Monday, March 4, 2013


I had intended to devote the next few posts to the question of constitutional reform, but a short (and rather devastating) bout of pneumonia laid me up while events have taken over in the interim. I am talking about the raging 'brouhaha' over the (seemingly) stillborn Flying Squad issue.

Let me tell you a story: in 1969 my father was the then Minister of Home Affairs (this ministry later became the Ministry of National Security). Sometime around September/October of that year my father took a note to Cabinet recommending that three young Sandhurst trained lieutenants, LaSalle, Shah and Barzey, be cashiered from the Regiment. The security service had reported that they were in cahoots with the Black Power elements in the country and were actively engaged in plotting revolution and the violent overthrow of the Government. Unfortunately, none of the evidence was justiciable and even to expose it would have exposed the security personnel in such a way that would render them useless as sources of future information. In other words, there was no proof that could have been used by the Government against them and there was no way of getting that proof.

The then Attorney General, George Richards, bitterly opposed the recommendation to fire the young lieutenants on the ground that there being absolutely no evidence against them, they would win a case against
the Government for wrongful dismissal and the Government would have to pay them huge damages. My father's reply was that the Government would be better off paying those damages rather than paying for the costs of a revolution which could well end up with the entire Cabinet facing a firing squad. Eric Williams, who was then Prime Minister, told my father that he was being overly dramatic and sided with his Attorney General. The rest is history! (Incidentally, this was not the only time in the build up to the events of 1970 that Dr. Williams did not take my father's advice. But that is another story (or stories).)

Shortly after the 1970 uprisings had been put down Dr. Williams called my father to his office and congratulated him on all that he had done in putting down the uprisings and in keeping loss of life to an absolute minimum. About two weeks after this Dr. Williams called my father again to his office and demanded his resignation. Dr. Willaims said that the Party (the PNM) was howling for my father's blood as there were elements in the Party who were claiming (with some justification because they did not have the facts) that the national security lapses that resulted in the uprisings and army mutiny were the fault of the Minister of Home Affairs. My father's attitude was "let them come. I can defend myself against any and all accusations and show where, if what I had recommended had been done, that the mutiny and uprisings would not have taken place".  "Ah!" Williams replied. "But then they will come after me!"

In other words, he recognised full well that he had screwed up and that either my father had to fall on his sword or that the whole Government would come crashing down as my father's defence of himself would have dragged not only the Prime Minister down, but the whole Cabinet as well. In a situation where the whole country was in an extremely shaky state and where the very pillars of our democracy had been seriously threatened (remember, we had only achieved independence a short 9 years earlier) my father realised that he had no choice but to go, and to go quietly. Not to do so would have threatened the very existance of his Government. By saving himself all he would do is "kill" his Government and he would go down with the rest. In other words, either he went or they all went. He went.

 He kept his peace on this until he died in 2005 although he never tired of telling us (his family) the stories of what really happened until we could all repeat them practically word for word.

I tell this story now as an example of what is supposed to happen and how Cabinet Government is supposed to operate. We are all still waiting for an explanation about this Flying Squad imbroglio and speaking for myself only, I must confess that there are too many elements in the story that simply do not add up or make sense. What does make sense, to me at least, is that the Prime Minister is being horribly exposed when she should not be. If a Prime Minister falls then his or her entire Government usually also falls. This is a lesson that appears not to be understood by those close to Mrs. Persad-Bissessar.

 I like Jack Warner a lot. Oh! I am well aware of the stories that continue to swirl around his head and I have no illusions. I honestly don't. But I do like him and think that he has a lot of strengths to bring to the table. However, I am most concerned that this present trouble is such that even if he is able to survive it that his continued presence as National Security Minister may cripple the Government. In which case, he may be finding that even if he is completely blameless in this matter (just as I say without apology that my father was completely blameless in 1970) that he ought seriously to consider whether or not it is best for the sake of his Prime Minister, his Government and his Party that he step aside quietly.

1 comment:

  1. I understand exactly what you have stated here. The issue of loyalty, I believe, should first be to the country. And we have seen one Minister of Justice take a hit for the government. And like you describe your father's actions, I believe that the Minister of Justice was correct in the law in its entirety, even the much talked about Section 34.
    In the case of the present Minister of National Security I think differently. This minister has been at the dark end of everyone's thought process. Even before he became Minister of National Security. It would seem that he represents something that is misplaced and thus should be put right. Therefore for him to resign would take us to a dark place and would be detrimental to the country.