Madness All Around

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 11, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt’s either the PP and its ministers have gone mad or they want to take us back into a past we repudiated a long time ago. It was not such a long time ago that Verna St. Rose Greaves was seen ringing a bell, walking barefooted in front of Salvatori’s building on Fredrick Street and engaging in what she called a one-woman protest against a perceived injustice. Now, she is a minister; a relatively enfeebled attempt at dissent by Cheryl Miller, a worker in her ministry, is enough to have St. Rose Greaves declare Miller unstable and tossed into an insane asylum for two weeks against her will.

Faced with this breach of Miller’s civil liberties, the Minister of Health enters the fray and displays even more madness. He declares that anyone who “uses habeas corpus to remove someone against medical advice and against the advice of the specialists in the fields will have to be held responsible for that patient.” Relying on a medical report he dismissed Miller’s constitutional rights and kept her locked up in St. Ann’s. One remembers with horror that this is what happens in totalitarian states. Disagree with your boss or the political party in power and one can end up in an insane asylum.

Before we get into this medical—legal wrangle, it is wise to remember that a physician is not God and the medical profession has not yet been elevated to a status of divinity that cannot be questioned or disputed. Psychiatry, the medical treatment of the mind, is much too young a field to be ascribed such a god-like status. The term itself was coined in 1808 and became a medical specialty around the middle of the nineteenth century. Anyone, physicians included, who feels he could speak ex-cathedra about the treatment of the mind is only fooling himself. Khan needs to recognize that the actions of his colleague—St. Rose Graves—is as repulsive as those of her colleagues who declared a state of emergency and picked up over 8,000 black young men without any rite or reason.

So that when Khan pronounces that “As doctors, we know that something is wrong [with Cheryl Miller]” there is no reason to accept his conclusion as truth personified. Some of the most important statesmen and scholars were bi-polar and suffered from serious bouts of depression. Sir Winston Churchill called his bouts of depression his “blue moods.” No one sent in a pediatric team into the House of Commons or 22 Downing Street and carted him off to an insane asylum when he was conducting the war against Germany. No one would have dared interfere with the business of this important statesman on the ground that “Doctor knows best.”

Sometimes, it seems that Khan and others forget that they are politicians always looking out for ways to advance their political careers or to save the political careers of others. Khan says: “People with personality disorders can be fully functional until that one straw that breaks the camel’s back. A person may then commit suicide or hurt other people around them.” Is he arguing that personality disorders are a sufficient cause to have people incarcerated?

Many people commit suicide and hurt others around them. Does such a rationale give Khan the right to incarcerate anyone whom he and his minions believe has a personality disorder? Does this mean that any one of us can be taken from our homes and placed in Psychiatric Hospitals since all of us possess some form of a personality disorder?

Stanley Marcus got it correct when he declared: “The lady was incarcerated for 15 days. Her constitutional rights have been infringed. It is a matter of liberty.” Miller spoke for a bewildered nation when she reiterated: “I was like a dog without rights. But a dog is an animal. People suppose to have rights.” Her only mistake was “to speak my mind and stand up for myself.”

In apprehending Miller, the government says it was following the dictates of the law which state that “if a person is found wandering at large on a highway or in any public and who, by reason of his appearance, conduct or conversation, a mental health officer has reason to believe is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment in a psychiatric hospital or ward, may be taken into custody and conveyed to such hospital or ward for admission for observation in accordance with the section.”

In using such a law, Dr. Khan and his colleagues were reaching back into the bowels of the dark days to incarcerate Miller. The Indenture Regulations that were put into place in 1847 to regulate the movements of East Indian immigrants read as follows: “Where any immigrant is found on a public highway or on any land or in any house not being the land or house of his employer, or in any ship, vessel or boat within the waters of the colony” the protector of slaves, an estate constable or the employer of the immigrant may “without warrant stop such immigrant, and in case he fails to produce a certificate of industrial residence or of exemption from labour or a ticket to leave may, if there be reasonable cause to suspect immigrant is indenture, arrest him and take him to the nearest Police Station, there to be detained until he can be taken before a Stipendiary Justice of the Peace” (“Leave and Desertion,” Part 9)

In Miller’s case, they did not even take her to magistrate until the intervention of citizens who realized the arbitrary behavior of the state was akin to that of our colonial master who had little regard for her individual liberty.

