"However, crime levels have soared over recent months and this has contributed to a massive drop in consumer confidence, which fell 7 points in June to 82, although fears over economic prospects were also a factor. This is related not only to the crime wave but also to waning confidence in the economic outlook for the medium term."
Mr. Speaker, BMI is a widely read magazine. It has an international clientele. They are reporting the facts as we all know it but the Prime Minister, with his head buried in the sand, says exactly the opposite in his Budget speech.
The advisories on T&T that have been issued by several countries all paint a similar picture.
On July 12 2005, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs issued an advisory which read in part:
"Violent crimes including assault, murder and kidnapping continue to increase. Armed robbery is prevalent, particularly in the capital Port of Spain. There has been an increase in daylight attacks, some including the use of firearms at tourist sites, including Fort George in Port of Spain and in car parks of supermarkets and shopping malls. Travelers have been nabbed while walking after dark in Port of Spain.
Robberies also occur on the road from Piarco Airport. The risk of robbery when traveling to and from the airport increases at night, particularly on the Beetham Highway. There have been incidents of violent theft by gangs who follow cars traveling from the airport and attack their victims when they reach their destinations.
Petty crime including bag snatching, pick-pocketing and theft from cars is common, especially near tourist attractions and on public transport, and in larger cities on both islands."
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada issued a similar Travel Report that was valid as of July 11 2005. This is what they said about T&T:
"Crime continues to be on the increase, particularly in Port of Spain and other urban areas. Gang-related violence, including shootings and kidnapping, occurs and can affect bystanders. Canadians should avoid Lavantille and other known high crime areas. Canadians should also exercise caution at popular tourist sites such as Fort George and La Brea Pitch Lake, as well as at supermarket and shopping mall car parks in the western part of Port of Spain, since crimes targeting foreigners have been reported in these areas."
Mr. Speaker, even the Commonwealth Office issued a travel advisory on July 11 2005 which said in summary:
* "You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. An Islamist group, the Jamaat Al Musilmeen, attempted to overthrow the government by force in1990
* Sensible precautions should be taken against theft, which can be a problem at nights in parts of downtown Port of Spain and in other urban areas. There has also been a worrying increase in robberies and break-ins in all areas and an increase in attacks, some involving the use of firearms, at tourist sites, including Fort George, and also at car parks of supermarkets/shopping malls around Port of Spain and other areas and at business premises. In some cases foreign nationals have been shot, including a German national who was shot dead at his home on January 18 and a British national who was shot during a robbery at home on April 21.
* Particular care should be taken when traveling from Piarco Airport, as there have been incidents of violent attacks by gangs who follow cars and attack their victims when they reach their destinations.
* Kidnappings have been a problem in Trinidad since 2002. (Note: PNM came into power in December 2001)
* Crime against tourists in Tobago is a concern. There has been a spate of serious robberies against tourists in Tobago in 2004. Some of these incidents have been accompanied by violence, including rape, against foreign nationals."
Mr. Speaker, the US Department of State had similar things to say in their advisory which was issued on July 12 2005. In summary, this is what they said:
"Incidents of violent crime have been on the rise on both islands. Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment, as in any large urban area, when visiting Trinidad and Tobago. The US Embassy advises visitors to exercise caution when traveling from Trinidad's Piarco Airport, especially after dark, because of incidents involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and then accosting them outside the gates of their residences.
Violent crimes, including kidnapping, murder and assault, have involved foreign nationals and tourists, including US citizens. Burglaries of private residences are common. Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas and especially near ATMs and shopping malls. In some cases robberies against Americans have turned violent when the victim resisted.
In Tobago, the media have reported an increase in the incidence of violent crimes"
Mr. Speaker, it has already been noted that the TTMA pointed out to us that this reputation that we are developing as a criminal's paradise is costing us heavily in terms of both domestic and foreign investment. The BMI also has told us that consumer confidence has declined sharply. We know that businesses are closing and business people are leaving. Yet all we get are empty promises while the situation deteriorates daily.
Mr. Speaker, in ordinary circumstances, the population would look to the police for protection. In our case however, not only are some members of the police, including senior ones, accused of being involved in crime, especially kidnapping, but important issues are continuously being raised about the adequacy of the resources of the police service and also about the organization and structure of the service.
Before I continue further with this subject Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that the UNC is of the view that the large majority of police personnel are honest and hard working and are there to protect and serve. The problem is with a small group of rogue officers and with the management of the service.
Mr. Speaker, the Police Social and Welfare Division has had some serious concerns about the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T (SAUTT).
