Stark staring mad

By Raffique Shah
October 17, 2022

Raffique ShahTo think that once upon a time, many years ago, I actually considered pursuing law as a profession. Naïve, idealist I, would have been torn apart by the dogs of law, drawn and quartered by the merchants of justice, or, who knows, I might have succumbed to the practitioners’ code of compliance, casting aside shame and dignity, fight for my slice of the largesse from the multi-million dollars in “briefs” advocates at stake every living-or-dying day in this country. So much litigation.

Practising law was and is, in the opinion of many, a noble profession. After all, revolutionaries of stature, such as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were lawyers, as they were called at that time, and they never compromised their ideals when they appeared in court. I had several friends here in Trinidad for whom I had great respect: Allan Alexander, Desmond Allum and Lennox Pierre, to name three, whose integrity was never challenged.

They, and some notable others, were lawyers of impeccable character, and they were damn good advocates in court-rooms across the country, in the wider Caribbean, and even at the Privy Council in London where they appeared from time to time. To see Algernon “The Pope” Wharton perform was a treat that court-watchers would not forego, so polished was he in his craft.

But Cyril Lionel Robert [CLR] James would have none of it when I consulted with him in the aftermath of the 1970 revolution, which was when I met the man I consider our greatest philosopher ever, and when I learned to value his advice. He said, “It is to your credit that you were schooled and trained at Sandhurst for two years.”

“From what you told me,” he continued, “you have entered universities only to lecture to them or participate in discussions and forums. They mess with your mind, these universities.”

So I never attended university, although I gave advice to attorneys who represented me or corporations for which I worked, from time to time, in court. But I kept abreast of what was happening with respect to the laws of T&T—amendments, repeals, etc, and even more importantly, the fees that law firms and attorneys charged for their services. They were astronomical, especially where government or its agencies had to pursue litigation. Mere writing a legal letter costs thousands of dollars. I noticed that attorneys were charging clients by “the hour” and their rates were almost punishing.

More than that, court matters, especially civil cases, were taking inordinately long periods of time to be resolved, if ever they were. A natural consequence of the above is that criminal matters in which many of the accused were remanded in custody, seemingly forever, a clear case in my mind of the justice system gone mad. Now, I don’t want to get my old, semi-crippled backside in jail, not again, and not at this stage of my life. So I must be careful of what I write here. With that sword of justice hanging over the heads of commentators like me, there is just so much we can write.

In the current imbroglio involving the State, the Attorney General and scores of senior counsel, King’s Counsel and what have you, the sums of taxpayers’ money expended in litigation seem to be more than overall appropriations to entire ministries in the annual budget. The State [which is we, the people] pays for the parties suing us, the attorneys representing us and assorted other expenses—cost of courthouse building upkeep, the police involved and other expenditures too numerous to count.

I could not help but notice coming up from the courts recently, videos showing ex-AG Anand Ramlogan and his “brother in law” Gerald Ramdeen smiling smugly as several charges of serious nature filed against them were discontinued. These two seemed to have mastered the art of having the State pay to lock them up and, later, paying even more damages to them. I get the impression there are many more similar matters involving the State and hundreds, if not thousands of citizens, which have cost people of this country huge sums of money over the years.

When one considers the “dramatis personae” in all of these matters over decades, few, if any being resolved, we see an enormous burden on taxpayers. We get nothing out of it except a judicial system so weighted with litigation that it takes lifetimes for many matters to be resolved, by which time the litigants, well, members of the public anyway, die and leave them still pending.

Surely, at this rate, we are going nowhere and getting there slower and slower. One day soon, this litany of litigation will either explode or collapse, and leave many of us who have nothing to do with them, dead, badly injured or mentally scarred. So not only will we have a million-plus mad people in the country, but the whole system gone stark-staring-mad. Mark my words.

4 thoughts on “Stark staring mad”

  1. You still think a “Trini” is a smart human being. Those names you call with C.L.R. James at the top of my list were never ever adored by any trini, simply because he was not white enough. The world in Trinidad still thinks white is might. Norsk Hydro owns Trinidad. Sidney Knox, a bold faced thief is still our topmost fancy in most famous in Trinidad. Billions in USD are taken in Ammonia sales from us since the 80s as they and the French Creole fired Peter Grace and took absolute control of Fedchem back then. We focused on each other and pauperised most in our called nation of people. A TRINI is a pure comedian and idiot. Where is our oil and gas economy today? We want to bring back another Seven Trent to fix WASA. We are INDEED the world’s jokers. The Privy Council Farts are still our justice. We pissed on Guyana for years. They are now laughing at us all. You would recall the idiot that never learnt math when he said one from ten leaves naught and we uplifted him, as Father of our nation. Yes we are the world’s jokers. When are we going to produce a Leader. Perhaps never as we stay stuck as being the most small minded in the history of the world as steelpan, kiaso, Carnival etc. finds a far different home. We will continue to whine even in God’s face. As the music plays still, heaven helps us all in Trinidad and Tobago. We may never get it right.

  2. The law is an honourable profession. There remain, in every polity, ‘People’s lawyers’ who wage struggle, daily, against the Beast which strangles all. Please add to your list of legal warriors: Kenneth Vern Cockrel (deceased-Detroit, Mich., 1989); Chokwe Lumumba-General Counsel, RNA, in Jackson, Miss. circa 2019-20; William Kuntsler, NYC, deceased, circa 2014-15 and Mr.Alton Maddox, NYC (disbarred by the New York Bar, for his advocacy on behalf of the down-trodden). Lawyers will be needed, so long as a tiny minority(the so-called 1%, more or less) whether in T & T; the U.S.A. or (not) so -great Britain, control the natural resources which belong to all and the means of production. Please alert your readers in T & T, to the work of a fellow-Trinidadian attorney, former Chairperson of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (a legal confrere) who practiced for many years out of NYC and internationally. There must be hope. Unless the lawyers speak up, there is a danger of a repeat of the Pinochet usurpation wherein the Chilean Bar went silent in the face of the fascist terror.

  3. “I could not help but notice coming up from the courts recently, videos showing ex-AG Anand Ramlogan and his “brother in law” Gerald Ramdeen smiling smugly as several charges of serious nature filed against them were discontinued”
    Yes of course they were smiling. That is not the story. The story is a former AG using his office to go after another former AG using state funds to pay his informant (aka bribery).

    It all started when Anand went after Malcolm to get back some of the billions wasted in Petrotrin. One project had an incredible 33 cost over runs. Yes folks 33 cost over runs running into billion. It forced the hand of former PM Manning to borrow money via creating two bonds on the Euro market at 4% interest rate. The bonds could not be paid back and so it was differed whilst the Rowley regime scramble to get money.

    That should be the story told, but the PNM friendly media will always protect the biggest blight in sweet TnT.

  4. Knowing the law and practicing law should be a noble profession but in T&T that’s not the case. I’m not as fortunate as the author in meeting some honest lawyers in fact I beg to differ as my experience is a bitter one. But like the author I need to be careful of what I say here as I’m also in my 70s and do not desire to smell a jail.

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