Monday, May 27, 2013
"Should a wise man answer with empty knowledge,
and fill himself with the east wind?
Should he run with unprofitable talk, or by speeches
with which he can do no good?"
Book of Job - 15:2&3
I had sincerely hoped that we would be able to put this e mail scandal down by now (I refuse to be a copycat and call it "emailgate"? Can't we be more original than that?) and that the police investigation would be well on its way. Frankly, I don't see how this could take a long time. Experts are available and all of the major players have said that they will co-operate, so there is absolutely no reason why a matter as important as this one is cannot be dealt with swiftly ... and by 'swiftly' I mean first world 'swiftly' ... a week or two at the most. If the investigation is not done quickly then the acting Commissioner of Police will have to say what is the hold up and why it is taking so long. Experts do exist!!
But in the meantime, the whole thing gets murkier. I had said in an earlier post that I didn't believe that Dr. Rowley had sent the alleged e mails to teh President. I had said this because I couldn't believe that the then President had done nothing except forward it to the Integrity Commission, who also did nothing! And yet, at the end of last week former President Richards said 'oh yes! I got that package from Dr. Rowley and held onto it for about five or six days and then sent it on to the Integrity Commission before wiping my hands of the whole thing'.
Okay. The former President didn't exactly say that ... but that is the effect of what he said. So I now have to ask the ex-President why did he not call in the police? You see, included in the contents of the alleged e mails is a conspiracy to kill or seriously injure a citizen of Trinidad & Tobago. What, in the name of heaven, did the former President think taht the Integrity Commission was going to do about that? I can't believe that he was waiting to see if it would actually happen and then join in by saying 'gotcha!' What?
The only valid excuse that I can think of is that His Excellency having perused the documents came to the conclusion that they were so patently false that it was absolutely clear that there was absolutely no threat to the journalist whatsoever. There is no other valid excuse. The same thing goes for the Integrity Commission. I can't believe ...refuse to believe ... that the life of a human being could be so cavalierly treated by someone in that august Commission as being quoted as saying words to the effect that the Commission has a lot of work to do and that is why it hasn't got around to this matter as yet! Really? You have more important work to do than saving someone's life!?
I am not even going to bother commenting on Dr.Rowley's actions. Clearly, at best, if he really believed those alleged e mails to be true, he was playing politics with somebody's life! And that, in my view, is unforgivable. He should have gone to the police right away!
Posted by Robin Montano at 12:00 PM
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A famous quotation from Sir Walter Scott (1771 -1832) reads:
"O what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!"
This quote came to my mind this morning as the continuing saga of Dr. Rowley's e mails unfolds. Let me say here and now and quite candidly that I now believe beyond reasonable doubt that the e mails are fakes. Whether Dr. Rowley knew that the e mails were forgeries is another question. Most certainly, from what we are now hearing and seeing on our television screens, that at the very least he is guilty of gross recklessness in doing what he did in the way that he did it. A more thoughtful person would have checked those alleged e mails much more carefully before publicising them in the manner that the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition adopted.
Since Monday's revelations in Parliament a number of PNM spokesmen have come out batting for Dr. Rowley. Leading the attack for his leader is the PNM's Public Relations Officer, Mr. Faris Al-Rawi, who also happens to be a PNM Senator. On television yesterday morning Mr. Al-Rawi waxed warm in defending and supporting his leader. When asked the obvious question as to why the PNM did nothing about these e mails which they had supposedly had since December, Mr. Al-Rawi said words to the effect that they sent them to the highest office holder in the land ... the President. And then he went on to say that President Richards had sent them to the Integrity Commission! Why send them to the Police? They were sent to the very top!! You can't get higher than the President!
Well, all I can say is hold it sherriff! She's headin' for the strawberry patch! Really? You sent those e mails to the President? And by "you" I mean the PNM. So that means that not only Dr. Rowley knew about those e mails but others in the PNM knew about them too? And therefore President Richards knew about them in December? And the Integrity Commission knew about it also in December?!
