Thursday, October 22, 2015


Okay.Full disclosure: my first cousin, who I loved like a brother, was brutally murdered almost nineteen years ago. The 'hit man' was a policeman. His murder remains officially unsolved although everybody knows who did it.

I say this because it's true and because I want to talk about crime in our little twin island Republic. Although I haven't seen him or spoken with him for more than a decade I counted Richard Wheeler as a friend whom I knew personally as well as professionally. But this post is not about the Wheelers or anybody else who has been the cruel victim of brutal and unsolved crimes. This post is about why those crimes are not being solved.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, has his hero say to his sidekick, Dr. Watson in the story The Sign of Four
 "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever   remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
So, why aren't the T&T Police solving more crimes? I can think of two reasons: the first is that they are totally and utterly incompetent.
The second is that they don't want to solve the crimes.

If there is anybody who can give me any other reasons I would be pleased to hear them. But I have heard the arguments "oh, we don't have the tools or the necessary resources." That argument falls into my first reason.  But it is the second reason that frightens me. Because, I am personally satisfied that it is a deadly combination of the two reasons that has created the crime problem that we have today and personal experience as well as a reasonable knowledge of how things work suggest strongly to me that the Police really do not want to solve the crime problem. As to why they wouldn't want to solve it, I can think of a number of reasons which are not completely relevant to this discussion.

Let's take a look at some facts: (a) The detection rate for murders hovers around the ten percent mark. The conviction rate for murders hovers around the three percent mark. In other words, your chances of literally getting away with murder in this country are statistically excellent. Why? The only murders really being solved are of the domestic 'husband killing wife' type.
(b) There has been a serious spike in the murder rate since the September 7th general elections. Why? There has to be a reason. What is it?
(b) Only one of the recent brutal attacks/murders against elderly white foreigners in Tobago has been 'solved'. Why? There has to be a reason. What is it?
(c) All of the highly publicized brutal attacks/murders in Tobago that have not been solved have been against white foreigners. Is there a sinister pattern here? Is race rearing its ugly head  and that is why the murders/attacks have not been solved/? Or is there something else? Or is it a combination of factors including race? What?
(e) Nobody in the mainstream media is asking the hard questions of the Police. Why? Does the mainstream media know something that we don't? If so, what? And if they don't know why are they not asking the questions?

I read somewhere once that every suggestion of change always means death to some status quo. Now, there are countless 'status quos' in this country and everybody defends his or her own little piece of the pie. But things here will not change until we as a society begin to demand (and receive) answers to the hard questions that confront us. The scoring of political points in the Parliament is all well and good and certainly sells newspapers, but I for one would be much more impressed if a politician would stand up and tell us exactly what he or she was going to do to fix a particular problem.

And for the record, if you don't want to tell us how you are going to fix the Police because of 'national security' reasons, that's all right. But then give us real and tangible bench marks to which we can hold you to so that we can see whether or not you really are serious about fixing the problem (whatever that 'problem' might be).

P.S. I had promised in my last post to put forward my own ideas of how to fix the education system. I will do so soon, but events have rather overtaken and I considered this more important for the moment.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


As oil prices continue their downward trend and the Ryder report comes out saying that we have only twelve years of proven gas reserves left, there is much talk ... almost panicky talk ... about diversifying the economy. Pundits go on radio and television and with much pontification drop their pearls of wisdom about the importance of moving away from our dependency on oil and gas and diversifying (that word again) the economy. Everybody expects that the new Finance Minister will bring in a budget next week that will be tough and that his report will be that our treasury is, if not empty, then close to it.

But nobody has talked about how exactly we are going to achieve this diversification. A former Minister, Mariano Browne, came fairly close last week when he said that we have to think long term and pointed out how India took the decision way back in the late 1940's to put an emphasis on science and mathematics that has resulted in that country's leadership today in information technology.

Education is the single most important factor that shapes the overall distribution of income and influences the probability of poverty. It is no surprise that the countries with poor education systems are at the bottom of the wealth ladder. It is no surprise that the poorest people in the world are the least educated. Conversely, it is no surprise that the countries with the highest educational standards have a citizenry who enjoy the highest standards of living in the world.

Now, look at T&T and the amount of money that has poured through our coffers over the last half century or so. While there are wealthy people living here, the average person certainly cannot be regarded as living at a first world standard and the levels of poverty are ... or ought to be regarded as unacceptable. We shouldn't be as poor as we are.

The problem is not just about money, but a lack of evaluation and meritocracy in schools ... evaluation is an alien concept in T&T's education system. Years ago I was severely criticized for referring to this country's schools as dumps. But the truth is that they were dumps then and remain dumps now. The level of teaching in our schools is often very low with good or competent teachers a rarity rather than the norm; but any attempt at evaluating teachers and structures have been fiercely resisted because teachers do not want to lose their jobs. So teachers often do not have the right training, or if they are trained their knowledge is hardly ever (if ever) updated.

Don't believe me? I live opposite one of Port of Spain's best primary schools. And yet, every single year since dinosaurs roamed the earth the children in that "best" school who are sitting the SAE exams spend their Saturday mornings at the school taking extra lessons. Every single parent who has a child attending a prestige school will tell you that their kid has to take extra lessons in order to pass the school leaving exams that will get them into university. Now, tell me: if the system is so good, why do the kids at every level (primary and high school) have to take extra lessons in order to pass? In the good public schools in first world countries the children are taught in the class room and extra lessons are a rarity, not the norm.

For decades we have let the education system go down and down to the dogs. There is no attempt today by the best schools in the country to reach for the stars. There is no innovative thinking and absolutely no leadership in anything remotely connected with education. Instead, the system seems to be designed to protect the incompetent and unqualified. And we continue to bemoan the constant lowering of standards in every sphere of our lives and throw up our hands in despair. For the last thirty years (probably more) successive governments have simply tinkered with the system. There have been no fresh ideas as to how to improve it and no desire on the part of the politicians of all stripes on both sides of the aisle to take the system into the twenty-first century.

I have often asked the question of educators and those connected with the education system: if this country's education system was blown up this afternoon so that tomorrow morning there was absolutely nothing and you had to start again from scratch, would you put back the exact same system or would you put back something different? The answer has always been 'something different.' So? Why do we continue to tinker with the system? We don't we do something different?

It can be done, and if it is done we will see a huge change for the better in every sphere of our society. In my next post I will put forward one idea as to how we could change things for the better. But please understand, that the idea that I have will not be proposed as the only idea. If anybody has a better idea (or ideas) then for crying out loud, bring it out. But understand this, and understand it well: ain't nothin' gonna change unless and until we fix the education system.