Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Keeping a gun in your house or owning a gun is a dangerous thing to do. A gun in the house doubles or even triples the chance of somebody in the house getting hurt or killed by the gun. Further, a gun in the house in the hands of an inexperienced user of firearms can exacerbate an already tense situation when and if an armed bandit enters your home.

That's the bad news about owning guns. On the other hand, the police are not protecting the average law abiding citizen. Oh, they will turn up all right after your wife has been raped, your children murdered and you are left for dead in your home. But they won't be there in minutes (or even "seconds") if you call the emergency hotline with a report that your home is under a deadly assault.

It is time that we recognise that we are living in "the wild, wild west" and that the political parties that we elect to govern us are incapable of fixing the crime spree ... at least, not any time soon. The murder rate is the figure that everyone looks at, but the truth is that violent crime ... the rapes, the armed robberies, the invasion of our homes ... is increasing with a ferocity that daily becomes more frightening. When a former National Security Minister can be robbed and beaten in his supposedly safe gated community and the assailants can get away and not be caught then we must realise that all of us have a very serious problem. The problem in one sentence is that the bad guys just aren't being caught and the police aren't going to catch any of them any time soon. We can pass all the laws we want, but unless and until the cops start to catch the bad guys ain't nothin' gonna happen!

In other words, there are very serious questions that we must ask ourselves: if the old solutions aren't working should we not try something new? Like what? Would arming ourselves work or should we continue to restrict our rights to be allowed to own and use a firearm? If the vote is that we should be allowed to arm ourselves, should there be any restrictions on the owning of firearms, and if so what?

If the vote is that we should not be allowed to arm ourselves, then should we put a time limit on the authorities to get crime under control or then allow us to arm ourselves? What do we do if the police, say, this time next year do not have crime under control? What bench marks are we placing on the Commissioner of Police and all the other persons responsible for reducing crime to get it under control where we can feel safe again? How long are we prepared to wait?

Everybody talks a blue streak when it comes to crime. The Government of the day comes up with excuses and the Opposition attacks. But the truth is that when the PNM was in power nothing happened, and while it is obviously too early to criticize the energetic Jack Warner, at some stage, if he isn't seen to have reduced the crime rate, then he too will be blamed.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Speaking for myself alone, I am personally not at all convinced that loosening the gun controls or gun laws in this country will work. But I see and hear nothing new when it comes to dealing with this terrible scourge. I hear promises that do not come to pass (like Operation Anaconda, for example). All I see is that except for the names and a few other changes the authorities are doing the same thing over and over again. And the issue of our personal safety is left dangling in the wind without any hope of a safer tomorrow.

No. It is time for radical "out-of-the-box" thinking. The old ways haven't worked. Frankly, nothing seems to be working. So, maybe we should try and do something new. It's either that or we continue to be murdered, raped, assaulted and robbed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has today announced that the FIFA ban on Mohammed Bin Hammam has been overturned. FIFA had banned Mr. Bin Hammam from "any kind of football related activity for life" after finding him guilty of taking bribes from Caribbean football officials. The whole scandal resulted directly in Mr. Jack Warner also resigning from FIFA. The CAS said that there was insufficient evidence to support the ban.

The scandal arose when Mr. Bin Hammam had challenged Mr Sepp Blatter for the leadership of FIFA. Mr. Warner had made the mistake of supporting Mr. Bim Hammam against the very powerful Mr. Blatter. When FIFA had handed down the ban on the hapless Mr. Bim Hammam the world's premier football organisation had said that there was "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming" proof that bribes had been paid by Mr. Bim Hammam to Caribbean officials and that Mr. Warner had supported this.

The CAS has said that its finding is not so much a case of innocence as it is a finding of "case not proven" and that if new evidence comes forward it might be possible to re-open the case. Well, if such new evidence does ever comes forward then we shall see what we shall see. But my point here is to re-emphasise the point that I made last week in my last post which criticised President Richards for, amongst other things, descending into an arena where he condemned Mr. Warner for his part in this particular scandal. At the time of the FIFA scandal I kept quiet because I did not have enough facts at my disposal to comment one way or the other, although I felt certain that Mr. Bim Hammam (and by extension Mr. Warner) was not getting a fair hearing by the FIFA Ethics Committee. Time has proved my gut feeling to be right.