You see, in those e mails are (amongst other things) some very, very serious threats on the life of a journalist ... a citizen of this country. So, leaving aside any "politricks" that the e mails are alleging you are also talking about major criminality here. Therefore, if Dr. Rowley and Mr. Al-Rawi are indeed telling the truth this must mean that our former President George Maxwell Richards knew that there was a threat to the life of a citizen and he did nothing about it! Further, the Integrity Commission also knew and it also did nothing about it! Further, others in the PNM also knew or believed that it was possible that a young woman might be killed! And nobody did anything to prevent that from happening!!
You see what I mean? This scandal is too serious to just let it go like that. Mr. Ken Gordon, the Chairman of the Integrity Commission, is quoted in the press this morning as saying that if the e mails are true then that would be very serious. But I must ask Mr. Gordon directly, what if the e mails are forgeries? Fakes? Wouldn't that also be very serious? Have you also considered that possibility? And also, did the President send them to you in December or at any other time before he left office? If so. what did you (Mr. Gordon/Integrity Commission) do about them? Did you alert the police? If so, when? Because Mr. Gordon's public pronouncement today suggests that he, like the rest of us, only heard about this when Dr. Rowley went to Parliament.
And if the Integrity Commission and the President knew about this way back in December, or whenever, and did nothing about it, the question arises as to why they did nothing? Did they believe that the threats were not real? That the e mails were fakes? Or were they waiting for an "Ah! Ha!' moment when the journalist got killed so that they could say to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General "gotcha!" In other words, were they too playing politics with the life of a citizen? Because the only reason that I can think as to why the Opposition was keeping quiet for so long was because they wanted the murder to take place and then they coud say "gotcha!". Can anybody give me another credible reason? This, of course, assumes that the e mails were real. If at all times those in the know knew that they were forgeries then obviously nobody was really worried. The threat was faked! So nobody had to alert the police.
Let me say that I do believe that neither Mr. Richards nor any member of the Integrity Commission (including Mr. Gordon) ever saw these alleged e mails before Dr. Rowley dropped them in Parliament. But if they did, as the PNM is alleging, then a lot more people other than Dr. Rowley have some real questions to answer. We'll have to wait and see, but Sir Walter Scott's words of warning remain as true today as they were some two hundred years ago when he first wrote them.
Posted by Robin Montano at 10:53 AM
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
In American football there is a play that is referred to as a "Hail Mary pass". What happens is this: a touchdown is worth six points. It sometimes happens that one team is behind by, say, four points, and there is only enough time on the clock for the team that is behind to make one more play. If the team scores a touchdown on that play it wins the game. If it does not score ... well, that's it! They lose! Usually the quarterback of the team that is behind at this time throws the football to a receiver that is way downfield. If the receiver catches the ball a touchdown is certain. That is why it's called a 'Hail Mary' as when the ball is going through the air for those few interminable seconds you can almost hear the supporters of that team as well as the quarterback saying "Hail Mary, full of grace ...".
Dr. Keith Rowley's play in Parliament yesterday could be labelled such a pass because if what he said turns out to be not true he will have effectively sunk himself and his PNM team. That would be it! Finito! Kaput! On the other hand, if all that he has said is true the Government is sunk!
Dr. Rowley showed clearly yesterday that he understood clearly that he simply had to come with something new for the no confidence motion that he was bringing. A simple re-hashing of past issues was not going to cut it. So he came up with some e mails that, if true, are so serious that they would bring the Government down, as I said earlier. The e mails basically allege a criminal conspiracy between the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister's special security adviser, Captain Gary Griffith over the section 34 issue. Further the e mails go further to suggest that the parties involved were planning serious harm to a journalist.
