The centre must hold

By Raffique Shah
May 06, 2017

Raffique Shah“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world;

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed; and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity…”

(The Second Coming, William Yeats, Irish poet laureate, 1919)

For the second consecutive week, I find myself turning to poetry to help me interpret the state of the nation: things are indeed falling apart. The centre seems to have abdicated its authority and responsibilities, collapsing before our eyes. Integrity has been severely compromised. Human vultures circle the diseased nation, pecking away at its gaping wounds rather than administering healing balm, mindless that innocence is drowned in anarchy, caring only about the prospect of power.

Against such a grim canvas, citizens turn to the centre, to those institutions that have been long established as independent authorities that rise above the din of discontent, that steady the ship of state as the turbulence turns into a tempest. But when the centre cannot hold, when it is mired in a mess of its own making, who or what is left to stave off disaster, maybe to salvage the wreck if the ship runs aground?

Our judicial system, especially the judiciary, is supposed to be the sanctum that will always be there, asserting authority and power even if anarchy is loosed upon the nation. When its credibility comes into question, its integrity is challenged, then things don’t just fall apart: in such circumstance, Yeats’s eloquent poetry must be reduced to colloquialism—all fall down.

Sadly, that’s the sorry pass we have arrived at, what with the inexplicable shenanigans of senior judicial officers over the past few weeks. I do not pretend to know law, and I am mindful of Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s injunction to media personnel to be careful about what we say or write regarding the strange developments.

I don’t think, however, that I need to remind the CJ of Lord Atkin’s famous pronouncement at the Privy Council in 1936: “Justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful…comments of ordinary men…” As Lord Carlti (my boyhood calypso sobriquet), I need add that far from being cloistered, judges must stand naked before the populace, scrutinised so that we can see who and what they really are. After all, Trinis don’t like to buy “cat in bag”.

Lest the CJ thinks I’m being disrespectful, let me remind him that it was he, not I, and his erstwhile colleagues on the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, who appointed ex-chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a judge, only to have her resign days later after several lawyers pointed to the many part-heard matters she had left in limbo.

With the judiciary being a pivotal part of the “centre” that must hold when things threaten to fall apart, the CJ, as head of the JLSC, needs to explain how such a horrendous error occurred under his watch. Are there other errors that went unnoticed? What is the true state of the judicial system? Why is the backlog of cases getting bigger?

I should note that, on balance, I have always assessed our judicial officers as being bright, fair and trustworthy, although, through the years, I’ve had doubts about the sanity of some judges, and the integrity of others.

The reason I’m questioning the state of the system is I sense that the nation is teetering on the brink of social and political anarchy, precipitated by sins of omission committed by those who hold office and acts of desperation by those seeking to grab power.

On both sides of the divide, stupor has numbed the architects’ minds to Yeats’s “blood-dimmed tide” in which “the ceremony of innocence is drowned”. I, who lived through a revolution in 1970 and an insurrection in 1990, can tell you exactly how those who stoke unrest will react.

In 1970, there was responsible leadership on all fronts (although some of Dr Eric Williams’s colleagues deserted him), so the tonnes of guns did not rain blood, nor was there widespread looting or arson.

In 1990, there was total disorder, looting and mayhem. Many police officers abandoned their posts, most of the military stood firm, and Ray Robinson and a handful of his aides acquitted themselves well. Others who had fanned the flames fled, hid or cowered until after the dust settled.

I see a situation similar to the latter developing, except that now there are thousands of illegal guns in the hands of criminals who have no regard for human life. If the dam of discontent bursts, much blood would flow, the “provocateurs” will run and hide, ordinary citizens will pay a devastating price, and the nation will descend into the wasteland of a failed state.

Now is the time for the leadership of the “centre” to assert itself if we are to avert disaster. Can we count on our judicial officers?

6 Responses to “The centre must hold”


  • mr shah don’t act surprise take what you getting you hated the pp government and been all pnm so take it now we see who is the best of the two evils

    • And what does the PNM and UNC has to do with Judicial and Legal Service Commission?…Trinidadian are sure not able to think critically. The judiciary is independent!!!

