Ministers Must Show Decorum

By Raffique Shah
July 04, 2010

Attorney General Anand RamloganBREAK, as a boxing referee would say. Last week I sought to re-open some old wounds that have returned to haunt us—to wit, the tragedy and gross injustice of the Bhopal disaster of 1984. Oftentimes we become so absorbed with our immediate problems, we ignore the plight of people less fortunate than we. In their trauma lie many lessons for us, not the least of which is a sense of justice.

In this regard, I have always lived by the creed of a very special human being who inspired me when I was young, Ernesto Ché Guevara. After he left Cuba in 1965 to fight for justice and freedom with oppressed people from the Congo to Bolivia, he wrote what would be his last letter to his young children he had left behind in Havana.

Exhorting them to study hard (he was, himself, a medical doctor), he wrote: “Above all, always be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.” So I shall return to where I left off, hopefully very soon.

But urgent national issues demand my attention. Specifically, I want to deal with the unseemly conduct of new Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, his public castigation of Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert. The AG embarrassed both Philbert and his Cabinet colleague, the National Security Minister, Brigadier John Sandy.

I think it necessary to bring the AG to heel, to let him know he holds a most important portfolio in Government and that he should act with decorum. He needs to look no further than Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar’s handling of certain sensitive issues. But first the matter that led to this sorry pass. Ever since it surfaced that a cathedral-like edifice was being constructed under suspicious circumstances at Guanapo, the public demanded answers from ousted prime minister Patrick Manning.

Like most controversial issues that arose during his last tenure as PM, Manning was less than forthright with his answers. It happened with almost all projects that fell under the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) and Calder Hart, until he was forced to appoint the Uff Commission. When Jack Warner alerted the nation to the Guanapo cathedral, Manning sought to distance himself from the project, but he later admitted that the elusive “prophetess” Pena, who apparently “owned” it, was his spiritual advisor.

Anyone, even a PM, is free to flaunt his folly, though not at the expense of the public purse. We do not yet know who funded the now-abandoned $30 million Guanapo project. If evidence emerges that State funds were siphoned into its construction, then those who did the crime must be made to do the time. Until such time, the presumption of innocence holds good, as Ramlogan well knows.

Shanghai Construction abandoned the work-site in the immediate aftermath of the elections. “One time”, as Tinis would say, suspicions mounted. And in a flash, looters descended on incomplete edifice in a display of lawlessness that rivalled the virtual annexation of State lands at Cashew Gardens in Carlsen Field. Within days, the huge structure collapsed, much the way Manning’s fortunes did.

Now, I agree with those who suggest that the police should have intervened, if only to ward off the looters. Philbert may have a point in relation to ownership of the structure, and the authority of the police to make arrests. He, and the State, could have run into a legal quagmire if all the looters claimed they were the rightful owners, that they were exercising their rights. The project was left in legal-limbo, which made policing it a difficult proposition.

Again, Ramlogan, who fought and won many a court battle in similar circumstances, knows very well that the law can often prove to be an ass–a costly one at that. But even if his knowledge of the law suggested that the police could have acted, protocol, not to add common decency, demanded that he summon a private meeting with Sandy and Philbert and let them know how they should proceed.

Should one or both men fail to act, then the AG might have sought other recourse–maybe have the PM intervene. One does not publicly upbraid office holders of this calibre unless they commit outrageous acts. That not only undermines their authority. It creates unnecessary friction between the executive and vital State institutions–as happened when the Manning administration ran into conflict with ex-chief justice Sharma and several other senior judicial officers.

Recently, US President Barack Obama had cause to summon one of his top generals, Stanley McChrystal, and relieve him of his Afghanistan command. Note well, Obama did not fire the general: I don’t think he has the authority to so do. McChrystal’s sins were serious. He and some of his aides, in a published interview, had made derogatory remarks about the Vice President and other senior Pentagon officials.

Obama showed how these matters are handled–with aplomb. McChrystal publicly apologised to the President. Philbert fired back at Ramlogan. That’s the kind of unnecessary conflict the new Government can do without in its early stages in office. I have no idea whether PM Kamla had her new Cabinet go through orientation sessions where they are schooled in governance, in their interaction with senior public officers.

