Saturday, February 14, 2015

POBRECITA VENEZUELA





Poor Venezuela. As if its troubles were not enough, saddled with an incompetent dictator who is (not so) slowly running his country into the ground ... a country that is the richest in Latin America in terms of natural resources ... with inflation presently hovering around the 60 percent mark and set to go higher, while supporting the brutal and bloody dictatorship of the Castros at tremendous cost to the people of Venezuela, and blaming everybody but himself for the economic tragedies that have befallen this lovely country. The Trinidad Guardian reported this week that the Venezuelan Government has devalued the bolivar from Bs.6.12 to the US dollar to Bs170 to the US dollar. Can you imagine that?!? The currency has been devalued overnight more than 25 times!!


So what do you think will happen next? Well, as a devaluation takes between three to six months to "bite" I figure that President Maduro and his cronies are figuring that when this massive devaluation does eventually start to be felt that the demonstrations will start again and this time they will be worse than before. So? What should Maduro & Co. do to keep their stranglehold on power?


Now these guys may not have a clue about economics, nor do they have any idea of how to run a country so that it prospers without democracy, but you have to hand it to them: when it comes to retaining power they have their opposition licked. First of all, they understand well the old Mao Tse Tung's dictum that power comes out of the mouth of a gun. They have cemented their hold on the army by getting rid of any and everybody who might remotely oppose them thus ensuring their control of the guns. Then they have locked up the leader of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, so that he can't cause them trouble outside. It doesn't matter that just about everybody from Pope Francis to the President of Spain and everybody else in between (Amnesty International, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Barack Obama, etc.) has called for Leopodo's release (he is popularly known by his first name), Maduro has simply ignored them and gone on his merry way as though he has and had nothing to do with Leopoldo's arrest.


But back to today: Maduro has a huge problem coming down the road to meet him in a very short time. This massive devaluation is going to impoverish the country even more at a time of low oil prices, and inflation will hit triple digits before the year is out. And the idiot (and yes, I will not apologize for calling him that ... if he wants to sue me here in Trinidad for defamation I will happily defend myself in Court. Frankly, I would love to cross-examine him and if he sues he will HAVE to go into the witness box) knows all too well that this time the demonstrations will probably topple him.


So? What to do? Reports in Venezuela's social media (which is now the only reliable source of news in that poor country) are saying that Leopoldo has been taken out of his prison cell and tortured. The fact that this story has been allowed to get out suggests that Maduro & Co. wanted it to get out. They want a confrontation with the opposition now as opposed to a few months down the road. If they can get the opposition mad enough then when the demonstrations will start now and they can the arrest all the leaders and head off the looming coup d'├ętat. If they wait, the chances are that the wives of the soldiers will be so angry with their falling standards of living that they may not be able to count on the support of the army anymore.


Macchievalian? Absolutely! And it doesn't matter whether they have tortured Leopoldo or not. It is enough for the story just to get out ... even though it is highly probable that the story is true. The time to strike is now, not later. It's like we say here in good old T&T: take in front before in front takes you. Ma-burro ... sorry, I mean Maduro ... is obviously doing just that!!


P.S. I forgot to mention that Ma-burro ... sorry, I mean Maduro ... I keep calling him that because he really is a donkey .. has taken to locking up shop owners who have long queues outside their shops where people are lining up to try and buy scarce goods. Now, if you were a shop owner who can't get the necessary foreign exchange to buy scarce goods and you were going to be locked up because you only have a very limited supply, would you stay open or would you shut your business down? And you still think the man is not a donkey?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE RAMLOGAN/WEST IMBROGLIO







Well, the Prime Minister lives to fight another day! The very serious political questions that had arisen over the last two weeks or so concerning her then Attorney General and whether or not he had tried to pervert the course of justice by trying to inveigle a witness (Police Complaints Authority Director David West) to withdraw a witness statement in a High Court matter are (for now at least) put to rest. Of course, there is still the criminal investigation going on by the police and that will wend its way through the system with either the matter being dropped or an arrest being made. Either way, the Government and the Prime Minister are now out of that very messy imbroglio ... at least, for the time being.


But there is still some mopping up to do: the Prime Minister raised the issue of the behavior of Mr. West, and also that of the Leader of the Opposition in this whole sad affair, and called on Mr. West to resign his directorship of the Police Complaints Authority. It is worth the while of right thinking people in the country to look at this call very seriously, for if it is justified then Mr. West should indeed resign. What are the facts (as published in the newspapers):