  • Sorry Uncle Shah,but even you as experienced as you are ,is incapable of playing both sides of the coin/having your cake and eat it too-as we like to say on the streets.
    Someday hopefully ,you’ll accept full responsibility for your actions in 1970. You would also finally refrain from condoning criminal behaviors that operate on the guise of religion ,as occurred in 1990.
    Given time ,like me (re de boy/gals in Grey,& Blue)you too would be able to speak objectively of your former Tethron Gangreen fellows ,& so call a spade a spade.
    Don’t be a prisoner of the moment ,and so ,when looking for causes /solutions ,with reapect to the present precarious , Socio political crisis, soley point fingers at the regime in power.
    Tribe matters,class matters,history matters,patriotism matters ,independent minded,critical thinking matters!
    Now here is my two cents,bigger perspective on the subject:-

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,243596.html

    Pay attention folks, as these almost irrelevant , greedy leeches,& worst ,country hating bandits,’come out of the woodwork (as we like to say)as they offer pretense of such care about Justice, in our underachieving La Trinity.
    Watch them , as they dance with glee, in anticipation of perhaps ‘eating a much coveted legal food’-re this escapist ,non issue-even as they not too subtly, attempt to drag our country through the mud,at every opportunity.
    That’s correct people. Most -including former Appeal Court Justice, El Presidente Cameo-are still silent as a mouse ,over the Privy Council/CCJ monstrosity, whereby our T&T ,would accept the latter as our final Court of appeal-thus easing some of the exorbitant legal cost / curtail the time fame for completion of cases/ enhance Justice for citizens accused of criminalities ,many without means, as compared to say a Basdeo Panday, his(compromised) ex CJ pal Sharma,& Coup leader, Afro Islamist criminal ,former Horse Police/goalkeeper -Lennox Phillip,aka Yasin Abu Bakr.
    The morally repugnant bastards ,had no quarrels , when Kamla high end COP party pal -Mama Lucky, boosted her fortunes, after her mysterious appointment as a Judge , in de dead of night, by the suspicious acting ,Silk acquisition PM.
    They had no problem , when the other fake Silk AG Ramny de Ramgoat lover, was prepared to investigate himself , with a view to possibly covering up, any criminal impropriety , re that stenchlike , Prisongate affair-which impacted negatively ,incarcerated citizens lives.
    Yeah Kamla ,we get that. You merely acted a few months as AG,under Political benefactor Baz regime,and was involved in about 3 or less legal matters, in your entire legal /political career,but you deserved Silk too.
    The irony isn’t lost on us ,as to how these so called legal luminaries behaved ,when former Chief Magistrate, Sherman Mc Nicolls had the temerity to try and expose his CJ, Papa Sharma.
    Rest in Peace Mr Nicolls.

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,40835.html

    We know why ‘cat cut your tongue,’ later ,re evidence tiempo, & the reasons for your sudden career/ physical demise,ummmm?
    Tell you what folks.If there was any Justice in T&T, ex CJ Sharma,& lawyer polititician pal Baz ,would have both died in Prison.
    Fair to say ,a little bit of Victimhood cries can work wonder inbour Pais,si?

    https://www.google.tt/amp/m.hindustantimes.com/india-news/in-a-first-supreme-court-to-begin-contempt-case-against-a-sitting-hc-judge/story-agkRz7jSEcfn6KM4AzaCpK_amp.html
    Likewise, if India was a true Democracy then…..Guess you know where I’m going with this ,huh?

    Dime people, are you still confused,as to why our T&T , is stuck in this pathetic Socio-Political state, or wost yet, who wishes to make it ungoverbable-once they aren’t in the Political Drivers seat?
    Do you still doubt the negative impact ,of tribally tinged -Political interferance ,on our Police Service,& who is the cause for it’s downward spiral ,into that ugly quagmire, of seeming incompetence-the result of low moral,sistematic purges,& micromagement?
    Hopefully not.
    Ok your Honor ,I rest my case. Ahhhh shucks,…..she has resigned ,& is playing the Gender,(reverse) Race victim card too.
    Well,as my ever grateful, Canadian Citizen amigo TMan might say ,what ‘s good for the South of de Caroni Goose,is great for the East Dry River ,by way of Beetam Labasse Gander too,ehhhhh?
    What a country,& with citizens like these ,who needs enemies?
    Yeah,’You alze, ‘ ever preaent ,’Me me ,gime gime ,Dog with ah bone -self aggrandizing tribalists,’want-an obviously misled- Tobago born ,CJ Archie, to pack his Doggie bags ,& return to Roxbrough,but back then ,wished CJ Sharma had died in office.
    Sorry,but such ain’t happening on this lifetime.
    He -to quote former Kaisonian Deniese Plummer -“nah leaving,”his post,until retirement .
    Comprende?

  • Nottoolate TofixTT

    Let them lay bare their bank accounts before the populace. The chaos in TT is because of the corruption and bribery within the judiciary. Trinis to damn dotish to understand that yet they all think they are smartmen and arm chair politicians. Wake up my brethren and listen to Pamela Elder .

  • I say Shamfa Cudjoe for Finance Minister!
    Anyone who can spend $59000.00 taxpayer dollars on cell phone calls on a single weekend must be super talented on all matters of finance!

  • T-Man , I will say the same,

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