Tuesday, August 30, 2011
(VERY) SIMPLE ARITHMETIC!
Like most people in the country, I am very concerned about the crime situation and an hoping and praying that this state of emergency (SOE) really does 'break the backs' of the criminal gangs. And, like a lot of thinking people who do not have access to security reports, I am concerned because I cannot discern a clear strategy for what happens after the SOE is lifted and life goes back to 'normal' (whatever 'normal' was).
You see, I was doing some very simple arithmetic on the back of a napkin in a favourite watering hole at lunch time yesterday and came up with the following:
Let's say that we have a population of 1.5 million people. (In the absence of the publication of a reliable census we are all guessing ... I am assuming that the population is in fact larger than the 1.3 million everybody quotes. All the other figures too are simply assumptions/guesses, but hopefully you will get my point). Now, let's say that the African/Black population is a little less than half that figure ... say, 650,000. Now, let's say that of that figure approximately half are males ... so that would give us a figure of 325,000. Now, let's say that of that figure a little less than half live in the 'hotspots'. So that would give us a figure of approximately 150,000 African males living in the 'hotspots'. And of that figure let's say that approximately half are young enough/old enough to be the 'target age group' for gang membership. That would yield a figure of approximately 75,000. And finally, let's say that gang membership is confined to approximately 10 per cent of this 'target age group'. In other words, there are approximately 7,500 young, angry and dangerous men running around with various degrees of lethal weapons at their command.
Now, before anybody accuses me of some kind of racism because I am targeting only young black men, let me just say that the empirical evidence that has been presented to the population as a whole over the last few years is that the overwhelming majority of the criminal gang population appears to be composed of young black men. If this is not so, then please present your own evidence that proves or suggests otherwise.
So, back to my point, which is that it was announced in today's papers that the total number arrested was 820. This means that according to my figures ... which admittedly could easily be widely inaccurate ... a little more than 10 percent of the gang members have so far been detained! Assuming (as is entirely possible) that this figure doubles or even quadruples in the coming weeks, what happens next? I just don't see an 'exit strategy'. And this (the 'exit strategy') is probably even more important than just locking up all of these people for now.
The Government needs to understand that the citizenry is overwhelmingly on its side in this war on the criminals, and we desperately want it to succeed. We do understand that for obvious security reasons they cannot tell us everything, but we need to be told enough to stay on their side. So when, for example, the Attorney General says something like the names of those detained cannot be published for legal reasons... a statement which does not make sense at all ... it becomes difficult for those of us who wish the Government well in this SOE to defend all of their actions. And it allows people like Amery Browne to defend otherwise indefensible causes.
The Government must understand that at the end of the day, there will have to be a full and frank accounting. It will be to their eternal credit if they not only do that, but when they do they are able to demonstrate their success so clearly that even an idiot will have to acknowledge it and we will all be able to live in a country that once more belongs to all of us.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
DIVIDED WE STAND!!!!
I received the following e mail from a PP supporter last night which is self explanatory:
I received this YouTube clip and the sender captioned it as Kalipersad vs Ramlogan.
Kalipersad vs Ramlogan... I don’t think so! Now that I have seen/heard the interview (Youtube video clip attached below) I see it as a continuation of the PNM underground machine/war room which has always been aided and abetted by the Trinidad Express very active and very much at work.
The sustained attack by the Express Newspaper on the PM and the Government continues. This was not professional journalism, indeed, it was an abuse by Kalipersad of the electronic media, an abuse of the “freedom of the press” – he discarded all journalistic integrity!
Dominic Kalipersad should be ashamed and embarrassed by his unethical and unprofessional conduct!
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan must be congratulated for his very professional responses and for “keeping his cool” especially when from the very beginning it was evident that Kalipersad’s tone and intent were going to be confrontational and irresponsible.