The discordant notes emanating from Cabinet suggest otherwise.

25 Responses to “Ministers Must Show Decorum”


  • It’s ironic that Raffique Shah, the(ex-revolutionary par excellence) is giving lessons on decorum!

  • Correction, Raf: McCrystal was “relieved of his command” by the president. Where Mr. Obama showed class- Mr. Ramlogan could take lessons from this man- was that on McCrystal’s arrival at the White House, he met privately with he president for half an hour. Mr.Obama had previously said “I owe him that”The substance of that meeting can only be presumed. Both have remained tight-lipped.
    Now, in Mr. Ramlogan’s case, exactly whom is he supposed to learn classy behaviour from? What model of rectitude is here in the present party-in-power?
    I have designated this government as “Government by Bad-mind,” where you insult people publicly as if they will never have to serve your tea.(The previous one was in my mind, government by hassekara) Servile behaviour cannot be the expected norm of people towards the people now in power. Every policeman/woman watched the way Mr.Philbert was treated, and saw his/her future. The test of a good manager is the ability to kick butt in private, and allow a person to maintain his dignity in public. When you strip a man of his dignitas, in the eyes of others, you have made an enemy for life, of him, and of everyone whom he considers his friend. Even the new CAnadian Top Cop must be chilled by the tought of the sort of people he will have to work among. I hope a protocol of how to treat with others is developed soon. Errol mcLeod may have some experience there.If Mr. Philbert had a young badjohn for son…We have to stop acting in such a crass manner.
    Learning to manage people, first requires respect and love for people, including those of different religion, social class and political persuation.

    One wonders from what well of viciousness does such arrogance spring.Was he an abused child maybe? Abandoned by a parent? beaten up by the school bully who looks like mr.Philbert, or what?Obviously, he learned book. He is, however, a social pigmy.

  • This is a well written and even handed account of what public figures ought to read and take cognisance of in order to govern and have everyone on board handling ‘process’ without alerting the public to official discord at the highest level. When governments are formed, men and women with “qualifications” are sought to occupy prestige offices which (it is hoped) the citizens will naturally respect and honour the choice and wisdom of the elected victors. In days of old the word “qualification” almost always meant the most educated (academically). In T&T today there is a wealth of academically qualified persons. In todays often complicated and diverse society there is need to understand more than one’s self. If a manager wants to be successful, it is imperative to know and understand other people who may not share the same values as we do but must be made to exist, raise a family, educate children and produce citizens that we hope will adhere to the rule of law. In order to deal and manage these expectations, the word “qualifications” MUST take a very studied and varied connotation that mere affinity, cultural grouping, religious, political and social closeness must be tempered to come up with the right candidate that meet the expectation of “qualified”. Having said all of this I do not think that Anand Ramlogan is qualified to hold the position of attorney general. Although given the job, he is yet to understand the enormity of the task of AG and the ramifications of being and holding presence in that capacity. He acts like one still on the campaign trail trying to appease his followers. Neithert his style nor demeanor is fitting and I dare say his level of tolorence is not befitting of the requirerment of such a position. These short comings will definitely affect his ability and weaken his competense for such an important job.
    qa

  • Decorum my foot. Ramlogan had a right to be frustrated. Philbert had his me do nothing while the people, and, it is obvious they were not the owners looted. I like the passion of the Attorney General and of course Linda, he is not Barack Obama. Now go after the rest of them sir.

  • It is ironic that had Shah been levelling that criticism against the AG in the PNM, those who are making facetious remarks in response would be lauding him and pontificating hypocritically. There will never be justice in T&T until people shed themselves of the cultural and religious 18th century baggages they inherited from their forebears. Their “awee pon tap” predispositions have become like a race horse out of the gate, way ahead of any semblance of logic or commonsense.

  • I wish to tahnk you for all your thought provoking articles. Including this one.

    First, I am not sure that the AG spoke out of turn. This must have been discussed in cabinet meetings and probably he was appointed point man. Who knows.

    Secondly and even more pertinent is the issue of the police service. What is the purpose of road blocks if one has to determine if a crime has been commited before any investigation or arrest can be made.

