Monday, December 24, 2012


Our beloved housekeeper, Claudia, is a pastor in a small Pentecostal church in Barataria. She is a lovely, God-fearing woman who is not only religious but deeply spiritual. Yesterday, at her invitation, my wife and I together with our two sons made the pilgramage to her small church for a Sunday/Christmas service. Minou (my wife) had earlier in the week gone and bought presents for about thirty of the young children in Claudia's church to hand out after the service. She (Minou) stayed up quite late on Saturday night wrapping all of them and fixing labels on each present with the names of the children that Claudia had given her.

And so, at exactly 8am (the time that Claudia had told us to be there) we arrived with the proverbial rings on our fingers and bells on our toes. What can I say? We were welcomed with love and genuine friendship and the service as well as the sermon (performed by a visiting pastor - Sister Diane) was completely inspirational. I honestly cannot say when I so enjoyed a service before!

Hold on! I am coming to the point! But I had to set the scene first.

After the service my two sons, Robin Alberto (13) and Reynaldo (10) put on Santa hats and stood up in the front of the small congregation and called out the names of the children and gave them the presents that Minou had so lovingly wrapped the night before. The children were obviously thrilled at receiving a gift, BUT (and this is important) were even more thrilled that each gift had their OWN name on the present. In other words, the gift wasn't just a 'generic' present, but each child felt special as his or her gift was so obviously meant for him or her personally!

Afterwards, going home in the car Reynaldo opined "Now I know why Santa likes giving so much. I never knew that it could be so much fun!!"

And that just about said it all! I know that I took a long time to come to the point. Forgive me, please. But it struck me forcibly that all too often we lose sight of what really matters in our lives ... love! The gift of giving is an important part of Christmas, both for Christians and non-Christians alike. And sometimes the words of a child serve to remind us sharply of this.

Mery Christmas to you, my dear readers. And may all that you wish for come true in the new year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


It had been my sincere hope and desire that the last post that I would make on this blog for this year would be to wish everybody a merry christmas and to close down for the rest of the year. However, President Max Richards has decided to raise this issue of section 34 yet again and I just can't, in the interests of fairness, let this go without saying something.

I have said it many times before: if ever you want to understand a problem go back to the beginning. So, we must begin with the question: was section 34 a good idea and good law? The answer to both questions is an unequivocal 'yes'. So? Next question: why? And the answer is: because there is a huge back log of cases in the criminal courts and it IS (and I use the present tense deliberately) felt by all stakeholders that it is more than unfair to have persons with a criminal charge hanging over their heads for ten years ... an unconscionable period of time. Further, it was felt, that in the event that the delays in proceeding with a trial were not unconsciable in all of the circumstances of a particular case, that in the interests of justice, a case would not be automatically dismissed but that in order for it to be dismissed the accused would have to apply to a High Court Judge who would have a discretion as to whether or not the charge should be struck out.

Got that? Good! Because now we move on to the next part of the story: According to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice came to the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and said that he wanted to have section 34 proclaimed immediately. He is reported to have said that he had consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the Chief Justice who had both agreed and 'signed off' on the early proclamation. The rest of the Act (the Administration of Justice Act) could not yet be proclaimed as certain things that needed to be put in place had not yet been organised. The explanation made sense as it was recognised from the beginning that the particular section was good law. So the Cabinet went along with the request. Incidentally, there is NOTHING to suggest that the Prime Minister's account of what happened is not correct or true.

It turned out that the Justice Minister had NOT consulted with either the Chief Justice or the Director of Public Prosecutions who were as surprised as everyone else as to the early proclamation. Further, the already dark and (what ought to be) unnecessary suspicions were exacerabated when reports surfaced of the Justice Minister drinking with one of the Piarco accused, Mr. Galbaransingh, in Mr. Galbaransingh's hotel in Tobago. (Whether it was champagne as was reported, or Perrier water as claimed by Mr. Volney, is irrelevant).

