The law is an ass

By Raffique Shah
May 24, 2015

Raffique ShahIf the adage “the law is an ass” is held to be true-and over the years, I have heard eminent persons, many of them lawyers, cite it as gospel-then I must confess that some very senior attorneys in this country are confusing me to the point where I am beginning to think that I am an ass, or they are a pack of donkeys.

Hear me out, eh, before you ask me to stop braying.

In its ruling on the so-called “emailgate” affair, the Integrity Commission, or more accurately three members of the commission, the chairman being a former appeal court judge, hence a lawyer with decades of experience, wrote to counsel for the Prime Minister, another lawyer who has practised for many years, informing him that the Commission had terminated the investigations because it found “no or insufficient grounds to continue the probe”.

Upon hearing the Trinidad-shattering pronouncement, which immediately prompted the PM to claim a “major victory”, I did a double-take: how could commissioners with the collective wisdom one assumes resides in such an august body, find “no or insufficient” grounds?

My limited knowledge of the English language suggests that in such matters, you either have “no grounds” or “insufficient grounds”: you cannot have both. If you have “no” grounds, then there was nothing to probe in the first place. If you had “insufficient” grounds, then there were some issues that might be probed, but not enough to warrant the commissioners’ valuable time.

I must have been the only person who thought there was some contradiction in the terminology, maybe even in the substance. In which case I am the donkey.

The confusion did not end there, though.

Forget the PM claiming yet another victory, like Wellington at Waterloo 200 years ago. Our PM was once, twice, three times a victor in three elections back in 2013, although the records show otherwise. In fact, in the said “Emailgate” matter, she had claimed another victory a week before…until the Deputy DPP, stepping way out of her crease, said, “Shut up!”

As I was saying, the confusion continued. Before the PM could savour her celebratory drink, the deputy chairman of the IC, retired Justice Sebastian Ventour, informed the public that he had walked out of the meeting because he had serious disagreements with the course it was taking, and further, he was shocked at the contents of the official statement made by his colleagues. He resigned.

To further confuse this donkey, another Commissioner, Dr Shelly-Anne Lalchan, also tendered her resignation, although it remains unclear whether she had done so before, during or after the meeting.

In the circumstances, it seems that three commissioners made the “no or insufficient grounds” decision – Hosein, Pete London and Deonarine Jaggernauth. Everyone agreed that the three formed a quorum, hence the decision was lawful and binding.

Hear confusion: while three commissioners constitute a quorum, the Integrity in Public Life Act specifies that there must be five members for the body to lawfully exist. So last Tuesday, before the resignations of Ventour and Lalchan, the already fractured Commission could and did make a decision of national import.

But two days later, Chairman Hosein, when questioned about the implosion, told reporters: “I am unable to answer any questions because the Integrity Commission is not constituted.” In other words, legally, it does not exist.

Meanwhile, as reporters tracked Hosein in a bid to make sense out of nonsense, the ex-jurist claimed that he was being “hounded”. Apparently, they tried to corner him as he attended “Juma” prayers at a mosque. His Muslim brethren were very upset, he said.

Not to be outdone, Senior Counsel Israel Khan, the PM’s attorney, told reporters that the fact that Hosein had worked in his chambers had nothing to do with the commission’s statement. I’m surprised that journalists even posed that question – Khan gave them good: “The man worked in this chamber but he is a man of impeccable integrity and character…”

Now, for umpteenth time since the commission came into being, the President will go head-hunting for two persons “of integrity and high standing”, as the act specifies. Or maybe President Carmona will take into consideration the acidic remarks of Mr Ventour, scrap what remains of the existing commission, and seek out five other persons of integrity, at least one of whom must be a lawyer with at least ten years’ service.

I wish him luck. I also wonder why he would even bother to re-constitute the commission. Look at it this way: with the greatest deference to the good men and women who have served on this body since it was established in the year 2000, what has it achieved except for piling up mountains of declarations by hundreds, maybe thousands of public officials, all of whom have been and/or are persons of impeccable integrity.