    I have been stopped and asked to produce documents for the items I had in my vehicle. I am now assuming that this is illegal since most people are of the opinion that the police cannot stop people with goods that does not belong to them or can be proved to belong to them.

    Lastly, I take issue with the CoP who gives messages to his rank an file via the newspapers that unless a crime has been reported no crime exist and therefore noone should be arrested even if the person has a recently fire weapon and there has been a murder. (Since no gun was reported missing and the person with the gun can be a licenced gun owner. Furthermore none can place the person with the gun and the murdered person.)

  • “The substance of that meeting can only be presumed. Both have remained tight-lipped”.
    That’s right Linda, until a book is published when the General hits the talk show circuit and gives the public more than what they wish to know, in typical American crass, materialistic style.

  • T-MAn, as a thoughtful Christian, who spends my Sunday mornings thinking uplifting thoughts, and blessing all good people of God;I ask you in all seriousness, how has your comment pushed humnity forward? I would like to think that if Mr. Ramlogan deigned to read these columns, he would find something that he could use in my comment. What would he get from yours?
    Every Trini not in the USA bashes the country out of frustration and envy, many in it are also so occupied. When my beloved Obama took office, there was a protocol of behaviours that he had to adhere to. I spent fourteen hours watching all the military people involved in the handover, every man and woman knew what his job was, towards the president and first lady, and their two little darling children. It did not matter who voted for whom or whether they approved of an African American president.Though Obama would reverse almost all of Bush’s policies, they were courtesously recieved by the Bushes, and he and Michele went the extra mile of waiting on the steps until the helicopter taking the Bushes to their plane, had circled the capitol, and departed. This told people

    This is how classy people behave. There is a protocol to be adhered to. Have you seen ANY past military commander writing a tell-all book and making the talk-show circuit to promote it? Fifty years hence, maybe. The Uniform Code of Military conduct forbids this. You have a lot to learn.

    This is 4th of July. I am proud to be an American.On TnT Independence Day, I will toast my other country. Proud of them both.

  • Protocol in and out of the USA as well as the “classy” behavior of Americans are not topics which I want to get into.I humbly withdraw.

  • Who said that anyone was discussing classy Americans, and global protocols T-Man, you crafty provocateur?
    The conversations, and typically skewed positions you were attempting to expound on with well the intentioned Madam L ,and others ,were merely a reflection of your neo tribal penchant for advancing, baseless apologies in defense of obvious ‘rogues and vagabonds,’ across our nation-that so happened in this particular case to be an over excitable , arrogant politician-while simultaneously ,doing everything feasible to denigrate ‘the other’-unless of course , they possess blond hair , blue eyes, and their ancestors were guilty of committing 99% of the atrocities across the world , beginning from when they were liberated from the medieval Dark Ages,by Italian Cristobal Colon and his 40 Spanish thieves ,on the Pinta , Ninia ,and the Santa Maria.
    I hope that you and the majority of the 35% of the unmentionable phonies -that finally found a way to be patriotic since May 24 2010 -would save some of your outrage for your clueless , Edmonton Canadian -com Trini Police Commissioner Gibbs, when he inevitably muck up the entire National security security situation in our country, two months- if so long- into his tenure.
    What a stupid embarrassment for an allegedly independent country , to have to suffer the indignity of crawling like idiots to beg some white , unknown ,foreigner ,to head one of the most sensitive and important branches of our country , simply because some think that competence is only limited to ‘the tribe,’ that looks , acts , and behaves like them- ably assisted of course, by a few token , enablers.
    To think that these , self haters, are still wondering why the conscious amongst us, are counting the days when this foolish political charade is over .
    Hopefully it’s sooner , rather than later, but then I have been wrong before , and so stand corrected, yes?
    Love country over tribe, my friend , and please keep them honest!