The problem here is that the e mails appear on their very face to be faked. For example, a lot of the e mails are supposed to have come from an e mail address: anan@ gmail.com. But it is not possible to create a g mail account with less than six characters. So, that e mail address would have to be, say, firstname.lastname@example.org in order to be valid. (And as if to prove this my computer has highlighted and underlined the fake address that I just made up the way that it does whenever I type a real e mail or web address. It didn't do that for the "anan" address.) So, what are we to make of this? Then there is another e mail address that ends in ".coN "(I have high lighted and capitalised the "n" for emphasis). There should be an "m" where the "n"is. Then there is an alleged exchange of e mails between Captain Griffith and Mr. Ramlogan starting with Mr. Ramlogan allegedly e mailing Captain Griffith at 1:33am on a Monday morning and Captain Griffith replying at 1:40am! So? So these men don't sleep and are sitting on their computers at that time?! Really? I'm sorry. That doesn't make sense.
There are other things that lead me to believe that the e mails are faked, but hopefully you get the point. Then Dr. Rowley wants us to believe that he had this information for the last six months!? Really? So he is saying that he knew that there was a threat on the life of the journalist but did nothing about it?! What was he waiting for? For the woman to be killed and then he could say 'ah!Ha! Caught you!' In other words, scoring political points is more important than saving someone's life!?
(There are other things too. Did anyone notice, for example, that the Express published all the e mails with the adresses, except the ".con" address was deleted in their publication? I wonder why they did that? Hmmmm! Makes you think, doesn't it?)
But back to the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition. The accusations that he has made are very, very serious. The Prime Minister has quite properly referred them to the Commissioner of Police. If they turn out to be true the Prime Minister and her Attorney General will have to resign. There is no question of that! But if the accusations turn out to be false then Dr. Rowley should be expelled from the Parliament. This is much too serious to warrant a slight slap on the wrist or a mere suspension. No one should be allowed to make accusations like this in the Parliament ... the highest court in our land ... if they are not true. No one!
Posted by Robin Montano at 1:11 PM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
While it has been some 8 years since I was last privileged to be a member of the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago and as a result my memory of the Standing Orders is now somewhat hazy, I seemed to remember something in them saying in effect that a member cannot "re-discuss" something that was raised in another debate. In other words, a member cannot regurgitate something that was already discussed in another debate.
Well, my memory is admittedly hazy, so I checked the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and found that I was partially right. Standing Order 36(3) says in effect (my words) that a member cannot raise a matter which has already been dealt with in a current session. A session of Parliament is historically a period lasting usually less than one year when Parliament meets. At the end of the session Parliament is prorogued, but no general election is called, and the legislators have a chance to return to their constituencies until the next session is called.
But all this aside, the reason that my curiosity was piqued was because the Leader of the Opposition has filed yet another motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister (no confidence motions against the Government of the day are always filed against the Prime Minister of the day) and I wondered what was new from the last time he filed such a motion. Then I heard the public relations officer of the PNM, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, giving a list on television of all of the things that the PNM was going to raise in the instant motion. Of all the things that he raised on TV the only thing that was new (i.e., that was not included in the last debate) was what can be called "the section 34 issue". Now I have already previously dealt with this particular matter when it was a "hot" topic and I don't propose to deal with it again. But, if the Opposition wants to have a debate on section 34 then it is perfectly entitled to do so.
However, I find it difficult to understand the logic in regurgitating matters that even if they were debated in the last session of Parliament and therefore technically falling outside the rules, so that we get the same thing all over again just in slightly different words. Is the Opposition really serious in suggesting that this is an efficient use of Parliamentary time? After all, isn't what was said in the last debate simply going to be repeated all over again? If so, what exactly is the point about this debate? Everything is already on the Parliamentary record. The Opposition on the last occasion put all of their members in to speak. Only Mr. Manning was silent. Is the same thing going to happen again?