Well, for all the allegations of corruption during that time, and before, how many have been charged with corruption? Less than a handful. How many have been convicted? None! How many more ignore their obligations to file returns to the IC every year they serve in public offices? Hundreds! What has the commission done about that? Nothing.

See why I insist the law is an ass?

18 Responses to “The law is an ass”


  • You are being overly technical and parsing words so stop being an ass.

  • “In its ruling on the so-called “emailgate” affair, the Integrity Commission, or more accurately three members of the commission, the chairman being a former appeal court judge, hence a lawyer with decades of experience, wrote to counsel for the Prime Minister, another lawyer who has practised for many years, informing him that the Commission had terminated the investigations because it found “no or insufficient grounds to continue the probe”.

    Either the emails are fake or not, that is what this boils down to. Forget Ace Ventour, why did he not publicly declare the emails are correct. If you are 90% complete in an investigation that shows the emails are incorrect, why bother with the other 10% of the investigation that is based on the 90%???? Logic defies the PNM devotees.

  • Bending the law and not breaking the law is the phrase that lawyers operate by in their domain i.e. Chambers and Courts. We are the donkeys when it works in our favour or against us, because we pay for seeking resolution. The precedent has been set in the past when there was an election tie, the incumbent government was booted out when the law was quite clear. This is why you would quicker find me in the calypso tent when the political and social commentaries are more acceptable in ballad format. Gypsy, I hand over to you ‘Captain the ship is sinking’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gYJNfZxPvI

  • Nice article, Raffique!
    We are just as confused as you are. Is the law an ass or are lawyers asses?
    Precisely why I intend to caste my vote and ignore the entire emailgate affair.

    • Here is another example of my “ignorance”…”precisely why I intend to “caste” my vote”….you will “cast” a ballot at the next election.Plagiarism best describes your academic accomplishments….tut! tut!

  • Mamoo if the emails are fake why is the Poilice still investigating? Explain. Another thing to consuder is that the investigative powers of the IC are limited. In the light of that, let the Police complete their investigation then we can, hopefully, get a clearer picture of what is true and what is false.

    • You cannot convince someone on false emails so the Police is doing the next best thing, playing for time. Two years ago they started investigating and still was not able to prove anything or find anything.

  • If the emails are false then we need to find out who created them, why they were done and when they were done. Someone or a group of individuals are responsible therefore there is a need for the investigation to continue. Besides that they tend to be snails in investigating. Think about Dana’s murder as an example of their slough.

    • It would appear that your ONLY interest is that the emails are false. All else make you happy and joyful. As a patriot (lets just say Trinidadian), aren’t you concerned that someone would be devious enough to at least ‘fabricate’ those emails? Hammmmmmm…………

  • http://www.ttparliament.org/hansards/hh20130522.pdf

    This may help to shed some light as to the intensity of debate in Parliament over 2 years ago on the e-mailgate fiasco.