Mr. Volney was fired and the Prime Minister made a report in writing to the Office of the President occupied at that time by Mr. Timothy Hamel-Smith, the then Acting President, on the matter. And that ought to be the end of the story.

So? What the devil is President Max Richards up to? He meets with the Prime Minister EVERY Wednesday for crying out loud! You mean to say that in all of these meetings since he came back from his vacation that he did not ask the Prime Minister what the story was about section 34? Really? And now he puts pen to paper? Really? He does not know what happened? He didn't read what the Prime Minister told HIS office while he was away? Really?

The President has to be very careful here. An impartial observer might well be forgiven if he came to the conclusion that the President was trying to cause a little mischief and trouble for the present Administration in these waning days of his Presidency. If that was true, he would be doing a great disservice both to his office as well as the nation.

Monday, December 17, 2012


On Saturday morning sitting in our kitchen having our morning coffee and watching the news on television my wife and I were moved to tears over the tragedy in Newport, Connecticut. I decided then that I would write something on this today (Monday … I like to keep my computer in my office … if I take it home I will end up working there). But later on that morning I received an email from a very good friend, Lennox Raphael, who lives now in Copenhagen. In my mind Lennox expressed so exactly how I personally feel about the tragedy, that although his words are not precisely mine, they express exactly how I feel … about everything. So, with his very kind permission, I publish his e mail to me below as if it were my own.

Hi, Robin,

That is what a good friend said to me when I had Papaya: "Lennox, you are making your grandchildren!"

And I’m thinking of this right now because I am so saddened by what happened in Connecticut yesterday, hours after I left New York to return to Copenhagen.

So painful that young lives can be snapped out so easily, so casually, as tho they are flies, when they are actually angels. I think it was ex-Commissioner Bernard who said some years ago that Trinidad was experiencing a satanic wave: well, not just Trinidad&Tobago. Seems to be everywhere.

The enormity of this cruelty has been derailed by customary jet lag.

Even the snow that covers Copenhagen seems to be crying.

The world is never easy.

I know (in Trinidad) we feel at times our world & values are crumbling before our eyes; but it's everywhere.

Here, in Denmark, where there is at least one bank robbery a week, irrational acts are commonplace.

About a year ago the front page of the bestselling newspaper here, ExtraBladet, was covered with snapshot photos of young kids who had been knifed by their parents, as fallout from parents caught up in jealousy.

And not so long ago that massacre of young people in Norway.

In Trinidad & Tobago adults are poor examples of commendable behavior. And I am alarmed when I see the public language that is considered acceptable.

There is so much rage in everything. I noticed this the five weeks I spent there recently. Even the way people drive cars; the way politicians speak. Everything is bait instead of debate.

Words do break bones.

If anything, with all the good we have going for us, we are an increasingly careless nation bent on stretching the rubberband to breaking point.

A satanic wave seems to be embedded in all levels of the society.

Impatience replaces Intolerance.

Public conversation is punctuated by insults.

We seem to forget that young people are convinced by good examples.

There seems to be a death wish in the society.

I admire people like you who can make a point without prolonging scars.

Too much picong is ruining the society.

We have to pull back from the emotional cliff.

I was thinking of some of these things while in Washington getting Papaya her Kazakhstan visa and while in New York where people instead of helping a distraught man who was pushed unto the subway tracks would chose to take photos of him being savaged by the train.

Skyscrapers become tents.

And even the New York Post would splash the unforgivable photo on its front page, the photographer, when criticized, said he was using his flash to warn the incoming train that smashed the poor man to bits.

So the Connecticut fever is everywhere in varying doses.

Well, I don't want to continue in this vein. This is the season of the Christ.

And our children & grandchildren are holy and ought to be shielded from the mindless savagery of our times.