Now, let me tell you what my problem is: Having watched the video I did not think that Kalipersad had "discarded all journalistic integrity" as stated by my friend above. I did think that he was tough and aggressive ... and could even buy the argument that he was totally unsympathetic to the Attorney General's (and by extension the Government's) position. On the other hand, I did think that the interviewer was wrong when he told the Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago "don't be rude". Even if you don't like the individual who happens to occupy the office, you ought at all times to respect that office. At the very least, I thought that the comment was disrespectful. I also thought that it was certainly not at all nice to say that the AG had invited himself onto the program. That may have indeed been true, but to say it like that!? When I heard that my reaction was "ouch"! Put another way, I thought that this comment was unnecessary and added nothing to the quality of the interview. But overall I did not have a problem with the very tough questioning of the Minister.
I also thought that the AG could have done a better job in explaining things. For example, thePolice Service Commission (PSC) had come out and criticised the Commissioner of Police (CoP) for being out of the country when the state of emergency (SOE) was called. Dominic Kalipersad questioned the AG on this ... rather aggressively and the AG obviously did not have the facts at his fingertips that have appeared in this morning's papers. (What happened, it seems, was that the CoP had indeed written to the proper authority informing them of his travel plans. The PSC was informed on the Friday before (i.e., 19th August) and the PSC did not deal with the letter until Tuesday 23rd August! But the PSC on Monday 22nd August decided to slam the CoP for not informing them (when in fact he had) of his plans to be out of the country!) Certain questions arise as to whether or not the PSC was correct in all of the circumstances to make the press release as hastily as it did ... for it was clearly wrong ... but that could be the subject of another post. Suffice to say at this time that if today's newspaper reports are correct, then the apparent or perceived bias of one of the members of the PSC ought now to be called into question.
And this brings me to the central point of this post. In the last four days since the declaration of the SOE you can tell who is a supporter of the Government and who is a supporter of the PNM merely by listening to or reading the comments as to whether or not the SOE is a good or bad move. Let's all take a few steps back and a few deep breaths. These are trying enough times without us all being at one another's throats. First of all, let us all acknowledge that if this SOE works and the criminal elements in our society are "licked up" that will be a very, very good thing and that the temporary sacrifice of giving up our civil liberties will have been well worth it. Let us understand that the real enemies are the criminals, not the PNM or the PP supporters. Everybody should be united on this. And I am the first to acknowledge that there appear to be serious problems with the way that this SOE was implemented. At the moment, though, I am prepared (probably because I recognise how desperate and how serious the situation is) to put aside any misgivings that I might have and give this thing a chance to work. If it does not work then we can all revisit all of the issues. For now, at least, I urge everyone else to do the same.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
THE STATE OF EMERGENCY: WHAT'S GOING ON?
Every right thinking member of society must want the Government to succeed in its war against the criminal elements in our society. And make no mistake: it is a war. There are many who have been calling for a state of emergency ("SOE") to be declared for just this purpose and there are great expectations that the criminal elements will finally be brought to heel. But will they? It is difficult to say at this time. I certainly hope so ... but hoping just ain't good enough!
Let me explain what I mean: The way that this SOE was declared was ... well, unusual, to say the least. SOE's are never usually declared in advance. They are usually declared quietly and when they are in force the Government then moves to pick up and detain those persons who are considered a threat to the society for whatever reason (planning a coup, crime, etc.). If an SOE is announced well before it come s into effect, that announcement will give time to the very persons who are targets of the SOE to run and hide.
Remember that the declaration of an SOE is an extermely serious thing. An SOE takes away certain fundamental constitutional rights that the citizenry has against dictatorship and virtually allows a Government (any Government) untrammeled access to powers of arrest and detention without access to the Courts. While it is sometimes necessary for a Government in times of peril to declare an SOE that declaration needs to be very carefully thought out and the SOE needs to be very carefully executed and removed as soon as possible.
So, my question is what exactly happened to cause this SOE to be declared? The second question is why was it declared in advance of it taking effect? I will readily admit that there may be another reason, or even several other reasons, but I can only think of two: The first is that there was a sudden and unexpected security threat that could only be met by the declaring of an SOE. This is possible, and it may also explain why the whole thing was handled in such an apparently rushed way. (More on this point later.) It could also explain why this happened when the Commissioner of Police and his deputy were out of the country! (That point in itself is curious too, don't you think?)