  • You could “withdraw”, and boorish behaviour of a government by badmind would still be there.Years ago, when Chambers made a fool of himself and was exposed by the Wall Street Journal, I wrote a piece called “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, its probably still in the Express files. When Ken Valley made a dotish statement about “Me ent no African” I wrote “In The Valley of the Mooks, the Dhoti and The Danshiki”. Some friends still laugh about that piece. You see, you can use your writing skills to expose fakery, or you could use it to support positions that are bascally untenable. Colour of eyes and hair has nothing to do with basic human decency and respect for others, both Mandela and Ghandi-ji had that decency, so did Diana of Wales. It is both an innate and cultivated trait.If you believe all of God’s creations are equal, the beggar in line ahead of you, has as much right to be there as you do. And you stop for the ambulance carrying the heart patient, rather than crash into it, cause the woman’s death ,and blame the woman or the siren.(Pigmy!) In fact our mythology, both Christian and Hindu is full of God coming in the guise of a beggar, to see how his people treat each other. Ramlogan failed the test. End of story.

    Some schools used to teach social ettiquette. Ask Jack Warner about Formal Dinner at Mausica, Bishop’s did, so did the Convents and some good boys schools. They knew they were educating the leadership of the country. Then we began cramming for exam passes, and everything else went by the wayside. Regrets.

    • what do you mean a govnt by bad mind, are you mad, was it bad mind when the PNM dealt with the airport project, no it was not, it was doing what was necessary to ensure that those who plundered our resources face jail. And today, the same must be done and it must not be seen as bad mind. When we make such claims we do nothing more than wear our bias for all wo see.

      • “govnt by bad mind” It is just tribalism being played here. “Ramlogan failed the test” what test??? Gunapo is now secured. Ramlogan is a straight talker, less of a diplomat but he gets the job done. Phibut should not be in office for the length of time given him. When a police Commissioner is in there for a long time he loses touch with the people and the rule of law. Ramlogan had the courage to expose this defect….

  • Having looked at a clip of Ramlogan’s interview, I must agree that he failed the test and it is not only what he said but also how he said it. Hopefully this young AG will learn effective communication before it is too late.
    I also have grave reservations about the appointment of Canadians to lead the T&T police force.

  • Very good article Linda, I have noticed that there are individuals who try to use silly lame excuses when this PP or whatever they call themselves make foolish mistakes, excuses such as PNM did it too or they just came into power just won`t cut it, it reeks of silly schoolyard tit for tat and exchange not change!!!

    Tell them to get on with the business of governing and stop
    posing and gallerying for the press!!!

    One Love,

    KingofKings..

    • they are indeed getting on with the governance, which must include, addressing the massive corruption via the former regime, and if the AG needs to send a clear message to the man who has failed to act on corruption, then he has the support of all right thinking people. and further, he would de well to ignore the many non-sensical commnets from the party hacks

  • During the Burnham Government in Guyana they removed a statute of Queen Victoria that stood before the Courts, because, as I understand, they considered it a gross incongruity to have the statute of a Queen of the colonial master representing the symbol of justice. No something funny. As soon as the Indian PPP got into power, they immediately replaced the statute in its position before the court.

    What you see here in T&T is no different. About the only time the white man is bad is when that is used to obfuscate identification and criticism of the shared racist traits in some.

    We know the history of white cops and black citizenry. Make no mistake about this move. Jagdeo tried it with white American Bernard Kerick. It is not a coincidence that Kamla is following in his footsteps. They expect a lot of killing, and they want a buffer between them and responsibility. You cannot fabricate this kind of deviousness, trust me.

  • Have anyone also noticed that the first and only country in the Caribbean she has aligned herself and our country with,is Guyana and its Indian President?

    Ruel, you are also on the money,they think they are bright, they appointed the DCP`s and the COP with blinding speed, so when the police extra judicial killings skyrockets, they will have someone to blame and if the crime/murder rate continues to skyrocket they will also have someone else to blame?

    Have anyone else noticed that the big mouth AG has gone strangely silent on the Ish and Steve Ferguson extradition matter?