Miller says that her encounter with the law left her “kind of frightened.” All of us should be afraid of the present regime as it tries to take us back to slavery and indenture. It’s an insane but frightening prospect. Speaking one’s mind in Trinidad and Tobago could land one in jail.

14 Responses to “Madness All Around”


  • The question is: Who recommended Cheryl Miller to St Ann’s Hospital? Was it a close friend, relative or two medical practitioners?
    The media, political commentators and self appointed experts are all speculating on this case without knowing the actual facts.
    The Minister added fuel to the fire by also making uninformed, public comments which were politically motivated and self seeking.
    Trinis are never without opinions and this case is one more example of excessive verbosity.

  • Fact: Cheryl Miller was taken away from her workplace. Who were the ‘two medical practitioners?’ Talk about excessive verbosity.

  • Now, she is a minister; a relatively enfeebled attempt at dissent by Cheryl Miller, a worker in her ministry, is enough to have St. Rose Greaves declare Miller unstable and tossed into an insane asylum for two weeks against her will.

    TMAN your penchant for deceit and obfuscation continues to justify the macabre impression compos mentis people get from reading your posts. The article clearly states that St Rose Greaves declared Miller Unstable and tossed into an asylum. That means, in simple language, that St Rose Greaves made the recommendation.

    There is no excessive verbosity when a state reveals its slave master ambitions with regard to the rights of citizens. Moreso when a Minister of the Government verifies that ignorance and hubris are the major qualifications he brings to his office, and has missed his optimum century by a couple of hundred years.

    The PP is not mad in the sense in which we normally use the word. They are simply revealing their inner selves. And those selves are concreticized in 18th century India when the division of castes and power was the law of the land. People like these should never be allowed to administer the affairs of any nation with a diverse population, especially if large segments of that population happen to be black. They carry the weight of a dispicable heritage of prejudice in the deepest regions of their minds, and as soon as they get their hands on power, that prejudice rises to the top and becomes the major influence for every thought and decision they make.

    • KEITH WILLIAMS
      Your hatred of Indians is the madness of the heart.

      • TMan, in your response to Keith Williams, no where do you refute any of the points he raised. Instead, you resort to cliché accusations.

        Among the points raised by him is the egregious and unabashed role that ‘the Hindu caste system’ plays in socially delegating some people upwards, while relegating others downward based on skin colour.

        Is this true? Is it false? And does being true make it ‘hatred of Indians’?

        Have you ever seen or heard of TV commercials on Sun TV, a Tamil channel broadcast via satellite from Chennai, in which to promote sales of a cream made by Unilever, a young dark-skinned Tamil woman is initially shown being courted by a man; one who leaves her heart-broken?

        Then, her mother smiling, gives her a tube of the skin-whitening cream?

        Later, the man returns and they all live happily ever after!

        In a sick world (Bollywood is a major, and brazen proponent of this social gangrene) in which being ‘white-skinned’ is the acceptable and universal ‘norm for beauty, power and virtue’ is it surprising that not only Indians, but also among Black people–though for different historic reasons–do people suffer from the demons of self-hatred; a self-hatred that is the fundamental cause among youth of ‘black on black’ crime?

        It is possible that the worst way to endorse vaulted lies is not to elevate them, but to try to demonize the humble truth?

        Will normalcy and civility gain traction in TnT and elsewhere if the truth is unwelcome, while the lie is embraced?

        Shalom!

  • Verna needs to resign right now.

  • Unprecedented, treacherous and downright EVIL..The Minister, The Permanent Secretary and Ms. Miller should exchange places……Forever!

  • FACT: Ms. Miller was evaluated as mentally unstable by someone in her Government Ministry for being vocal (not obscene).

    FACT: Ms. Miller did not throw feces around, urinate on her desk, tore off her clothes or physically attacked anyone. Yet she was removed from her workplace without the benefit of a second opinion by someone in the psychiatric field.
    Madness all around in truth.

  • I refuse to relegate this unsavory incident to the bogeyman of racism but my humble opinion is that the Minister and her P.S. should resign with immediate effect and Cheryl Miller’s lawyers should be in the process of filing a humongous law suite. T&T is not the old Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.

