Gluttons for political punishment

By Raffique Shah
August 24, 2017

Raffique ShahAmidst the cacophony that has erupted over the inter-island ferries fiasco, the calls for official enquiries of one kind or other into the leasing of the Ocean Flower II convince me that as a nation, we are gluttons for political punishment.

The Prime Minister, yanking our collective chains with perverse delight, names business magnate Christian Mouttet as sole investigator into circumstances surrounding the Port Authority’s (PATT) decision to lease the Ocean Flower II and the aptly-renamed Cobo Star cargo vessel from a seemingly mysterious company, and to hand in a report to him within 30 days.

That act was an insult to the nation’s intelligence—if we have any left. He and Mouttet and all of us know that in a country that is notorious for time- and records-keeping, not to add the recently acquired propensity for litigation, Mr Investigator will hardly be able to zip and unzip his fly in a month.

Mouttet will be stonewalled, threatened, sued, harassed, hounded and persecuted so much so he will wonder what madness possessed him to accept the appointment in the first instance.

But if Moutttet was mad to take basket from the PM, what of the mass of people who are demanding public and parliamentary enquiries, probes by the Integrity Commission, and criminal investigations by the police?

People, how many public enquiries have we had, say, over the past 17 years? Offhand, I remember Las Alturas, CLICO and the Hindu Credit Union, the construction sector (Uff Commission), the 1990 attempted coup…need I continue? There will have been at least 10 such enquiries that will have cost taxpayers many millions of dollars.

Has any one of them led to the arrest, successful prosecution and jailing of any public official? Not one! In fact, in almost every instance the principal characters under probe refused to attend and testify, and Parliament has not amended the relevant laws to compel them to so do or face charges of contempt.

A handful of lawyers who are retained by interested parties at astronomical fees emerge from these lengthy, useless exercises with their bank accounts fattened and their clients safely ensconced beyond the reach of the law, never having to face a court, far less imprisoned in dank cells the way scores of politicians and corrupt business magnates are in Brazil, to use one example.

So why call for a commission of enquiry into the ferries fiasco—to waste more time and money?

Similarly, other than unearthing scandals that are fodder for the media, joint select committees of Parliament are impotent. The Integrity Commission is powerless even to persuade public officials who fall under its purview to comply with the obligatory annual declaration of assets requirement. Every year, without fail, hundreds of such State boards’ directors, parliamentarians and senior officers ignore the IC’s regulations. And its resort to naming and shaming them is a joke, since you cannot shame the shameless.

So all these strident calls on Government, on the President, the police (the police who cannot charge even criminals caught in the act!) and sundry eunuchs who hold high offices laden with trappings but devoid of power, are hollow, meaningless.

Those responsible for the ferries fiasco, whether it was through incompetence, negligence or corruption, will remain unscathed, probably continue to hold high offices, to demand respect from lesser mortals, knowing that the masses, especially the party sycophants, are gluttons for political punishment.

On this note, it is incumbent on me to report that Ferdie Ferreira telephoned me within hours of my last column being published to distance the previous PATT board on which he served, and which, he insists, was “constructively dismissed”, from anything to do with the procurement of the Ocean Flower II and the Cobo Star.

He said that that board had recommended that the lease arrangement with the Superfast Galacia be extended for one year, during which time the PATT and Government would decide on a way forward with the sea-bridge. How and why this advice was rejected, leading to current mess, he does not know.

Nor would we, the public, I should add, whether we decide to await the findings of Super-Mouttet, or the results of investigations conducted by any or all of the agencies I mentioned above.

You see, ours was never to reason why; ours was always to vote and comply, to blindly follow the leaders of our respective tribes, matters not that they mislead us into the Valley of Debt or Death, that they succumb to the temptation to steal from the public purse, a not-so-original sin that this nation has been cursed with.

For verily I say unto you that only you can deliver yourselves from Evil once you remove the tribal scales from your eyes, grab the nearest “bullpistle” you can lay your hands on (the way Christ did in the temple), and beat and evict them, all of them, from office, forever and ever, Amen.

Who we go put? You ask. Find Lloyd…he knows Best…

13 thoughts on “Gluttons for political punishment”

  1. The truth of the matter is that Trinidad have been hijacked, by first the colonial traders, who then aligned with the Syrians and Chinese. what we have as Gov’t in Trinidad,are managers who act and work on behalf of the groups mentioned.Had the oil industry not nationalized some what,the consequences would have been much more dire.Conditions have been put into place where the the two major ethnic groups keep pointing fingers at each other, while the true dividers live secluded empowered lifestyles in a Trinidad sweetened for them by which ever Gov’t in power.One question need to be asked, is Mouttet seeking the peoples interest? seeing that he represents the 1% who in most cases don’t use the water vessel, once again a member of a particular group have been picked to give an impression of being neutral while in reality, the most corrupt.The representation of the establishment in Rowley’ Gov’t tells us that he does not have the final say in any cabinet deliberations, and thats the reason for his continuous mistakes and apologizes, very sad for a black man who have turned his back on his history, i beg to differ.

