Thursday, October 18, 2012


The old Chinese curse 'may you live in interesting times' obviously was uttered with Trinidad & Tobago in mind. That there is never a dull moment in this country speaks loudly to this curse. The times are certainly most interesting what with the Section 34 fiasco, the BOLT scandal, the firing of the Ministry of Finance lawyers and just about everything else in between.

 The criticisms of the Government and the Attorney General in the Section 34 fiasco can be summed up in one sentence: that the Constitution places ultimate authority for advising the Cabinet on all legal matters squarely in the lap of the  Attorney General and that responsibility cannot be delegated by executive fiat to anybody else. And that is a very good argument.

In one sentence, the defenders of the Attorney General say that at the end of the day responsibility for the Section 34 fiasco fell squarely in the lap of the Minister of Justice and the oversight imposed by the Constitution on teh Attorney General is more of a technicality than a practicality. In other words, it is clearly impractical for an Attorney General to have to oversee everything that a Justice Minister does. Otherwise you might as wll not have a Justice Minister. And that too is a good argument.

I do understand that the arguments on both sides of the divide run deeper than what I have attempted to express above. But if you can't say something in one sentence then you clearly can't say it at all. You may need a paragraph, a chapter or even a whole book to explain the sentence, but you ought to be able to make your central point clearly and succinctly.

I don't want to get into the Section 34 arguments. I can see both sides of the question and (like most of us) are waiting to see what might come out next ... for this matter is clearly not finished.

What I wanted to discuss here is the fairness ... or lack of it ... in the approach by the media generally, and the critics of the Government in particular, in their approach to perceived corruption. You see, those who are critical of the Government in this Section 34 matter have raised a hornet's nest of criticisms over what happened. And no matter which way you cut it, it is clear that something was wrong and at the very least somebody was responsible. The Prime Minister said that the Justice Minister was to blame and he was fired. But this has not been good enough for the critics and the barrage continues.

Then, out of the blue, comes the BOLT fiasco involving the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) which is controlled by the Opposition PNM. Now, this BOLT business simply doesn't make sense. According to the facts in the public domain the THA bought a piece of land from a company owned and controlled by the family of former PNM Minister John Rahael for $12 million. So far, so good. Twelve million bucks goes into the Rahael family coffers. But then, inexplicably, the THA grants a lease for 199 years right back to the Rahaels (well, a company owned and controlled by them) for something like $10 a year! Then the THA gives the Rahael's company a contract to build an office building on the land which the THA agrees to rent for $1.2 million a month! And if this weren't enough, the THA gives the Rahaels $21.4 million as an advance payment for the security for rent for a building that hasn't yet been built!!
And then, Orville London, the Chief Secretary of the THA says that this is a normal and perfectly proper business arrangement!

All I can say is "WOW"! I want a deal like that! I sell you some land for $12 million and then get it back for the next 199 years at a peppercorn rent and that is a normal business arrangement?! And then on top of that you give me an additional $21.4 million as security for rent for a building which I haven't built yet!? And this is normal business practice? Really?

Okay. I know that you don't need my sarcasm. In any case, that is not the point that I am trying to make here. My point is that while I can see a defence for the Attorney General in the Section 34 matter (whether or not one agrees with that defence is not the point ... the point is that one exists) I really can't see any defence in this BOLT matter. It stinks to high heaven! And I would have a lot more respect for Messrs. Rowley & Co. if they were to be as critical of Orville London and John Rahael and this BOLT matter as they are of Anand Ramlogan.

Put another way, if they really are about fairness and integrity in public life shouldn't they be saying something about this? And shouldn't they defend it IF it can be defended? But if it cannot be defended then they should help us dael with that mess. What is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander.

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