Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It is time now that we focus on possible external threats to our peace and security at home. I am referring to the terrorist group that calls itself ISIS.  (And I don't know, by the way, if anybody has ever noticed the oxymoron in that terrorist group calling itself ISIS: ISIS apparently stands for Islamic State in Syria. The word "Islam" comes from the Arabic "Salam" which means "peace". ISIS definitely cannot be defined as a 'peaceful' organization!) In any case, our newspapers have reported that there are some 89 Trinidadians over in Syria right now fighting with or for ISIS. The problem here is that every single citizen of Trinidad & Tobago has a constitutional right to re-enter the country at any time.

So? Under our laws any or all of these "fighters" can come home at any time that they choose. Of course, you don't have to have a degree in rocket science to see that allowing any or all of them back into this little twin island state carries the very real possibility that they might use the training that they have received in the battleground of Syria to wreak havoc in our society.

But either we are a nation of laws or we are just as bad as those who would seek to overturn our society by violent means. We can't simply ban them from coming home, and yet we simply can't allow them in. There would be a huge and obvious risk to our society if we were to do this.

Perhaps, therefore, one possible solution to this conundrum would be to make it a crime for any citizen to engage in any act of terrorism anywhere in the world and subject to a long term incarceration if he/she does. The obvious problem then would be on agreeing what exactly amounts to an act of terrorism? If I go to a foreign land to fight for freedom can I be classified as a terrorist? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. You see the problem?

Another possible solution might be to say that ALL citizens who have gone to Syria to fight for ISIS cannot re-enter Trinidad & Tobago for, say, at least five years after the war has ended. Again, there are rather obvious objections to this.

But we need to discuss the problem now and come up with a solution now, rather than have a 'knee jerk' reaction to it when it does finally arrive on our doorstep. and trust me: it will sooner or later. That is why I thought that the Minster of National Security's remarks about ISIS not posing an immediate threat to T&T while being quite possibly true, were only telling half the story. There is a potential threat to us and it is home grown. Even if only, say 15 of the 89 return home that will be 15 battle hardened and well trained soldiers whose ideology is highly likely to pose a serious threat to our collective peace and security.

I don't have a solution. I can see the objections to the two possible solutions set out above so please don't bother hauling me over the coals for them. I simply made them for you to see and consider and come up with your own ideas. My point is that we need to start thinking about the problem now and deciding now how we are going to deal with it. Because we will have to deal with it; sooner or later!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015


It was not very surprising to read in the morning newspapers that the emailgate case has apparently reached a dead-end and as a result will be closed for lack of evidence. This was apparent from almost the very beginning when the Police were forced to admit that there was nothing on the computers of the persons who allegedly sent the offending emails  and then Google supplied the data which showed that the offending emails had never been sent from the relevant email accounts.

To make a brief recap: the story began when then Opposition Leader (he is now Prime Minister read out several alleged emails in Parliament the sum total of which alleged that then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, then National Security Adviser Gary Griffith and others were all conspiring to kill a journalist. You can't get more serious than that!

Naturally, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar et al shouted their innocence from the roof tops. But, of course, if they were guilty that was exactly what you would expect them to do.  The first to hand over his computer was Captain Griffith followed by the others at later dates.

The country divided along rather predictable racial and political lines with many believing one side or the other. There were even allegations that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was being targeted and illegally bugged!

But after more than two years the Police have admitted that they don't have enough evidence to go forward. They have said though that some of the details in the emails are true and therefore they don't want to say that there is nothing there. To which I reply: poppycock!!

There is nothing more dangerous than a half truth. Let me demonstrate: let's say that I was at your home yesterday afternoon at 2pm and that I can prove that. Let's also say that you too were at your home at 2pm and that I can also prove that. Now let's say that I lie and I say that while I was there I saw you making love to a person who was not your spouse! The two truths do not cancel out my big lie!