The next possibility is that it was done by "vaps". Eleven murders took place in a very short space of time and the Government panicked. This could also explain the rather haphazard way that the whole thing was presented. But then surely Brigadier Sandy should have known better?
Now, most democratic Governments have (or ought to have) contingency plans in place for just about every type of emergency, including (though not limited to) declaing an SOE. It would be disheartening to learn that such a contingency plan did not exist, and I for one would like to believe otherwise. But if it did exist, why was the SOE declared in the way that it was? That did not make sense at all!
The expectation of the population is that crime will drop radically after this (assuming always that it really was done to declare war on the criminals); but if that is going to be the case then it was reasonable to expect that (a) there would be massive arrests of known gang leaders and gang members, and (b) that there would be massive searches in the designated hotspots which would yield massive seizures of arms and ammunition. But neither has happened yet! And at the time of writing the SOE is almost 48 hours old! Usually the significant arrests and seizures are made almost immediately after the SOE comes into force! Everything after that is what might be called "mopping up" operations.
So? What has happened? Please don't get me wrong. I want this SOE to work. I want the criminals caught and put under lock and key. I do not want the Government to fail on this. You see, if after the SOE is lifted crime simply goes right back to where it was before then we will be in a worse position than we were in before the SOE was declared. It will mean that the SOE was totally ineffective and that the bad guys were able to outsmart the good guys. It will also mean that the Government has run out of effective means of controlling the criminals in this country. I honestly and sincerely hope that the Government wins this fight. It has to! There is obviously no "Plan B". And that can't be good for any of us.
Friday, August 19, 2011
CAPTAIN! THE SHIP IS SINKING!!
"Unless we find a way to either reduce our import demand and replace that with domestic production we are going to be struggling with maintaining a relatively stable TT dollar versus the US dollar,"http://www.trinidadexpress.com/business-magazine/T_T_revenue_under_threat-127916438.html
Put another way, what the Central Bank Governor is saying in the above quoted article that we look as though we are heading for an inevitable devaluation. More than one reader of this blog has in fact written we to tell me this. Well, the short story is that I agree with them. It certainly looks that way. The long story, though, is a little different in that it ain't necessarily so! A devaluation is not necessarily inevitable and can still be warded off.
What I mean is this: The sad truth is that in the 15 or so months that he has been Finance Minister Mr. Dookeran has done little to engender the necessary confidence in the business community that he has the financial situation under control. They look at the fact that there has beeen an extremely tight rein on Government expenditure and that promised projects and payments are inexplicably delayed, that there is suddenly a huge squeeze by the commercial banks on hitherto good customers ... which squeeze the banks say is being dictated to them by the Central Bank ... and the absolute dearth of clear information as to exactly what is the state of our finances. After more than two years the infamous Clico accounts, we are told, are still in a mess! Really? If that is true, then where in the name of heaven was the Regulatory Authority (better known as the Central Bank) in all those years previously when Clico and its executives were bestriding the world like a colossos (or is it 'colossi'?)? Where were the auditors? How come nobody has been charged with fraud?
It may very well be that Mr. Dookeran is doing a fine job in his Ministry and that he is indeed saving us all from an even greater calamity that could befall our tiny nation state in the global economic hurricanes that are blowing at this time. But he just isn't telling us a thing! And this is the man who preached transparency, new politics and open government all the while that he was in opposition! So, what happened? Was all that just a lie? Is he a hypocrite who says one thing but does another? What? Why can't he explain?
A Finance Minister has to lead ... and the only way to lead is to lead vigourously. He cannot stay in his ivory tower, drink coffee and hold meetings with the IMF boffins who tell him that he is doing a great job. He might be , but we don't know that!!! And therein lies the problem. Why can we not be trusted with the truth?
