the minds of those typical, pre-modern Town-Trinis, then,
the fault lay not in the system of the awards, and who was
effectively making them, but in the Indians failure
to get noticed and, presumably, a prior failure to assert
Well, all that has noticeably changed.
Now, the name Trinity, one curiously favoured
by badjohn types in Hollywood and in Jamaica, draws fire.
The Maha Sabha and its Muslim ally took the Trinity to court,
But their doing so didnt change something essential
about T&T: that, when no ill will is assumed, no offence
given or taken, people regularly look beyond names to embrace
the essence of things.
This is a country in which Hindu boys take pride in their
selection to attend Holy Cross College or Trinity College.
A Muslim girl fought for the right to wear her hijab in a
convent dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.
The Jinnah Memorial Mosque is commonly called the St Joseph
Mosque. Nobody finds it odd to refer to the St Helena
Catholic parents pray for their boys to win places in a college
literally named after a daughter of the Prophet MuhammadFatima.
Some devout people still instruct that their remains be churched
in a Christian service, before performance of Hindu arti and
cremation on the Shore of Peace.
double efficacy, as VS Naipaul explained it in an early
If Trini linguistic laissez-faire is being now subjected to
such humourless questioning, as went on Justice Jamadar's
court, something else is to blame.
That something is what has been done in the name of the Trinity
Cross, and the Order of the Trinity, with such adverse impact
on groups or classes of citizens.
And its a matter of constitutional fact that the differential
impact on Indo-Trinidadian citizens can be attributed to the
direct agency of all the prime ministers since 1969.
Yes, that is patently the case: just read the Letter
Patent back of the T&T republican constitution.
Now, readers who thought this was going to be about the police,
have been subjected to an extended body beat, appropriate
for this football season.
But what had got me started was an observation in a Newsday
editorial last week.
seems the Port-of-Spain Division of the Police Service is
suffering a serious manpower shortage, said the editorial,
which was an eyebrow-raising story of a car theft.
The stolen car, with original licence plates, had been sighted
four times in a week around north Trinidad. Each time, the
police were called; never were they able to apprehend
Newsday had blurted out another dirty secret to which hardly
anyone pays attention. Its that for two or three years,
the Police Service has passed out no recruits, while regularly
releasing officers who reach retirement age.
At a time of highest crime, the police are shortest-staffed.
This fact of today life had been confirmed to me, with a heavy
sigh, last year, by a high police executive officer.
I had put to him my observation that the Traffic Branch works
regular civil service hours, with no policing of the roads
after 5 pm.
have some manpower challenges, he said. Well, at least
some editorialists know what questions to ask in any enquiry
into the Police Service.