By Raffique Shah
May 26, 2013
I CANNOT quite figure out why so many people are shocked by Keith Rowley’s “revelations” in Parliament last Monday, or alarmed that the string of e-mails he read into Hansard; at first blush, appears to be as bogus as Clifton De Coteau’s black mop. Parliament has long degenerated into a theatre of the absurd, a forum for dishonourable members to slander and scandalise each other, an arena in which targeted citizens are crucified before hordes of reality-television viewers, a fate far worse than that which Jesus Christ is said to have suffered however many centuries ago.
I have long tuned out of that chamber of torture, from as far back as when I was a member. For those who may condemn me for admitting to such contempt, I remind them that Dr Eric Williams often switched off his hearing aid in the House even as some of his ministers droned on. I used to switch off mentally. Since that era, when things were already falling apart, standards have plummeted to unprecedented depths. There is but a handful of parliamentarians, mostly senators, whose contributions are edifying or informative.
So when a friend telephoned me last Monday to ask if I was listening to the bacchanal in the House, I said I wasn’t. It would not be until later that night, on television news, that I heard some details of the e-mails the Opposition Leader alleged might have been exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Attorney General. The following day, I read them all in the newspapers.
My instinctive reaction was that they were bogus. I could not see two prominent office holders like the PM and the AG carrying on with such conspiracies—well, that was the theme of the exchanges—in full glare of the Internet. I am close to dumb when it comes to cybertechnology. But I have read and learnt enough to know that whatever one does on a computer, particularly on the Internet, is monitored somewhere in the world, and could end up in the public domain. E-mails especially are easily “hacked” or intruded upon, and no “firewalls” or encryption can protect users from having their exchanges exposed.
So why would the Prime Minister and the Attorney General conduct such sensitive exchanges via e-mail? True, stranger things have happened: there are numerous examples of prominent people having “secret” e-mails exposed, or seeing themselves posted in embarrassing videos on YouTube or Facebook.
Still, I could not envisage Kamla and Anand exposing themselves in the manner suggested by the e-mails, leaving a trail of damning evidence that could see them swing. I had not yet noted inconsistencies in Rowley’s dossier—unrealistic addresses, wrong dates and so on. But I asked myself, why would Rowley lay in the House documents that appear to be bogus? Surely, he could have had an IT expert examine them and give an opinion on their authenticity or otherwise before taking them further.
Instead, he sent the dossier to ex-President Max Richards, who is no tech-whiz, and Richards forwarded it to the on-and-off Integrity Commission that, more than likely, has not even examined its contents.
I can conclude only that given the chequered record of the Government, its propensity for breaking the rules in order to achieve dubious goals, Rowley decided to toss a half-picked cat among the parliamentary pigeons and see who would scamper for cover, who will bare their backsides. They have committed so many indiscretions (and that’s putting it mildly), from the Reshmi Ramnarine affair in the beginning to sticking with and supporting Jack Warner’s shenanigans to the end, one can expect anything from them.
I imagine it against such backdrop that Rowley probably threw caution to the wind, muttered “choo pool”, and did what he felt he had to do. In the aftermath, the Government that revels in recklessness and lawlessness is crying foul. They should ask why so many people believe that the contents of the e-mails dossier are partly or wholly true. They should ponder the DPP’s call for expert forensic examination of the e-mails and his contention that the police do not have the expertise to conduct such investigations.
The police, in turn, should not feel “a how” about being branded incompetent to conduct a probe of this magnitude. In the Sea Lots matter, a vehicular accident that caused three deaths and rendered two other persons incapacitated, it took several weeks before the offender was charged. Worse, it then emerged that a critical blood sample had been contaminated, hence inadmissible. So if they botched such a simple investigation, if their general crime detection record is woefully low, how can anyone trust them to bring a high-tech issue to a speedy conclusion?
When it comes to abuse of parliamentary privilege, the Government cannot point an accusatory finger at Rowley. They said nothing when, a few months ago, Warner abused that privilege to name persons he accused of plotting to destabilise the Government, which is tantamount to treason. The victims, among them Vernon de Lima who spoke on the Partnership platform in 2010, sought to have their names cleared, but to no avail: the Speaker did not offer even an apology.
Ministers have attacked the characters, threatened the security of journalists who were guilty only of doing their jobs. Other citizens have had their names dragged in the parliamentary mud, with no recourse, no hope for justice. During the State of Emergency in 2011, the Government used Parliament to proclaim a plot to assassinate the PM. Several men were arrested and detained. They were later released without explanation or charges. Nothing more was heard of that plot.
How can we trust a Government that has committed these atrocities and more? Must we blindly accept that your hands are clean and your heart is pure? That’s rhetoric for the herd. For thinking people, it’s not fit to be heard.