The TT dollar is sinking as against the US dollar. The US dollar is sinking as against many of the world's major currencies, so we are getting hit not once, but twice! And the main reason that our dollar is sinking is because there is a lack of confidence in Mr. Dookeran's management of the economy. And the main reason for that lack of confidence is because he simply will not explain to us what exactly is going on.
The time has come for Mr. Dookeran to be replaced as Finance Minister ... before it is too late. If the reality is that he is really doing a good job (which I will be the first to admit might be possible) then keep him on as a junior Finance Minister where from behind the scenes he can help. But put a person who can lead ... Vassant Bharath comes to mind for example, although agriculture is so important that I would hate to see him go from there. The problem is that the Finance Ministry is the most important ministry of all. Without good management and leadership there nothing happens! It is still not too late. The economic situation can still be turned around. What is needed is a huge dose of confidence to be injected into the national pysche. And it is clear that whatever his virtues (which may be many) Mr. Dookeran's ability to engender confidence is clearly not one of them. Because, mark me well, in the words of Gypsy's immortal calypso, Captain, the ship is sinking and without that confidence the very bad storms which are gathering on the not so distant horizon will strike to the detriment of all.
Isn't there a saying about who doh hear must feel?
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
"A PROUD 70 YEAR TRACK RECORD"?
There are, quite obviously, a lot of questions concerning the Caribbean Airline (CAL) crash in Guyana in the early hours of Saturday morning that can't and won't be answered until the investigation by the American National Transport and safety Board (NTSB) is concluded. One thing is certain, the Americans will not allow any cover up and we will all sooner or later learn the truth. I suppose that we ought to be grateful for small mercies!
However, one of the questions that can and should be answered right away is how come CAL says that it has "a proud 70 year track record" of being accident free? Let's start from the beginning: First of all, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) defines an aviation accident like this:
"An aviation accident is defined in the Convention on International Civil
Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an
aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft
with an intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, in which a
person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or
structural failure or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccesible."
So, it is quite clear that according to the best definition from the highest aviation authority in the world that the CAL aircraft suffered an accident ... and a serious one at that ... on Saturday 30th July, 2011 in Guyana. Also, it is also clear that BWIA never had an accident in its proud history. So, I can hear you say, what's the problem?
The problem is that CAL is not a 70 year old airline with a 70 year old track record! It is only four years old and as fledgling airline has had what you might call a "fledgling" accident. You can test this assertion fairly easily. If CAL is simply BWIA re-branded and is "a rose by any other name" then CAL would be liable for all of BWIA's debts and prior responsibilities. But CAL is not liable for BWIA's debts and obligations. Ask the former employees of BWIA, many of whom feel that they were unfairly shafted when the last Government shut down BWIA and threw many of them out on the street. These former employees were told that they could sue the defunct BWIA if they wanted, but that nothing from nothing was nothing and CAL was a brand new airline!
In other words, the Government took what it wanted from the old BWIA and created a new entity that was CAL. Heck! They even sold the BWIA landing slots in London! (And that's yet another scandal waiting to explode!)
Now, it may be that CAL's safety procedures are similar to, or even identical to the defunct BWIA. It may also be that CAL has taken a lot of good things from BWIA, including but not limited to some of its old employees (like pilots and engineers). But it is not BWIA re-branded. It is a brand new airline. It does have various different procedures and ways of doing business which may or may not be better than BWIA's. But it is disingenuous to say the least that it has a "proud 70 year old track record". It doesn't. It is not BWIA and those who are trying to piggyback CAL's safety record onto that of BWIA's are not doing that now defunct airline any service, nor are they being fair to the former employees of BWIA or the travelling public. Frankly, they are being dishonest! CAL's track record is only four years old! No more and no less!
And you know what? The people who have to make decisions concerning insurance and viability are not going to be fooled by the persons who are spouting this '70 year' nonsense. But then, I suppose those people, because they have no respect for us and believe that lieing to us has no consequences whatsoever, know that they can get away with nonsense like this. And you know what? Maybe they are right! That's what makes this all the more galling!