  • SHAH I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR. AND I KEEP SAYING IC, EOC, MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, AG and COMPANY, TRANSPARENCY INTL AND TRINIDAD, COMMONWEALTH, AMNESTY INTL, LATT, THE JUDICIARY etc ARE ALL A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME AND TAXPAYER’S MONIES. OF COURSE IT IS BIG JOBS AND PERKS FOR THE BOYS. NEVERTHELESS THEY ALL BREED MORE CRIME AS THE CRIMINALS KNOW FULLY WELL THAT NOBODY IS GOING TO PAY OR MAKE A SERIOUS JAIL FROM ANYTHING THEY SAY OR DO. AND YES AS IN THIS CASE NOTHING THEY SAY MAKES SENSE. AND DID PANDAY OR ISH AND OTHERS EVER MAKE A SERIOUS JAIL? YES WE ARE THE DONKEYS AS THEY ALL ARE PAID HUGE SALARIES LIKE THE PM AND MPS, CALL THEMSELVES SC ETC. AND DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SOLVE CRIME, WHITE OR BLUE COLLAR, LIVE THE BEST , BECOME A PACK OF FAT RATS , ENJOY THE BEST, TRAVEL EVERYWHERE FREE. FETE THEMSELVES IN FREENESS AND BOLDFACELY EXPECT NOTHING BAD SHOULD HAPPEN TO THEM. WE ARE THE FOOLS AS WE FACE THE SHIT 24/7 EVERY YEAR, SUFFER AT THEIR HANDS, AND OF COURSE WE MUST VOTE A OR B. IN 2010 B SAID THEY WILL CHANGE THINGS IN OUR FAVOR AND WE NOW SEE THEY LIED SHAMELESSLY. YES WE ARE THE DONKEYS AS WE ARE STILL THE ONES TO CATCH. WHO KNOWS WHAT IS THE TRUTH WITH EMAILGATE. THIS IS THE SPIN…TO GET US FED UP SO MUCH OF THE LIES WE GET BAZODEED LIKE WHAT YOUR PARDNER DID TO YOU IN THE 70S. BUT SHAH LIKE YOU I KNOW ONE DAY GOD WILL SPEAK VOLUMES AND WE WILL HAVE SOME PEACE BEFORE WE PASS. DEM ARE NOT SO SMART. MANNING MUST BE BEGGING THE LORD TO TAKE HIM AWAY FROM HIS SUFFERING. GOOD PREVAILS OVER EVIL BIG TIME.

  • “Hear confusion: while three commissioners constitute a quorum, the Integrity in Public Life Act specifies that there must be five members for the body to lawfully exist. So last Tuesday, before the resignations of Ventour and Lalchan, the already fractured Commission could and did make a decision of national import.”

    Three is enough for quorum. Besides the other member has not sided with Ventura. This was her reason for resigning and this is before the public received the report.
    “Sharma had initiated action against Lalchan, who is an opthalmologist, in February over alleged defamation in relation to uthe National Eye Survey of T&T (NESTT) project. Lalchan resigned as a member of the Integrity Commission on Wednesday.”

    • Mamoo, let me reiterate my question to you:
      It would appear that your ONLY interest is that the emails are false. All else make you happy and joyful. As a patriot (lets just say Trinidadian), aren’t you concerned that someone would be devious enough to at least ‘fabricate’ those emails? Hmmmmmmm…………
      (I know your answer already) but for the record, what are your views about content?