Let me be clear: if the erstwhile Senator Al-Rawi mis-spoke on television or I misunderstood him and there are indeed new matters to place on record then I withdraw my criticisms completely. I would be the first to say that the Opposition has every right ... indeed, a responsibility ... to bring a motion of no confidence. But if nothing new is going to come out of the debate then I would have to say that the debate is going to be a tremendous waste of Parliamentary time and is not a proper use of Parliamentary resources.It also speaks volumes about the lack of real and competent leadership in what ought to be the alternative government of Trinidad & Tobago. And that is serious! There are many serious issues to be dealt with in this country and we simply don't need an Opposition that believes that the best way to represent the people is by trying to score political points ... and that is what the real purpose of this debate, quite frankly, looks like!
And if you say to me 'what about section 34'? My reply would be 'okay, that's new. Go ahead and debate it if you want'. But then it will be a very short debate for the answers to those charges have been on record for a long time and (conveniently) ignored by those opposed to the Government.
I must confess that I really don't expect much from the upcoming debate except for a lot of predictable rabble rousing. Would that I be proved wrong and we could see some competent alternative leadership! The best government always comes when there is a credible alternative!
Incidentally, if you ask me what do I think are the big issues that the Opposition ought to be paying attention to, let me spell them out for you:
I would love to hear exactly what the PNM would do to solve these big issues. I don't need to hear any more criticisms. I need to hear solutions.
Posted by Robin Montano at 1:56 PM
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
As the Sir Anthony Coleman Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the affairs of CLICO and the Hindu Credit Union winds its weary way down after spending millions and millions of taxpayers dollars we are all left with the obvious question: so, what happens next? Because I doubt whether there is anybody who is going to be surprised that the Coleman report will be absolutely scathing in its criticisms of Lawrence Duprey, Harry Harnarine and the other members of the repective cast members in both organisations. Indeed, it would be mind boggling if the report was not severely critical of all of the actors on those two particular stages.
But the truth is that most people don't believe that anything will come of Sir Anthony's report. It is absolutely astounding that after all the time that has elapsed since the collapse of both institutions that not one criminal charge has been levied against anybody in either CLICO or the Hindu Credit Union. The Director of Public Prosecutions can hardly claim that he was waiting on Sir Anthony's report. He is on record as trying to limit the Enquiry because of his own investigations. So? What exactly is taking him so long to bring charges? What? And the mainstream media has been muted in its criticisms of the apparent footdragging by the DPP. Why? How many years does the DPP need to investigate these two matters? Two? Three? Five? Twenty? Because he has now had at least four years and not a single charge has been levied against anybody!! Incredible!!
That we aspire to live under a system of laws is a fact. That we deplore summary or what some call "Wild West" justice is also a good thing. It is axiomatic that persons accused of anything must be given every opportunity to defend themselves. No one can quarrel with that even when, for example, wealthy accused are able to drag out the cases over long periods of time (Ish and Steve come to mind). A man has an absolute right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But for crying out loud, there has to be some justice available to the society. What has happened to the CLICO policy holders/investors and the HCU depositers is really, really, really wrong. I personally believe that crimes have been committed. Irregular salary and pension packages, golden handshakes and bonuses in the millions when the institutions were clearly bankrupt, over generous fees for attending meetings to rubber stamp decisions and dodgy auditors' reports all need to be dealt with and should have been scrutinised years ago. But they haven't been, at least not by those (e.g., the DPP) who could really do something about it.
There are reportedly some five million pages of evidence from the Coleman COE. Surely the DPP should have and could have been reading that evidence as it was unfolding!? What exactly is he (the DPP) investigating now? And who is he investigating? I am sure that most of us could give him a list!