  2. I enjoyed the humour generated in this article amidst the seriousness of the context. RIP Lloyd Best. I wholly concur with the contents and the title, that we are gluttons for political punishment. The small fries get extradited to the US but the likes of Warner, Ish, Ferguson etc., shows that monies possessed is their savior in buying local lawyers. Dole Chadee et al were made prime example in buying a one way ticket to the hangman noose but the big fellas know how and what other tickets to buy.

  3. The Prime Minister admitted that the who process is under suspect. He should know having full access to information from all sources. The hum de dum attitude of the government is bothersome.. Kams fired 19 Rowley only fired 1 so far.

    To take a $112,000 a day boat and replace it with 2 boats costing $346,500 a day deserves the academy awards for such great performance. The PNM tops the nation in performance. Their list of sqaundamania is mind boggling.

    The behaviour of the PNM symptomatic of a nation in decline yet the PM boasted “everytime the PNM in charge things progress”. Whilst the public focus on the ferry, there is still an investigation going on into the Piarco Airport. The PNM spent $880 million on the Linquist report and an investigation is going on for the past 17 years. Due to come out just in time for the next election. The airport cost $1.6 billion and has paid for itself. The airport inquiry $880 million for Linquist, $220 million to prosecute Ish and Steve, whilst to do the inquiry $500 million at least for a total of $1.6 billion. With no one going to jail.

  4. Thanks Mr Shah,your eloquence and dissemination of facts help me to at least understand some the complexities that permeate the
    political landscape of T&T.I have been an expatriate having left
    The shores of my forefathers 5 generations ago.

  5. The passivity of the black man is what balances the civility in our society. All the other groups come from a history of traders and entrepreneurs, who by customs and interactions have learned to contend with feudal and nomadic practices. Business therefore, is a natural outgrowth on how they see themselves, in a society engineered for the planter class. The planter class monotony remains the one thing that keeps us divided to this day, only, it evidenced in different ways. Thus, it is evident why there is an uneasy alliance between the French Creole, the Chinese and the Indians. They are all descendants of a feudal/nomadic past, where trading was always intertwined with wars and ethnic conflicts. Case in point. Recently there was a story in the media about a Syrian refugee, who emerged from the fighting in Syria to become a pharmacist (in Trinidad) in less than two years. Most of my black friends asked me “how could that be?”. How could he emerge into an entrepreneurial profession, while the battle he just emerged from is still going on, without an end in sight? The pharmacist was able to make this transition because he came from a historical background where, due to feuds, his life was always one in which made him nomadic and optimistic at the same time. Being nomadic, it means that with every movement, from place to place, he has to make himself feel at home. As such, Trinidad became his home naturally and he knows that his life must continue (as if nothing else is happening around him).

    Black culture and practices as we know it, rely on our ability to provide labour and services, as means to support ourselves and make our contributions towards society. It comes as no surprise therefore, that the labour movement is filled with black leaders who make their demands almost solely on being rewarded regardless of the economic reality. This primarily is where the clash of cultures emerge from because we see the same things from different perspectives. The other major barrier is the idea of morality and how it signals our spiritual awareness to act. The claim can be easily made, that the black man is the conscience of the nation. It is so, because he sees morality as an unconditional necessity to making decisions. The other groups do not necessarily abide with such a moral code, because of his business acumen and feudal/nomadic past, that kind of reasoning is conditional.

    The UNC (as a political party) have NEVER had cause to defend itself as an “Indian Party”. Almost all of its legislators and leaders are Indian OR of Indian origin. Yet, there is no hue and cry about its makeup. Should the PNM (that is considered an “African Party”), not include Indians, Africans, Chinese and Caucasians in its makeup, it would be deemed, unwise, unfit and a rejection of societal norms. It is the same reason why much more is expected from Dr. Rowley than was asked of Kamla Persad Bisessar. Examine the behavior of the UNC during the last administration and compare it with the current one. It can easily be determined that, even the economic conditions which is currently more dire, there is a more persistent call for Dr. Rowley’s increased performance, than was expected of Kamla. For example, Kamla, during her five years and three months as Prime Minister, NEVER made a national pitch via television or radio to address the nation even though there were more crises. ON the reverse, every time there is a perceived situation, the first thing that comes from the media is to ask Dr. Rowley to make an address to the nation.