  • Jerry C. Hussain

    Shah we are such hypocrites before the lord. Is it not true the lady is a drinker just like her former boss? She copied even that from him. I was a drinker as a young man but no longer drink as I had a family to be responsible for. She is a human being just like me. I knew I needed to set the example. Even as I chose not to be a leader. I did not want to be a PM. She wanted to be one and is one today. Does this mean like her Facebook supporters we must love her drinking. By one stroke of a pen she could fire or hire, hurt or love, allow a paycheck or refuse one. She is a leader of 1.3 million, most of which have to put food on the table, finance a home, educate their young, clothe them etc. If she is a drinker that would not quit, then she should quite rightfully quit the PM wuk. But you know what she is the donkey for she wants her cake and she wants to eat it too. Shah we have to struggle and stay sane in this mess of T&T we are experiencing today (even in the wider world where there is NO leadership qualities anymore). I keep saying since the days of the Cocorite docks (where SABGA now has his twin towers) we welcomed foreigners with open arms fed them, housed them and entertained them…we felt it was the right thing to do. I now wonder if we were right in doing this. After this the 50s they came in droves and took and took from us. They gave nothing back. Some of them, they even settled like Kings and Queens among us while we became near penniless and lived in near poverty. She came along and wants to push us further back while she steals the wealth of the country. We can only stand and watch in horror. The Justice system took over a million from me, no justice for me and I live in pain since both mentally and physically … and for the rest of my life. It is NOT easy for me and has not since 2000. Shah life is not fair. You must ask your friend of 1970 about me as he used me as well (THE SMART MAN). But I still believe in God. When you see the floods in the south of North America we feel sorry for our destroyers. Shah God doh sleep. I am ever mindful that you pay for your wrongs in life. If you do not want to pay you must then do the right thing even if it is difficult to do. The PM will face her demise for her lies and her drinking on the job. Is Rowley was responsible for the lady in yellow at Mandela park on Sunday last? Rowley is NOT God. Hell no…yes the truth hurts and yes the little people will crudely bring out the truth for us to bear. They hurt the most. Are we so afraid of the truth that it must not be spoken or demonstrated. The little people, like me know well enough our only platform is a one like a pre-election event when the media camera is around. Remember the man who told Manning you cannot come into my house when he Manning was on one of his walkabouts. The media, huge folks in our society do not give a damn about our sufferings or what we want communicated. The CJ, Judiciary, LATT, Ministry of Justice, AG and his office, EOC, Transparency etc. do not give a damn about the little people. We must not have any justice except for when it helps them or serves their purpose ( likewise in Cleveland, Balitmore, NY ghettos, etc in the USA ). You think these leaders in America really care about ML King or even Mandella etc. Would the people in Mandela Park display Mandela with a rum bottle in hand? So why should we have double standards? If she has a problem with drinking on the job she should do the right thing and quit. SHE IS THE DONKEY, NOT ME.

  • Jerry C. Hussain

    Yes Shah the law is indeed an ass. And our democracy is a waste.
    Example take a read….’totally neglected’: Marlene McDonald, Member of Parliament for Port of Spain South.

    Member of Parliament for Port of Spain South Marlene McDonald says she wholeheartedly agrees with her constituents that the area has been neglected over the last five years.

    “In their so-called development of this country, nothing has happened, particularly the East-West Corridor and, moreso, in Port of Spain South,” McDonald said in a telephone interview. “It is not a secret. I have been making that call, and it has been my mantra over all the budgetary presen­tations in the Parliament.”

    McDonald said a lot needs to be done with regard to housing, proper roads, water supply and other infrastructural developments.

    “We have been totally neglected and I acknowledge that. If the constituents are saying that, they are quite correct.”

    McDonald said as an Opposition MP, what she has done is to bring these issues to the attention of the Government, to no avail. She said there were many projects started under the PNM which were abandoned when this Government came into office.

    Peters: Marlene not making representation

    However, Minister of Community Development Winston “Gypsy” Peters said it is the job of the MP to ensure constituents’ needs are looked after.

    “She is supposed to be making representation to the various ministries for whatever the people want. That’s why they voted for her,” he said. “If she is not making representation on her constituents’ behalf, then they won’t get anything done.”

    Peters denied Port of Spain South has been ignored because it is a PNM stronghold. He added if the constituency is neglected, it has been that way for as long as he could remember, long before 2010.

  • Jerry C. Hussain

    And Shah there is more ….OF THE LIES ARE WE THE ASSES? …..Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last week boasted in an interview with the Express that du­ring her five-year tenure, Trinidad and Tobago has experienced an “unprecedented level of improvement” in numerous areas, including infrastructure, health care, education and job creation.

    “The citizens of every community, every constituency, have been placed as a priority, and their lives have been improved in so many ways,” she said.

    However, resi­dents of People’s National Movement (PNM) stronghold Port of Spain South constituency beg to differ.

    The Express visited several of the areas in this jurisdiction over the weekend, including John John, Sea Lots, Canada, St Paul Street and Clifton Hill, all areas widely considered to be “hotspots” due to high levels of criminal and gang activity.

    In these places, residents lamen­ted very little has been done in their communities in the last five years and they are being left behind.