It is high time that charges were brought ... and serious charges. Persons who were robbed in both debacles have died after being effectively bankrupted by the failures of these two institutions. No. Some justice is necessary now. And the tragedy is that although criticisms can always be levied against politicians in both the main political parties the truth is that it seems to be the fault of our non-political institutions that the debacles were allowed to happen in the first place and that nobody has been called to account in the second. And to be absolutely clear, I am criticising here the Central Bank, the Commissioner of Co-Operatives and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Posted by Robin Montano at 11:51 AM
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
In the midst of all of the political happenings in T&T we have not been paying any real attention to what is going on just a few kilometers/miles to the west of us. Our comparitively huge neighbour is in real trouble and only the most sycophantic Chavistas will not admit it. Real standards of living are in free fall and one of the world's potentially richest countries is in for the devil of a time. The immediate future facing Venezuelans is one of blood, sweat and tears.
Let me explain: when the 7th October 2012 presidential elections the total number of electors on the electoral list was 18, 854,935. On 14th April, 2013 the total number of electors registered to vote was 18,904,364. So? What's the big deal? There is an increase in the list of registered voters by 49,429 new electors. I agree that there should be nothing wrong with this except that the authorities refused to allow any new registrations beyween the two elections. I know this because I know several people in Caracas whose children turned 18 after 7th October, 2012 and who were prevented from registering to vote! Nobody, they were told could register to vote for the new Presidential election. It was to be fought on the old electoral list!
Then, on the night of the 14th April presidential elections, the television stations started broadcasting that Maduro was the winner with 50.66 per cent of the popular vote as against 49.07 per cent for his opponent Enrique Capriles. The only problem with this broadcast was that they posted on television the actual amount of votes that each candidate had received: 7,505,388 votes for Maduro as against 7,720,403 votes for Capriles!! Got that? According to the TV stations Maduro had won with 215,065 votes less than Capriles had received. (And by the way, I personally saw the several broadcasts on this before they took the figures down, so I am reporting absolute facts!!) They later reported that Maduro got 7.27 million votes ... but it took a looonnngggg time to fix! What happened? I have seen no explanations for this.
There are unconfirmed reports of ballots being destroyed and about the army burning ballot papers. I have seen videos of this but cannot say definitively that they are accurate or entirely truthful. However, in light of the fact that Maduro refused a recount and has had himself sworn in and then has allowed a recount which is going to take more than a month I must confess that my suspicions have been aroused as to both the validity of the published results as well as what the result of the recount will be. In fact, I'll take a bet (one dollar to one doughnut ... and we'll decide later who pays the dollar and who pays the doughnut) that the recount results will "show" that Maduro has won.
Incidentally, the opposition in Venezuela says that Capriles actually got 53.5 per cent of the popular vote as against Maduro getting 44.3 per cent. Interesting, eh?
In the meantime, Venezuela, a country full of oil, gold, timber and other minerals is in serious financial trouble. The official exchange rate of the bolivar to the US dollar is about 6bs to US$1. The blackmarket rate is now about 24bs to US$1!!! There are shortages of the most basic commodities: milk, butter, flour, bread, and even women's sanitary napkins! Inflation is approaching 30% for this year which is not even half over. There already has been a 33% devaluation of the currency in February and another one is expected soon. Maduro's answer is that (a) it's not really happening and (b) if it is all the troubles are (you guessed it!) the fault of and caused by the United States! But Venezuela continues to supply Cuba with oil to the value of about US$2 billion per month and not get paid for it! Not bad for a country going broke! But then it's the Yankees fault!
There is talk of newer laws to come which will further encroach on the freedoms of the country's citizenry, which, if true, will simply add more layers onto a population already groaning under a tyrant's yoke. The latest move to say to elected representatives that they cannot speak in the country's Parliament unless they recognise Maduro as the duly elected President is yet another example of the real and galloping dictatorship. Well, Mr. Maduro, for what it's worth, I recognise you as being the duly elected President of Venezuela ... duly elected by a fraudulent process and a fraudulent result, but "duly elected" nonetheless!! Just be careful, Mr. Maduro, because I predict that sooner or later the same guns that you have turned against your people will turn against you. Violence always breeds violence!
What a tragedy!!
Posted by Robin Montano at 11:47 AM