    Maybe its time to write the Integrity Commission on this matter and request an investigation into the big mouth AG`s conduct in this matter, a la King racist Devant Maraj style, it would be nice to give them a taste of their own medicine..lol

    One Love,

    KingofKings…

  • Very often comments made by present of former Guyanese nationals are irrelevant in the context of T&T. Someone from Guyana attempting to offer opinions on the internal affairs of T&T without intimate knowledge of precisely what’s occurring there is prone to make serious mistakes. Even expatriates of T&T commenting from abroad are often not fully informed. The point is: Trinidad&Tobago is no Guyana. There are some historical similarities, but the differences between the two nations are remarkable: the interaction of the people, the geographical terrain and settlements, the growth of the mixed population…to name a few..
    The politics of Guyana hopefully would never become the reality in T&T.To suggests that “killings will soon begin” in T&T is going too far. To attribute racist, supremacy attitudes to the new government of T&T is pure paranoia and shows a complete misunderstanding of the internal affairs of T&T. To continuously spew hatred and negativity at every opportunity is desperate and unproductive. I repeat: T&T is no Guyana. The peoples of T&T have come too far together to turn back now.

  • The pnm was the biggest bully in T&T’s political history!!They shoved down all their arrogance on 60% of the population while the other 40% got to reap from the spoils turning a blind eye to corruption, patronage & cronyism!!The new AG got every right to bring out the sabotage by the key players in all Government Ministries~~starting from the Ministers & the Permanent Secretaries!!

    • keeping it realer

      This is not about the PNM now. Ppl need to start realizing. How long will we blame the PNM and cast a blind eye to what’s currently going on in th government. Be prepared for another PNM-styled regime

  • If this PP government is making mistakes or has bad policies, showing how PNM did similar wrongs does not excuse them.

    However, it is important to highlight what was done by the PNM government that was, for the most part, tolerated, supported and defended by its members who now seek to condemn another government for doing the same.

    PNM supporters are criticizing the current AG for his faux pas in not recognizing the separations of powers of the different arms of the state, when he threatened to get the Commissioner of Police (CoP) fired. In that same press briefing, it appeared that the AG realized that he misspoke when he made a u-turn and said that the government has no power to discipline the CoP. How many PNM supporters who criticize him admit that in the same press briefing he tried to move away from his earlier statement? But most importantly, how many of them criticised Patrick Manning for doing something similar?

    Patrick Manning crossed a similar line when he told former Chief Justice Sharma to resign or face prosecution. How many PNM supporters condemned such a threat which showed Manning’s influence over the DPP and the police? Manning, it is believed, was attempting to pervert the course of justice. The Council of the Law Association also accused the then Prime Minister Manning of acting illegally or unfairly.
    http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/forum/webbbs_config.pl/noframes/read/3591

    It is clear, to me at least, that the ‘separation of powers’ has only been maintained on paper. Once a party in power has a comfortable majority in parliament, it seeks to control all arms of state. The Westminster system that we follow allows for this.

    With the long history of PNM rule, almost every arm of state was controlled by the PNM so the public was not privy to much of the conflicts. Eric Williams and the successive Prime Minister simply operated privately and got the various arms of state to do their biddings. The ‘total’ PNM control changed when NAR came to power and, further more so, when the UNC came to power. There were public clashes between the Panday-led UNC government and Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide. The latter accusing the then AG, Ramesh Maharaj of starving the judiciary of financial resources in their effort to remove Michael de la Bastide. When PNM got back in power the government tried to get all the various arms of state back under its control.

    The point I am making is that when people are reminded of what transpired under the PNM or other administrations, including the attitude of its supporters in failing to condemn the wrongdoings of their party, it is not always about tit for tat, as in my case, but simply to show how persons may be lacking moral authority when condemning others. This does not justify the wrongs of the current government but it can serve to temper arguments and emotions when people recognize the shortcomings are all around.

    Having said all of that, I do not believe that Ramlogan is mature and cunning enough to be as influential as Ramesh Maharaj was within the Indian community and the UNC. His attempts to grab the spotlight would eventually lead to his downfall.

  • Decorum my foot, you see all this rubbish about decorum and diplomacy etc etc. this is why we are in such a mess in this place, people charged with responsibilities have been able to sit on their asses and collect a salary via tax payers and continue to fail. Today someone stands up and sounds the alarm and he must apologise and practice decorum. What madness really going on in this place, some talking about insulting people in public, we have all been insulted fro the past eight years by the former corrupt regime. Anyone discussed decorum then.