    Standing in the street near his home, Clifton Hill resident Shawn Balfour was adamant his community has seen no development.

    “We ain’t seeing anything being done on this side, all the development taking place in the East,” he said.

    Balfour said the only tangible thing that has been done in his area is the construction of a box drain, which only began a few weeks ago.

    Another resident, Kern Jeremiah, said he found it suspicious work on a box drain has begun when a general election is soon due. But the community needs more than just a box drain, he said.

    There is a need for better roads, an improved water supply, employment opportunities, housing, and recreational facilities for youth, the men said.

    Asked if the area fared any better under the previous People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, Balfour said regardless of which Government is in power, the area has always been an afterthought.

    Jeremiah however said life in his community is neither better nor worse than it was prior to 2010.

    Increased police patrols, residents feel safer

    The men in Clifton Hill say the area still experiences high crime and low employment.

    They acknowledged, however, police patrols have increased. In fact, in about the space of an hour, walking through the area, three separate police vehicles were seen making the rounds.

    St Paul Street resident 60-year-old Vinola George said she was quite grateful for this. George said before, residents would barricade themselves in their homes, in fear of criminals, but with the increased police presence, people felt more comfortable going out.

    “I feel a little safer,” she said.

    PNM stronghold ignored

    Michael Morgan, founder and president of the South-East Port of Spain Cultural Workshop, also spoke with the Express from his office, situated directly opposite the Besson Street Police Station.

    Morgan said the area suffers from a lack of proper representation and has been largely ignored by the current administration because it is deemed to be a “PNM stronghold”.

    “We are not a priority for them,” he said. “I cannot hon­estly say that there has been an improvement in the last five years.”

    Deputy Mayor of Port of Spain Keron Valentine expressed a similar view, saying funding for big projects is not forthcoming from Central Government because the area is an opposition constituency. However, he said he would not go as far as saying the area has been neglected.

    Housing woes

    Meanwhile, at Block 8 in John John, residents complained of a lack of proper housing.

    One resident, who asked not to be named, pointed to an apartment building which she said was recently painted, but the fresh coat of paint hid serious issues.

    “They come and paint the buildings to make them look nice, but the pipes leaking. When my neighbour upstairs flush his toilet, all the nasty water coming down by me. It’s years now, we having this problem. These buildings not fit for animals to live in, far less for people,” she said.

    Another issue she said was a cockroach infestation.

    “You can’t sleep in the night because cockroach crawling on you. They crawling all in your food, all in your clothes. These buildings real old,” she said.

    The residents said crime continues to be a problem in the area, and they blame this on the remo­val of a police post at Block 8 in 2010. While the post was there, criminal activity had significantly decreased, they said.

    In Canada, residents were reluctant to speak, saying only consecutive governments have done nothing for them.

    “PNM neither UNC (United National Congress) don’t do no­thing up here,” said an upset man.

    Over in Sea Lots, residents had nothing but harsh words for the People’s Partnership Gov­ernment. Jamila Nunez, who has been a resident there for the last 14 years, said all their cries for help have fallen on deaf ears.

    “Look how long we asking for a walkover,” she said.

    The residents however heaped praises on their Mem­­- ber of Parli­ament, Marlene McDonald, saying she was instrumental in several improvements in the area, including the opening of a homework centre.

    Give Partnership more time

    The only kind words for the Government came from president of the South-East Port of Spain Achievement Organisation Ronald Timothy.

    Timothy, a known community activist who said he used to be a “PNM loyal”, said he had switched alliances after years of PNM neglect.

    He said it would take more than five years to undo the problems he believes the PNM has created over the decades.

    He cited the current construction of a new, upgraded Besson Street Police Station as one of the successes in the area and said even more improvement will come if the People’s Partnership Government secures another term in office.

    “They can’t do it all in just five years,” Timothy said. “That’s why we have to give them another term.”

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