    We share one country but our expectations are different, depending on the perspective of where our interests reside. Our political makeup more or less is evident of how we want to accomplish those goals. In so doing, we settle for what we get. One might recall in a recent blog, I took to task comments written by Mamoo, in which he claimed that Africans “lived off the fat of the land”. What he neglected to say, imply or mention was the fact that free African labour was what was used to build “the fat”. MANY TIMES we look at history with jaundiced eyes, only seeing what we want to see and saying what we want to say. Never mind the truth or realities that represent what we are seeing.

    Complexities of the varied visions of history is what is blurring
    future goals and expectations for a better future.

  6. Seeds planted will take root. This article and the many others by Mr. Shah cannot be any clearer. As above, so below! The politicians both in the USA and TnT are no different. Look across the west and there’re horrendous acts taking place and no one’s there to sop it or improve the situation. All humanity is blind, the evilness in our hearts, our primordial instincts are the rule.

  7. The PM seems to be confusing “incompetence” and “corruption”.
    It is easier and more convenient for him to make veiled corruption charges rather than admit that his government is plagued by incompetence. Incompetence is fast becoming the dominant theme of his ministers, board appointees, the judiciary and top civil servants. The examples, evidence and support for this charge are revealed every day by the fiascos facing the country, from judicial appointments to contractual miscalculations.

  8. As a public medium free to express views and comments of condemnation, I realize that what I write is exposed to the serious and ridiculous as well, but my hope is that my audience will consist of more serious people, who will weigh my thoughts and comments with some degree of objectivity. I continue to feel optimistic that some day I will reach the audience that I gear my visions to but in the meantime I must contend with the likes of jonjo, because he too have a right to express himself in a way that makes him comfortable. In the meantime, I continue to draw my education from those who have had great impact on our lives. The following video can shed a lot of light on those who have doubts on how we should live as opposed to how we are living:

  9. Dear Mr Kian, you write Eloquently and Informative….NO DOUBT THERE…The Comedy (tragically) enters when you Puntuate with Bigoted remarks….O gorm man, both me Grandmothers and Meself grew up in T@T…..NO WORRIES !!!!

  10. Dear jonjo,
    I feel compelled to respond to your statement that you labelled my “Bigoted remarks”, because it is important that we at least understand the issues ( and can disagree on that). I am usually thorough on what I take issue with and avoid generalizing because you leave me to wonder exactly what “bigoted” statement triggered your response. For clarity I would like to print how my dictionary defines the word “bigot”:

    “bigot |ˈbiɡət|
    a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions: don’t let a few small-minded bigots destroy the good image of the city | he was a fanatical bigot.”

    That being given as a proper definition, I fail to comprehend anything I’ve written that matches that meaning.

    Our society has failed us on many fronts. Sadly, from a political point of view, the PNM is the main culprit in the nurturing of false values. As Trinidadians, we like everything “sugar-coated”, like “all ah we is one”, “Trinidad is ah paradise”, “it sweet too bad”. The collective “we” is really the singular “us” in reality. We are really hypocrites with smiling faces. We remain a society engineered for a planter class hierarchy with a ruling class being the descendants of the original planters, a commercial class being those contracted to trade and yet another designated to provide services to whims and fancies to the ruling class and traders. To deny that is to be visually blind or being “not ready to accept reality”. This is what I write about.

    IN our social structure, there many, many blasphemous categories of who is considered “we” and those that are considered “us” and there is where most of our hypocrisy lies. The best barometer of how divided we are is when you take a good look at the prison system, the market vendors, the malls, the hospitals, government documentation, the employment lines etc etc. If we delve beyond the visuals, there are lots of stories to be told, because what you see, is the effect of what divides us. The hierarchy of our social structure is what divides us. We are forced to become “the Laventiles” or the “Beethams” by reason of that structure because in order for some of us to become “better”, some of us have to be considered “worse”. One does not have to be a social scientist like Dr.Selwyn Cudjoe to observe this phenomenon! I once had a business where I had to interview people for different positions. I hired a young woman and her question to me was “do I have to sleep with you now?”. I found that both appalling and disgusting.

    Back to my original statement, I can best answer your concerns when you are exact in your charge and not when I am cast with generality.

  11. Mr. Kian…….Merrian/Webster……BIGOT….A person who is obstainately or intolerantly devoted to his or her opinions and Prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats members of a group with intolerance……I guess one can go “shopping” anywhere to find a different meaning. (me included). No disrespect meant, just an observation. This is the first few Posts I have ever made on this Forum….You were correct..I was generalizing, as I dont intend to Post on evey Point. Your previous Posts to other bloggers speak for themselves. Again, no Disrespect.I do enjoy your Posts.

    1. Thanks for your honesty and I do appreciate a gentlemanly conversation. If we agree on everything there will be no space for us to learn and grow. You have shown that we can disagree with respect for each other, that makes you and admirable adversary.

      Thanks again and good luck on your entry into this forum.

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