- Sometime in or about June, 2014 David West supplied a witness statement to Dr. Rowley's lawyers in a defamation case brought by then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan against Dr. Rowley that related to the infamous section 34 fiasco;
- On or about the 31st October, 2014 the Attorney General placed two telephone calls to Mr. West ... one in the morning and the other around 4 in the afternoon. The allegation is that in the morning phone call the Attorney General (AG) told Mr. West that he (West) was being considered for the very important post of Director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and in the second phone call he told Mr. West that if he (West) were to withdraw his witness statement that he (Ramlogan) would make sure that West got the job.
- Mr. West says that the above version is correct. Mr. Ramlogan says that it is not and that he never tried to get Mr. West to withdraw his statement. (For the record, if Mr. West's version is correct then certainly it would appear from those facts that Mr. Ramlogan did indeed commit the crime of seeking to pervert the course of justice.)
- It is also reported that in between the two phone calls that the President's Office called Mr. West and told him that he was going to be the next Director of the PCA. In other words, by the time of the second phone call Mr. West knew that Mr. Ramlogan's support was irrelevant.
- Nothing happens for the next two and a half months except that the witness statement is filed in Court on the 19th December, 2014. Then the Express newspaper publishes the story and says that it had got the telephone records of the AG's office and that it can confirm that the calls were indeed made. The Express also purports to report on the contents of the conversations between the two men.
- Mr. West at first appears to refuse to be drawn in but then confirms that the Express story is true. Mr. Ramlogan denies it.
- All hell breaks loose at a time when the Prime Minister is out of the country.
- Mr. West reports the matter to the police.
- Then the Minister of National Security, Captain Gary Griffith enters the fray by apparently gratuitously disclosing that on or about the 19th December he had been asked by the AG to telephone Mr. West and ask him if he "had withdrawn the document." Captain Griffith says that he was told by Mr. West to "leave that alone" or some such words, which he did and never gave it another thought until this whole thing blew up when he put two and two together.




Now, some rather serious questions arise from these facts. You see, the office of Director of the Police Complaints Authority is a very important non-political office under the Trinidad & Tobago constitution. All complaints against policemen, from the Commissioner of Police down to the newest recruit, are dealt with by this office. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out therefore that the Director of the PCA wields great power and influence. He (or she) is appointed by the President after consultations with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. In other words, both sides of the political divide have to be happy and to feel comfortable with the nominee.


So, the questions are as follows:
- Why did Mr. West take so long to report the matter? Surely, this was a very serious matter that ought to have been reported at once, especially by a person who was about to assume such an important office?
- Did Mr. West disclose to the President that he was a witness in the highly politically charged defamation case between the AG and the Leader of the Opposition? If not, why not? Did he not think that this was important? If he thought that it was unimportant then why did he think that?
- Did Dr. Rowley disclose to the President that Mr. West was a witness for him in the defamation case? If not, why not? Did he not think that it was unacceptable to have as a Director of the PCA a person who was appearing for him as a witness in a politically charged law suit? If not, then would he have happily accepted (or even accept tomorrow) if the shoe was on the other foot and he had a say in vetoing the appointment of somebody who was going to appear in a law suit against him  which person would effectively be challenging his (Rowley's) version of events, would he have acquiesced in such an appointment? Hardly likely!!
- Would the President have appointed Mr. West if he had known about this witness statement and law suit?
- How did the Express get hold of the AG's phone records? Isn't this a crime under the Telecommunications Act? If so, who (i.e., what person) in the Express broke the law and who should be prosecuted?
- The Express reports seemed to say that the newspaper had evidence of the telephone conversations between Messrs. West and Ramlogan. If so, exactly what evidence does the Express have? Tape recordings? If so, who taped it and how did the Express get the tape? If not a tape recording, then what exactly.
- Is Mr. Faris Al-Rawi, the attorney for Dr. Rowley, also the attorney to whom Mr. West gave the witness statement and who Mr. west referred to as his (i.e., West's) lawyer, or did he (West) give it to another lawyer who then gave it to Mr. Al-Rawi?
- Given that Mr. Al-Rawi is not only Dr. Rowley's lawyer, but also the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the opposition PNM is this important in this situation?


There are other questions, but they all point in the same direction. Put another way: this thing ain't over by a long shot. My bet is that the opposition will now file a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Such motions rarely have any chance of succeeding in the Parliament, but can cause a certain amount of embarrassment which a savvy opposition can use to its advantage in the country. We shall have to wait and see exactly how the opposition will present the motion, but my best guess at the moment is that it will fail. Put another way, I don't have any confidence that Dr. Rowley and his colleagues have the "political smarts" to pull it off successfully. Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, on the other hand, has shown herself time and again to be as wiley as the best of them and not easily kept in a corner.


So, I end this post by asking the serious question: given all of the facts as exist in the public domain today (and this is important, for new facts coming to light could change every thing), do you think that Mr. West should resign his post or no? Put another way, does the possibility exist that Mr. West is at the very least sympathetic to Dr. Rowley and the PNM? Because if the answer to that last question is 'yes' then according to all the legal authorities on the law of bias, the possibility exists that he is "biased" or partial to Dr. Rowley and the PNM and therefore ought not to be holding such a distinctly non-political office. The mere existence of a possibility of bias sinks him whether he is in fact biased or not!!