God bless,


Incidentally, you can get more of Lennox at the following address:

Thursday, December 13, 2012


It is well established in democratic countries around the world that editorial writers are always anonymous. The editorial written in a newspaper (daily or otherwise) represents the view of the newspaper and not of the individual who actually writes the piece. This is why I can understand the disdain of the 'Jamaica Observer' when calls were made to disclose the identity of the writer who wrote the editorial on Tuesday last (December 11th) headed "The More Important Issue Is Abuse of substance". Clearly, the persons calling for such disclosure wanted to suggest that the writer of this editorial was an African and/or a Trinidadian who is opposed to the People's Partnership Government. In other words, that the editorial was racially motivated.

Certainly, the editorial in question was curious to say the least. Assuming (but not accepting) that any and/or all of the criticisms in the editorial have validity then an obvious question arises: why didn't the esteemed newspaper raise these type of criticisms years ago when black/African regimes were in power in Trinidad & Tobago. There are endless examples of this type of behaviour which the learned editorial writer calls "an abuse of substance" relating to past regimes, and yet there is not even a peep of an acknowledgement from the newspaper that this is not something that arose today.

So? Why? What is different? Is there a connection between the newspaper and certain opposition elements in Trinidad & Tobago? (And I ask this question completely open ended and without inference.) Naturally, the newspaper would deny this even if it were true. But if there was then that would explain this rather savage attack on the T&T Government. After all, the editorial basically says that the PP Government of Trinidad & Tobago is racist! (Let's call a spade a spade!)

But, is it really? Did other administrations in T&T not do the same thing? If so, were they racist as well? If not, why not? (And by the way, the short answer is 'yes' other administrations did EXACTLY what the 'Observer' editorial is accusing this administration of doing.

Let us put the race card squarely on the table: Since independence Trinidad & Tobago has had thirteen different administrations including the present one. (Two of them were headed by Patrick Manning at different times so I am counting those as separate). Of these thirteen administrations only three were headed by Indians: Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar. And of the two consecutive administrations headed by Mr. Panday, one lasted less than a year! All the other administrations were headed by Africans.

Now, a cursory look at T&T's civil service will show a preponderance of Africans. And I mean a REAL heavy weighting that certainly does not reflect the ethnic make up of the society. It's even worse when one takes a look at the ethnic make up of employees at the Central Bank, which is sometimes disparagingly referred to in T&T as "little Nigeria" (a reference to the overwhelming preponderance of Africans in that establishment). Ambassadorships and chairmanships have in the past been dominated overwhelmingly by Africans ... many of them friends and relatives of the regimes then in power.

So, the question remains: why did the 'Observer' choose to write this editorial now? Is the newspaper connected with certain elements opposed to the Government in T&T? If so, shouldn't the newspaper declare this? (Understand me well: there is absolutely nothing wrong if it is, but at least then people would be able to understand why it wrote that editorial). It would be naive to think that the newspaper would not be aware that its editorial would not create waves in Trinidad & Tobago. Not in this day of Internet connectivity. And it would be equally naive for the newspaper not to know that opponents of the PP Government would not use this as an example of "unbiased" reporting and commentary. Pull the other leg: it's got bells on it!

No. The 'Observer' had an agenda that it hasn't disclosed. There is no law that says that it has to disclose the agenda and it has every right in the world not to disclose it. But what is one law for the goose also has to be the same law for the gander, and the newspaper's blindness and apparent unwillingness to recognise the real injustices of the African dominated administrations of the past is of concern. Why? Why isn't the newspaper even-handed in its criticisms?

Finally, nothing in this post should be construed as defending or attempting to defend the PP Government. I personally do not want to appear as a defender or an apologist for the present administration and I have very deliberately not commented one way or the other on the charges made against them by the 'Observer'. My purpose here is to say quite publicly that I have noticed a very clear bias against the PP Government by at least two daily newspapers in T&T which bias is completely defensible in terms of freedom of the press, but which is indefensible in that both newspapers pretend to be politically neutral ... which they are quite patently not!  Ugly suspicions in my mind are raised when I see a daily newspaper in far away Jamaica attacking the Indian dominated PP Government seemingly out of the blue. Why would the Jamaican newspaper do this? It doesn't make sense! And when somebody does something that on the surface you don't understand it is usually because he does NOT want you to understand! Would that my suspicions could be proved to be completely unfounded!

