Thursday, December 22, 2011


Christmas is always a wonderful time of the year ... even, I dare say, for those who are not christian. It is a time for family and friends and getting together to share ... especially in the way that every culture in the world shares memorable moments and occasions ... with food and drink and the giving of gifts. On Christmas Eve the excitement in the homes that are fortunate enough to have young children is so intense that many parents wonder if the little ones will ever fall asleep.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas this week ... not only about its religious and historical significance, but what the festival has come to mean in the hearts of millions of families around the world. When I was a little boy Christmas simply meant toys under the tree on Christmas morning. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the gathering of the family for Christmas lunch/ dinner (in my house we always had a very, very late lunch at about 5pm ... or, if you like, early dinner). I didn't notice the 'empty' chairs at first around the Christmas table ... those family members who had passed on or couldn't be there for whatever reason ... nor did I notice the hint of sadness in the eyes of my parents and older folk who had gathered. There were too many happy songs to be sung and I sang all of them!

But as the years have passed I have become more and more aware of the 'empty' chairs ... grown children in Australia, loved ones who have passed, and others who for one (good) reason or another simply cannot be there.

So, does this mean that those of us who have had the pain and sadness of losing a loved one this past year (or at any other time) should cry long tears at Christmas time? Well, if we want to. But I prefer to remember the words of the poet who said

"Life is real, life is earnest
And the grave is not its goal.
Dust thou art and to dust returneth
Was not spoken of the soul"

No. Christmas is a wonderful time ... and Christmas is (amongst other things) about life, glorious life. Remember those who have passed ... by all means. Shed a tear for them if you want. But on Christmas morning draw a deep breath and enjoy being alive. Christmas is a time for everybody to reflect, be happy and (most importantly) share with family and friends. It is, after all is said and done, a time for love.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and to your families.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Driving to work this morning I was indulging in my usual 'surfing' of the radio talk shows when I stopped on one that caught my ear. The hosts were talking about the problem that is Laventille and how nothing seems to have worked there for the last fifty or so years ... if not longer. Everything seems to have been tried and everything seems to have failed.

Like most Trinidadians I am acutely aware of the human disaster zone that is Laventille. I am also very aware of all that has been done (and not done) and the fact that so long as we don't fix it that we are all simply waiting for the moment when it explodes ... again!

So? What to do? I am of the view that there is no short term fix. This is a problem that took decades to come to where it is today and that short of dropping a nuclear bomb on the place (and, no! I am certainly not advocating that!) `the problem will not go away with a social program here ( a la "Colour Me Orange") or a basketball court there (a la PNM). And although we profess to be familiar with Einstein's edict concerning the definition of insanity, successive regimes continue to do effectively the same thing (though calling it by different names) while expecting a different result. And, of course, the different result never comes!

When I was a young lawyer I was told by an old (and very wise) Queen's Counsel that if I ever wanted to understand a problem I had to go back to basics. That sage advice has helped me enormously as I have journeyed through the adventures that have made up my life. So, applying that advice to Laventille, what is the basic problem there? Answer: extreme ignorance fuelled by excrutiating poverty. I know that a lot of people are going to take offence at the label of extreme ignorance, but it is unfortunately true. I admit that I have no figures to back me up on this, but I will bet dollars to doughnuts that the level of illiteracy in that unfortunate place is intolerably high. I will bet that most of the gang members (if not all) are functionally illiterate. And I will bet that most (if not all) of the pregnant teenage girls can't read or write properly (if at all) either! So, how do you ... we ... fix the social problem that is Laventille? And while I will admit that the ability to read and write may not be everything in this world it does pave the way for a child's mind to be opened. No society in the whole history of mankind has ever succeeded with an illiterate and ignorant population.

The answer has to be by education. The only way out of poverty and to raise a society's standards is by educating the population. In this regard I must say that I believe that our education system is an abysmal failure ... that it is failing our society, not only in Laventille, but in the country as a whole. But that is grist for another post. Let's just concentrate on Laventille for the moment. The schools that cater to that depressed area need to be revamped so that the kids that are churned out at the end are capable, responsible and right thinking. Now, that's a tall order! Those kids already have the terrible hurdles of badly educated (if at all) mothers, terrible and totally unacceptable male role models, and politicians of all stripes (but unfortunately mostly in the PNM) who seek not to help them but to use them for narrow political and sectarian purposes.

But it can be done. It will take time ... more than five years, which is why it probably has never been done. Nobody in power now will get the credit for something that will take about twenty years to fix. But don't fix it now (and 'now' means now!) and it will only get worse. Don't the Chinese have a saying about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with the first step?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


"Prime Ministers tend not to lose all their credibility in one go ... Rather it erodes in fits and starts amid accumulations of misstep and scandal".
The Economist - July 14th, 2011

The Government is facing a serious credibility problem that is largely of its own making on the question of the allleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and three other Ministers. This follows on the heels of other missteps and scandals such as the Reshmi Ramnarine affair, Caribbean Airlines, the Sat Maharaj/School Principal matter, and (what feels like) a host of others too numerous to count. Why they didn't let the Commissioner of Police announce the alleged plot is beyond me. At least if everything fell apart later (as it did) then he ... and not the Prime Minister ... would have taken the credibility "hit".

This supposed plot to kill the Prime Minister et al was a classic case of misstep that could and should have been avoided from the very beginning. First of all, assassinations of Prime Ministers and Presidents are usually carried out by one of two types: a "crazy" or a small group bent on regime change. But a group of 16 or so plotters is anything but small, and, assuming (though not accepting) that the allegations are true, then the sheer size of the group is practically a guarantee that the plot would leak out. The alleged plotters therefore could not have been very competent.

Put another way, something is missing from the information that we have been given, for the story that we have been given really doesn't make sense. The apparent aim of the assassinations was to cause panic and confusion in the society? Really? For what purpose? Who would benefit from this? For somebody has to benefit. You aren't going to do something as serious as this just to create confusion and panic ... unless you are crazy. And theer is no allegation that the alleged plotters are crazy. So, what could the purpose possibly have been?

The creator of Sherlock Holmes put these words in the mouth of his famous detective:

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

So, using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's logic, what can we deduce from what we have been told? Remember, we were told (a) there was a plot to kill the PM, and
(b) the aim was to create panic and confusion.
Now, assuming (though again not accepting) that this is indeed true, who would possibly benefit from the resulting panic and confusion? Would it be ... could it be ... somebody who would hope that the UNC would turn to him(her) for guidance and leadership and that he(she) would then tell the Party who to appoint as Prime Minister and thus become the "kingmaker" with all the resulting power that flows from such a position because the new "king" would owe his position to the "kingmaker"? Who?

I agree that this scenario is highly improbable ... but you have to admit that it makes a certain sense if what we were told is true! I will also admit that there are other possible scenarios that I have not been able to imagine. But something has to make sense! And I find it difficult to believe that the Prime Minister lied to us about the plot. So, if she didn't, what is the piece of information that we are missing in order for the plot to make sense?