Eroding Public Confidence in Our Institutions

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 04, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI was trying my best to stay out of de commess until someone sent me a Facebook post that read: “That’s Faris’s Porsche that Roger has been driving around over the past two years.” The post also showed a photograph of the SUV number plate attached as well as a “Title of Certification.” Quickly thereafter the Express reported: “There have been suggestions of a link between Al-Rawi, [Roger] Kawalsingh, and Gary Griffith and on investigation that this alleged link has compromised the work of PolSC [Police Service Commission].”

Then I saw Faris Al-Rawi’s response: “[This is] just a scandalous attempt to politicize the matter” and his haughty moral disclaimer: “The Police Service Commission is represented by very eminent senior counsel Mr. Russell Martineau…. So I would take what Mr. Ramlogan says with a grain of salt. The statements [made by Ramlogan] must be viewed in the context of who is saying it.” An indignant Al-Wari reminded us of his generosity: “Ramlogan has had meals prepared [for him] by my mother.”

After listening to this tawdry situation, I thought the society would be better served if these men spent their time drafting better laws, getting more competent people to serve and apply these laws, and making sure our laws possessed more legal muster. It would also help if they spent more time apprehending criminals, bringing them to justice in a speedy manner, and devoting themselves to creating a just and orderly society.

Listening to these verbal exchanges, I thought of Sarah Everard, an English woman, who on March 3, was stopped on the road by Wayne Couzens, a member of London’s Metropolitan Police. Pulling out his identification card, he handcuffed her, placed her in his police car, and drove her to Kent, more than 50 miles southeast of London, where he raped her and then set her afire. Her charred remains “were found stuffed in green trash bags in the woods some 60 miles away.” (NYT, September 29).

Thanks to CCTV footage, the police were able to track down Couzens because his license plate was caught on camera. In July Couzens pled guilty to murdering Everard. His sentencing hearing was held on Wednesday. The next day he was sentenced to life in prison for his grotesque deed. In sentencing Couzens without any hope of being paroled, Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford, announced that Couzens had “irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends” and “eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have to the police force in England and Wales.”

It is remarkable how quickly London authorities resolved this case and passed judgment on the murderer. Couzens committed his act in March. The London police found Everard’s body within seven days. They discovered that the perpetrator of the crime was a fellow officer. The court sentenced him to prison “without any possibility of early release” (NYT, September 30). Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, apologized for not monitoring Couzens’s behavior more closely.

Wouldn’t we be better served if our officials talked less and acted more; were better trained for their jobs; more diligent in what they did; and showed greater humility in their undertakings? Couldn’t they be more measured in their judgments, avoid behavior that can compromise their integrity, and be more contrite for their shortcomings?

Why does the AG recuse himself so often when the Cabinet deals with sensitive matters?

Why does the Commissioner of Police (CoP) attend a birthday party of the child of a member of the PolSC when he knows that this committee selects the CoP?

Why does a member of the PolSC purchase a high-end car from the AG but forget to legalize the transaction? In this context, it is important to see Kamla Persad Bissessar’s letter to the CoP dated October 1.

Why does the AG believe he can behave as though nothing has happened and keep on with his double-speak when he cannot craft a straightforward law?

Why does our CoP behave with such pomposity when our police cannot solve simple crimes, and so many people spend umpteen years in remand until their cases are called and justice is dispensed?

There is far too much controversy around the AG and the CoP. Is it too much to ask them to act in ways that are beyond reproach?

There was a time when officers of the law confined themselves to doing the job they were elected/selected/nominated to do and conducted their official and private business with some circumspection. Is this too much to ask the same of our present office holders?

Today, there are so many distractions. Too many ministers and public officials are doing too many things outside their official remit.

One does not need the biggest brains in town to be aware of concepts such as conflicts of interest, acting in a way that does not impugn one’s character; and the realization that a society has no place to go but down if those who are placed in charge of our affairs do not display the necessary diligence and good sense.

The ugly display we have witnessed over the past weeks brings the judicial system into disrepute and erodes our confidence in the police system and the office of the attorney general. Public confidence in the law and the dispensation of justice can be restored only if these two gentlemen resigned (or are made to resign) their offices.

Persad-Bissessar has demanded that the AG resign for bringing the “Office of the Attorney General into odium and disrepute” (Express, September 30). One should demand the same of the CoP.

Both of these officers have lost whatever value or goodwill they once enjoyed by the public.

T&T deserves better than this.

3 thoughts on “Eroding Public Confidence in Our Institutions”

  1. Although I do understand Selwyn’s legitimate concern with public confidence in our institutions, particularly the PSC, I do have some questions. Why is there suddenly all this bacchanal and comess over the PSC and the PolSC? Why the hysteria, the fake outrage, the Cassandra complexes, the Apocalyptic tones about the police service and everything connected with it? Why are some people tearing out their hair and wearing sackcloth and ashes? Well just ask yourself, what important action is the PSC going to take? In my humble opinion, the answer to all of the above is crystal clear, the country is in the process of choosing a Commissioner of Police and everybody wants to get into the act. Everybody (in particular a few people with vital interests) wants to choose that CoP so that it serves their particular interests and agendas. Now there is a process that has to be undertaken, but these vital interests people (call them the VIPs) feel that they have to intervene at every step of the process so that they can manipulate and engineer the process so that the outcome will be what they want, in other words so that the CoP chosen will be the one they want. And what is it that the CoP does, what is the peculiar power of the CoP (his superpower, if you will), that can generate this level of feverish interest? One thing comes immediately to mind, the CoP grants the Firearm Users Licence, the FUL and Gary Griffith is not averse to granting these licences in abundance. In a report on CNC3, the Guardian Media Newsroom, Griffith said that 6,000 applicants had received FULs in two previous years; in 2018 mere 128 persons had acquired FULs. The business community had given Griffith full support for his prolific granting of FULs. When we remember the words bandied about calling the criminals (coming from particular urban areas) – cockroaches and other similar words, and his support from the business community for granting FULs, we have to think – something is cooking, and it smells kind of putrid. If we continue granting FULs at that rate, in 10 years we will have 30,000 people walking around with guns, with FULs in T&T, more guns than the army. Our T&T defence force has 3000 men and women. There will be 10 times more people walking around with FULs, mostly business men and their family I suppose, than the army.
    The Second Amendment of the US Constitution gives the right to bear arms. This is what it says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” There is a lot of ongoing debate about what exactly that means, but most interpreters are agreed that it is dealing with the requirement of the Federal authority to have a “well regulated Militia” and that rights of the people should not be infringed by such a requirement. In other words, it attempts to balance Federal authority with States’ authority and leaves it open the possibility that a repressive Federal authority be countered. John Locke, the philosopher of the American way of life, or idea, had written about the necessity to overthrow, through violence if need be, a repressive government. Maybe the Second Amendment reflects that idea. Our Constitution doesn’t give us the right to bear arms, there is no similar Second Amendment; the President of the LATT, among other legal luminaries, has come out and said so. Persons can be granted the FUL through the CoP, but that is precisely why who he is matters. Common sense and data have shown that gun violence can only be diminished by there being fewer guns rather than more guns in a society. Why is there this interest in having so many people with FULs? What are those VIPs really up to? A coup of FULs, a ship of fools? Seems like there are more questions than answers.

  2. The upper echelons of power is like a “mini club”, they all wine and dine at tax payers expense. You have to be a special breed to be part of that cabal. So all the fuss will not amount to anything worthwhile.

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