P.S. I intend to send a copy of this post to the 'Observer'. I don't really believe that they will publish it ... but, hey! You never can tell! It would say a lot if they did, but would say even more if they don't!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE ANSWERED (but probably never will)

One thing about us Trinis, we always seem to get caught up with the confusion of the moment and very rarely take a step back to look at various issues with an unclouded mind. Bearing in mind that compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion (and we Trinis are very, very familiar with blinding emotion)  I have listed below some 29 questions that I think ought to be asked, even though I have no doubt that none of them will ever get an answer. Still, if I make at least one person think then I will consider my job here well done. The questions are all asked as open ended as I could possibly make them. Readers will have some idea from previous posts as to what my personal opinion might be on any one question, but my opinions aren't important here. What is important are yours. What do you think?

1) Why did the DPP try to stop the Coleman Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the Hindi Credit Union and CLICO just when the COE was about to move to begin to look into the actions of Messrs. Duprey, Monteuil, and other CLICO honchos, on the ground that the COE might prejudice a criminal trial?

2) If this is such a serious point why didn’t the DPP take the same point when Harry Harnarine and the Hindu Credit Union came under Coleman’s spotlight?

3) Why did the DPP take so long to launch a criminal investigation into CLICO?

4) If the CLICO honchos were giving the Central Bank such a hard time to get information why didn’t the Central Bank say or do something a lot earlier?

5) Do you believe that the Central Bank’s hands were really tied in getting CLICO to “behave”? If this is the truth, then has this problem been fixed? If so, when was it fixed? Who recommended that it be fixed? When was this recommendation made? If it still has not been fixed, then why not?

6) Why didn’t it come out sooner that the Government had a lot of technical reports on the Mon Desir/Debe section of the highway being built in the South?

7) If the reports were/are so flimsy that they only consist of a few pages and some photographs as has been alleged by Dr. Kublalsingh why will it take the JCC 60 days to read them?

8) If the reports are so voluminous that it will take at least 60 days to read them and this is in fact a reasonable time, then does this mean that Dr. Kublalsingh and his supporters were not telling us the truth when they claimed that the report(s) is/are inadequate?

9) If they were not telling us the truth then what does this mean?

10) If they were telling us the truth then where did these reports suddenly come from?

11) Do the re-routers and/or Dr. Kublalsingh have their own technical reports to back up their claims and allegations?

12) If not, then on what basis exactly were/are they making their protest? Because they “feel” or “believe” that this is wrong? And if they have no scientific evidence to justify their claims then why do they want to meet with the JCC committee to put forward their views?

13) If their protest is based on scientific evidence, where is their study? Who did it and when? What exactly does it say?

14) Why hasn’t the press checked on the re-routers claims rather than printing them as fact?

15) Did Dr. Kublalsingh really go for some 8 or 9 days without water? If so, would this be a world record given that T&T has a very hot climate and dehydration in a hot climate is always greater than when it is cold?

16) If he (Dr. Kublalsingh) did cheat and/or has been cheating on his fast is this important? If so, why? If not, why not? Does it make a difference to know whether he cheated or not?

17) Why didn’t the press “embed” a reporter with Dr. Kublalsingh to make sure that he wasn’t cheating? Is this important?

18) Should we accept everything that the media tell us without questioning it? Is the media reliable and do they always tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

19) Is the print media especially biased against the PP Government?

20) Is this important to know? If not, why doesn’t it matter? If so, why should it matter?

21) If the print media is indeed biased should they declare their bias? Would this be an infringement on their freedom to publish whatever they liked or would it simply be an act of openness and honesty? Is it an infringement of a free press to require that it be honest?

22) Is the Milsherv/Tobago House of Assembly a big deal? If not, why not? If it is a big deal then why is it not making continuous headlines a la Kublalsingh? Or is this an example of political bias on the part of the media in that the THA elections are coming up next month and they don’t want the PNM to be embarrassed?