    Nuff Said.

  • Linda Edwards, class of 67

    Now, Selwyn, did Ms. St. Rose Graves commit Ms. Miller to St. Ann’s or was she committed by medical personnel who responded to the call for help? The distinction is quite significant.

  • According to a former employee of St. Ann’s, procedure was not followed.
    No one is taken from home, street or office straight to St. Ann’s. The person is taken to the General Hospital (P.O.S or Sando) and evaluated for a short while and if necessary sent to St. Ann’s. Evaluation is not normally a drive-by process.
    St. Ann’s Hospital do not do pick-ups – that is done by the police in certain cases, or the other hospital authorities. Even the police have to take the individual to the General Hospital and not St. Ann’s.
    As far as I know, St. Ann’s does not have an emergency phone number like 999, so someone had to be called directly – person to person.
    Also patients have rights, and a relative or anyone else can check out a patient anytime, regardless of condition, by signing as being responsible for the patient, that is, unless the patient was admitted to the institution by a court order. If a person choses to keep a mentally unstable relative at home. they are still FREE to do so. Remember this a hospital, not a prison, and citizens still have the right to deny treatment for any ailment, for any reason.

    So there are questions to be answered.
    1. Who made the call and on what professional evaluation?
    2. Who received the call and dispatched personnel to pick up Ms. Miller?
    3. Did the person making the call have the authority to order personnel to be dispatched?
    Again, be reminded that Ms. Miller was only vocal. We are in a serious state if any Tom, Dick and Verna can call and have someone shipped directly to a mental institution.
    Ms. St. Rose is quoted as saying that she did this out of care and concern for Ms. Miller. If this is how Ms. St. Rose shows care and concern, I would not like to be around if she does not like me.
    There were other options. The employee could have been sent home or have her relatives notified, but for someone to take it upon themselves to have a person committed to a mental institution is horrific.

    • Linda Edwards, class of 67

      If you read the original article on the subject, Ms. St. Rose-Graves said the medical personnel were called because of concern for Ms. Miller. She did not say she committed her because of concern. Since that one interview, The Minister has remained gracefully silent, knowing that whatever she said, would be misinterpreted.No one has quoted the words used, or to whom they were directed. Ms. Miller was originally asked to write a letter of appologuy. Has the letter been taken into custody? Who was the employee who pushed Ms. Miller to the breaking point. What specific threats if any were used? The total story needs to come out. Check how many cases have occured all over the world where the police have shot someone who was acting strangely and did not cease to do so when asked.No one knows when an employee will reach the tipping point. MAybe ms Miller reached it that day, and was rightly percieved as a thret to HERSELF and OTHERS.

  • TMAN we have become hip to the strategy of hatred accusations against those who expose your dirty lining. I am an African. We are the most tolerant people on this planet. We have no religious of cultural belief system that impel us to jusge people because of their differences. At the same time, I will not cease from criticisng the brown David Dukes of T&T whose supremacist ideology threatens the stability of our nation and the Caribbean.

    For you and the other wannbe Bramhins, blacks who do not accept their dalit roles hate Indians. The slave master had the same kind of reasoning, and it is no surprise that the aspirants for his throne exhibit the same perverse thinking. But you will not silence me with that. It has become a dull and ineffective weapon after years of abuse and over use.

  • Scores of mentally unstable individuals are walking our streets and they cannot be touched because they have ‘rights.’ When last, in our fair country, have you heard of St. Ann’s personnel dragging off an individual and committing that person to the institution?
    There was a reported incident of a mentally unstable person, some time last week, acting out of the ordinary and that person was not dragged off to St. Ann’s.

    Who was the “medical personnel” called?
    What did the caller (if it was the Minister) expect the outcome to be?
    Where and when was the preliminary evaluation done and by whom?
    Were there other options for ‘care and concern?’
    Straight from your office desk to the Mad House on a phone call. Shut-in for 15 days and allegedly forcefully medicated. Required a court order to be ‘freed.’
    The truth needs to come out, but then that will never happen.
    As I see it, Ms. Miller can be classified as the only insane person in T&T, or the most insane person in T&T.

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