  • Businesslike, and savage are NOT the same thing.I am leaving this thraed.It has begun to go nowhere as the social pigmies begin again to justify boorish behaviour.

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/woman-magazine/97725934.html

    Ain’t life grand in Sweet , Sweet , T&T, Nalini? In Mother India that so many of your clueless, fellow nationals seems to think so highly of , you would not be allow to celebrate this wonderful marriage ,and family , as the neo colonial ruling elite caste, that constitute your husband’s ethnic group ,would be busy murdering and committing blatant acts of genocide, to not only millions of Christians ,but Muslims, and others ethnic minorities in the world’s so called , ‘Greatest Democracy.’

    [link removed]

    So as they say in some quarters , “you go girl,” with your beautiful subservient self, and ensure that your husband’s career is enhanced .
    By the way, would I not like to be a fly on the wall to listen to an animated conversation between you both ,on the role that he feels Christians Africans ,and European collaborators ,played in this country, in subjugating Hindus – as opposed to Muslims- in our country, since independence , and why it is imperative to do whatever it takes to finally make wrongs right , by finally elevating the status of this noble religion across our land.
    Repeat the chant with me and our AG Anan,sister Nalini! No more construction of Patrick Manning styled Christian churches in this country, or support of Christian schools such as the agenda driven pro discrimination SDA Southern Caribbean University ,as our time has come.
    With the majority of the population on our side , including dem confuse, psychologically traumatize Douglas, it is now time to make Hindi the official language of the country , and hopefully the construction of 1000 more Hindu temples across the nation- including 50 for the 15 and growing Indo population in Tobago. While we are at it , anyone found eating the sacred cow’s meat from this day forward , will from this day , face the full wrath of the law.
    Go get them Cousin Arnan. In the 70’s ,Mighty Chalkie, Shah, Rex Lassale , and others , claimed that “dey fraid Karl” Hudson Phillip,the all powerful Grenadian AG. To many , Selwyn Richardson , was a pro police , funny talking joker , that got what he deserved for symbolically sleeping with criminals. Ramesh Lawrence , ‘de phony Human Rights activist,’ was an immoral crook , whose time is coming , and the next occasion ‘something hits the fan,’ like it did in 1990, he would not be able to escape to Grenada with his wife, and kids , as was done ,when his so called Islamic militant client Abu Bakr, gave him ,other conniving politicians , questionable religious leaders, and lofty business supporting entities , ‘the zeppo,’ to run for cover ,as he was about to stage an infamous coup attempt on our nation.
    Kamla , and the myriad of other jokers ,that held the AG post were mere political window dressings for their respective political parties , and their tenures naturally fizzled out without anything of significant being achieved , outside of runaway crimes , cuddling of white color crooks ,and bandits with high political connections. That leaves our new favorite AG ,Annan , the strident , no nonsense , Hindu Prince, who is on a mission to clean up Sweet T&T , aka Rainbow Country.
    Lord how I hope our new Commissioner Uncle Gibbs ,knows fully well what he is getting into, and did not in essence ,’bite off more than he could chew,’ as the wisest lady that ever lived would say ,when he left peaceful Edmonton. There ,the most he had to deal with, was the occasional prosecution of a few disgruntled , rum drinking ,native Canadian Prairie, Casino adoring , Red Indians.
    Hey Gibbs , I know you saw smoke on one of dem Westmooring yachts ,and Bar-b-que grills in high society T&T, and thought it was a rain dance, but no my friend , it’s tribal wars at play.
    Oh how I love this land! Again , the fool who thinks that he , or she ,is capable of making me hate this place that was built on the sweat and blood of my unrewarded ancestors, ain’t born yet.
    Tell dem people , ‘we ain’t leaving,’and by the hook or the crook , ‘will get,’ what is justifiably ours , irrespective of the elite , conniving ,complicit detractors, and their well staged ‘socio -economic -com political,’ ploys.
    Let’s keep dem honest , shall we? Most importantly my friends, love country our tribe, as the consequences for doing otherwise , has historically proved to be quite disastrous,yes?

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