23) If Commissions of Enquiry are really important why did the police effectively refuse to investigate NH International (the construction firm belonging to Mr. Emile Elias) for possible breaches of the Larceny Act in the Scarborough General Hospital/Landate matter by saying in writing that they couldn’t find the file?

24) Do you believe that the police really couldn’t/can’t find the file?

25) If you don’t believe that they can’t find the file what do you think is the real reason that the police will not investigate this matter?

26) Should the press be pursuing this or should they allow it to be dropped as it is now more than 10 years old?

27) If they should just drop it then does this mean that all old matters should be dropped? What about Calder Hart? When should his matter(s) be dropped?

28) And speaking of Mr. Hart, do you believe that he can get a fair trial in T&T?

29) If you were on a jury that was trying Mr. Hart would you approach the trial thinking ‘well, I presume that he is innocent but I will certainly listen to the evidence of the prosecution’ or would you approach it thinking “I know you’re guilty but let me hear what you have to say’?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


It is difficult to understand why people are so surprised to learn that more than 300 persons who fall under the auspices of the Integrity legislation in Trinidad & Tobago haven't filed their 2011 declarations. Let's face it: filling out those forms is a pain in the neck (if not somewhere lower) and because there are so many forms to review a lot of people will reason that perhaps they might simply get away with it as the Integrity Commission simply won't have time to go after them. That is the reality of the human condition.

The truth is that the Integrity Commission with the best will in the world is largely ineffective and ineffectual ... and this comment has nothing to do with the competence or lack thereof of the Commissioners or their staff. It has everything to do with the fact that the legislation is cumbersome and unworkable. Case in point: is there anybody out there who wants to bribe an opposition senator or member of Parliament? No?! Why am I so surprised!! But opposition MP's and senators have to fill out the @#$%*&% forms! I remember once when I was an opposition senator the Integrity Commission began asking me what I considered at the time to be really stupid questions concerning a matter in my form. I got really quite upset with not only the stupidity of the questions but with the sheer arrogance of the Commission. The matter was eventually resolved by the then Commission Chairman John Martin meeting personally with me and apologising orally for their arrogance and stupidity and acknowledging that in no way was I suspected of doing anything wrong but that they were just "following protocol", and begging me just to give a simple answer to one question which I did. I had been prepared though as a matter of principle to let them take me to Court. And I did ask them for the names of anyone who might want to bribe me! After all, as an opposition senator there was absolutely no way that I could award or influence the award of ANY contract. Stupidity! But if I told you of the time that was wasted on this nonsense you would want to cry!

But there are a lot of people who probably should fall under the net but aren't there. For example, there are a lot of not-so-high but not-so-low civil servants who can do a lot of damage to the public purse if they so desired. Then again, who is more guilty: the "bribor" or the "bribee". And yet we ignore the "bribor".

I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Why don't we do it another way? Instead of requiring a huge amount of persons in public life to file a return every year, why don't we widen the net to include just about everybody who might be capable of being involved in "bobol" of one kind or another, but that nobody be required to file an annual return as such. Then we give the Integrity Commission the power to make enquiries of any person for any period that he is in public life. This way, for example, if it was suspected that Minister X was paid a bribe by contractor Y for project Z the Integrity Commission could go into Y's books to see whether or not there have been any suspicious payments. Then the Integrity Commission could take a harder look at X.  Follow the money and you usually will find the crook.

In other words, rather than making everyone file every year, only those persons whom the Integrity Commission decides to be investigated would have to answer. A lot of time wasting and inefficiency would be avoided and the Integrity Commission would become much more effective and efficient.

One final problem could be the possibility of witch hunts. Yes. In this country that is a real possibility. But we could figure out a way to deal with that. Indeed, I have one or two ideas of how we might deal with it which I would prefer not to discuss at this time. That would be for another post IF this idea were to gain "traction". There is no point in discussing something now that simply ain't gonna happen! But then again you never can tell.  What do you think?