As I said last week and will say again: in this society of ours we are often too quick to condemn without being in possession of all of the facts and then when they do eventually come out showing that at the very least there is not enough justiciable evidence we remain obstinate and refuse to give the accused teh benefit of the doubt. The CAS has not given Messrs. Warner and Bim Hammam a completely clean bill of health, but it has solidly backed the accusations that the FIFA Ethics Committee did not give the accused a fair and impartial hearing. Mr. Blatter is bound to have a problem now because there is the very ugly inference that he engineered these charges to be brought against these men in order to secure his own re-election as President of FIFA. Whether that is true or not I certainly cannot say, but the truth is that this very ugly suspicion is "out there" and will not go away just like that.

We must be careful in what we do and say. And we must demand of our leaders that they also be careful. Leadership is not just about "picking up a sword" and leading a charge. Amongst other things leadership is about practising high principles of behaviour and ethics. Leading by example anyone?!

Friday, July 13, 2012


The convention since we became a republic at the opening of Parliament was that the President would preside at the opening and give a speech that was not contraversial, but would deal with issues of the day. There is also a convention that the President is supposed to stay above partisan politics and as such would refrain from directly or indirectly assisting one side of the partisan divide by directly or indirectly criticising the other.

This is why I found the address of President Max Richards at the opening of Parliament this week to be disappointing to say the least. Frankly, I don't agree with the Prime Minister that his comments on corruption were not a thinly veiled attack on newly appointed National Security Minister Jack Warner. Of course they were. But the President in launching such a not so oblique attack on a Government Minister is also indirectly attacking his Government and giving ample fodder for its opponents. I suppose the President or his supporters might want to justify this by saying words to the effect that "he was only speaking the truth" or "well, if the cap fits ..." or some other similar comment.

With respect, that is not the point. First of all, Mr. Warner has not been charged with any offence either locally or abroad. Secondly, while it is clear that FIFA ain't exactly a Temple of Vestal Virgins there is obviously a lot more that needs to come out on all sides before we can come to any fair and reasonable conclusions of his guilt or innocence. But in Trinidad people repeat allegations as fact and if we happen to be against that person we happily accept them as such. I could give you right now a dozen allegations against any of the top PNM big wigs (ranging from Manning to Rowley and everybody in between) that accuse them of every thing from bribery to drugs and just about everything in between. But I will be the first to confess that I have not a shred of justiciable evidence to support any one of these myriad allegations.

The point here is twofold: first of all, a President under our system of government ought to be very, very careful when he makes comments that are critical of either the Opposition or the Government unless he is fair and even handed, e.g., he hits one side for something and then hits the other side equally hard. He needs to stay above the fray at all times. Secondly, a President who is in the position of the current President ought to be very careful in his comments especially in circumstances where he can be accused of being partisan and being critical because his term of office is coming to an end and it is more than likely that he will not be re-appointed. In other words, sour grapes!

If the President had made similar comments during the Manning era (and God knows that such similar comments could have been as justified then as supporters of the President would now defend his present comments) then perhaps one might say that this was in keeping with a certain forthrightness. But this was never the case then. Further, this President also appointed as an independant senator Mr. Michael Annisette who has never made a secret of his preference for the PNM. There are persons who believe (rightly or wrongly) that Mr. Annisette was appointed by the President on the express instruction of Mr. Manning. Now, assuming (though certainly not accepting) that this was true this would be terrible for obvious reasons.

But you see what happens when a President steps out of his crease? The office of the President of Trinidad & Tobago is important. It is deliberately set up to keep the head of state above the partisan fray. When a President puts himself in a position were a fair number of the population may perceive him to be descending into the political arena he effectively demeans his office. One President has already acted unconstitutionally or extra (meaning "outside") constitutionally and that particular act has had serious and very unfortunate ramifications which our society is still having to contend with although it happened many years ago. We need our President to go back to the centre and stay there.