And that is the problem here; a good liar will mix up truths with lies in order to make his story credible. So the Police are not doing anybody any favours when they try to protect Dr. Rowley from his most intemperate action. Indeed, the serious question that has not been asked and which seems to have gotten lost is where did Dr. Rowley get those emails from in the first place? Did the Police ever investigate that? If they didn't, then why not? If they did, do they now know who gave the emails to Dr. Rowley? If they don't, they wouldn't that have been an important element in an investigation that has taken more than two years? If it isn't important then can they explain in simple language why with something as serious as an accusation of a plot to kill somebody and to bug the DPP's office it isn't necessary to know who came up with this information in order to assess its credibility? Does it mean therefore that if I decide to make a serious accusation of criminal activity against anyone that a simple anonymous fake email will suffice?

Adolf Hitler's Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels was right when he said that the bigger the lie and the more often that it is repeated the more people will believe it!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


In a previous post I had said that I would put forward my own ideas on how to fix our very broken education system. Before I do so, please understand that I don't put forward these ideas as the only way to fix the system, They happen to be my personal ideas. However, others may have completely different ideas that may be better than mine. At the end of the day, I really don't care whose ideas are best; what I care about is that we fix the @#%&*system and fix it now!

Okay, having got that out of the way let's start: I have said it often ... if you want to understand a problem go back to the beginning. The beginning in this case is the teachers. Our teachers are grossly under paid, and by and large under qualified. The starting salary for a T&T teacher is around TT$5,0000 per month. (That's around US$778 per month). Why are we so surprised that we don't get good teachers when we pay them peanuts?

I would have a starting salary for teachers of at least three times that and, of course, with the higher grades being increased proportionately. But (and it is a big "but") no teacher would be able to access this higher salary unless and until he/she meets the following criteria:
(1)  He/she must be fully qualified. In my language this would mean that every teacher must have at least an undergraduate degree from a recognized university, a teaching diploma and have completed at least two years as a trainee teacher. (Teachers who have been teaching for more than two years would be exempted from this last provision) So, in other words, it will not matter if you have been a teacher for more than thirty years and are currently a school principal; if you don't have the academic qualifications you are not qualified. If you want to qualify you will be given help to do so. But no unqualified person can get the new salary.
(2) There will be performance criteria for every teacher in the new system. If a teacher fail his/her performance review (which will be at the end of every school year) two years in a row then he/she will be summarily dismissed. There will be no more security of tenure for incompetent or absentee teachers. And there will be no appeal from such a dismissal.
(3) Every teacher in the new system will have to sign a new contract containing these terms. If a teacher does not or will not agree then there would be no problem. He/she just will not get the new salary. He/she can stay under the old system without penalty. But there will be no new persons hired as teachers under the old system. In other words, the old system will gradually be phased out.

I can hear the objections: TUTTA (the Teachers Union) will never agree to that (you will say)and will insist that all teachers get the new salary under the old system otherwise they will go on strike. My response would be to let them do just that. My proposal does not interfere with present rights. It simply proposes  that we recognize that we are not educating our children to an acceptable first world, twenty-first century standard and that we simply can't afford to let things slide further. And know this: the present salary structure for all teachers/educators (from the primary school teachers to the high school ones) is woefully inadequate. And throwing money at the problem will not fix it. the problem is poor, inadequate teaching. And we get that because since dinosaurs roamed the earth we have not paid our teachers properly and as a result we do not have properly trained teachers because very few bright and competent persons will go into this underpaid and undervalued profession. That is not to say that we don't have ant bright and competent teachers. I'm sure that we do, but they are as scarce as hen's teeth!

Finally, what I have proposed here is a broad outline of how I would fix the system. There are obvious details to be filled in. For example, the annual review process will have to be very carefully set out and thought out if obvious possible injustices are not to occur.

But if we don't start at the beginning and fix the system then don't be surprised if things simply continue to get worse. There is no "bottom" for countries. Haiti has proven that time and again. Things cannot get better by the waving of a magic wand, and guess what? News flash: God is not a Trini! Things will get worse if we don't start to fix them now. And "now" must mean now!