President Cedric Neptune said SAUTT was "a political tool" that was answerable only to National Security Minister Martin Joseph......remember him, relative of Learie and Tommy. He said that the unit headed by Brig Peter Joseph was not a legal entity. This view was echoed by eminent attorneys.
Mr. Neptune said that since 2001, government had targeted several police stations for construction but as of today, no work had been undertaken. "But what we find happening". He said, "It is that a unit like the SAUTT for which there is no legal frame work for it being formed, this unit is being outfitted with the latest equipment and no expenditure is being spared relating to outfitting this unit and the provision of resources". Mr. Neptune said this unit was being used as a political tool and he did not know if the Minister of National Security and the powers that be were of the opinion that they will be occupying the corridors of power for the rest of their lives.
He also said that SAUTT was a parallel police force and essentially a unit on to themselves and that the Minister of National Security did not even have the courtesy to apprise the association of SAUTT's activities.
Mr. Speaker, in the days following Mr. Neptune's statement, there were instances when the real police and the SAUTT appeared on crime scenes at the same time and there seemed to be some hostility between the two units. It was clear that the two police forces were not communicating with one another.
Mr. Speaker, this kind of mismanagement is bound to cause dissention, disharmony and poor morale among the good men and women of the police service. Why does the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister want their own Gestapo-like Mongoose Gang? Who or what are they protecting? Who are they setting-up? What is their real intent with this mongoose gang? Is this their private force for terrorizing their political opponents?
Mr. Speaker, connected with the crime situation is the issue of police brutality which is also becoming a matter of grave concern to the good people of T&T.
The Express newspaper of July 22, 2005, commenting on the case of Devon Sookoo, in an editorial titled 'An Enduring Problem', wrote:
"For yet another time, the State has been ordered to pay compensation to a citizen who has been at the receiving end of police brutality." In fact, Sookoo had not even been convicted of a crime, even though the police subsequently laid a charge of possession of marijuana against him. To all appearances, it was police brutality for the sake of police brutality and reinforces the argument of defense attorney, Mr. Anand Ramlogan, that policemen who abuse citizens should themselves be disciplined.
But by whom and by what process? Certainly, not any so called police Complaints Authority which in any given year only manages to investigate a laughable quantum of the complaints referred to it. This is a country where between May 2001 to September 2003 there have been "4062 complaints against the police with only 169 being investigated and reported on and where there has been a staggering increase in various categories of complaints. Battery increased by 154 %, violence against property increased by 325%, failure to perform duty by 48.8%, harassment by 56.55, bad behavior by 40.3% and wrongful arrest by102%. None of this is to suggest that all of these have merit, but all of this suggests that we have an enduring problem".
Mr. Speaker, I said earlier, that the word management and PNM should not be mentioned in the same sentence; do you now understand what I mean? But that is not all. It goes further.
In a Guardian report of July 24, 2005 a member of the Firearms Interdiction Unit (FIU) is quoted as having said:
"FIU Officers have always been dedicated to the job, even though they did not have sufficient equipment. On many occasions the officers use their private vehicles to go on surveillance duties and also take money out of their own pockets to fund many operations." This in a country that had a $30 billion Budget last year and over $90 billion since 2002.
The article also mentioned that after the arrest of a central businessman who had close ties with a member of the police executive, earlier in the year, the FIU had been denied equipment which was promised to it, such as vehicles.
Mr. Speaker, the Police Service is suffering a serious crisis of credibility and it is rooted in PNM's misplaced sense of priorities and in their total mismanagement of everything in this land. They have damaged every institution in the country and now something as basic as security of the nation is compromised to the point that anarchy reigns.
Mr. Speaker, the crisis of credibility in the police service has recently been aggravated by another ugly trend. It was highlighted in a Newsday article of July 10, 2005 under the headline: "Who really is police out there?" In one part the article said:
"There are many reports that men dressed in police uniforms committed unlawful acts across the country. There was a report last month of men dressed as police ramming the car of a businesswoman. She sensed that something was wrong and raced to the nearest police station. Why didn't these 'police officers' follow her to the police station? Was this another attempt to kidnap someone?
Some persons kidnapped this year were snatched by persons dressed like police officers.
Take for instance, the kidnapping of the Nath brothers recently. They were stopped in a roadblock on the Valencia stretch. Imagine that very lonely spot with very little lighting at night had a roadblock. Gangs are now moving around dressed as police officers. What are people supposed to do when they are stopped by someone in police uniform? Why has the Commissioner or the Minister not given some sort of advice or directions to people who find themselves in this situation? Mr. Minister, Mr. Commissioner, we have a nation of frightened people. Dealing with criminals in police uniforms is a good place to start."
But that is not all. Not only are people being kidnapped by men in police uniforms but they are being killed by guns of the Police. In the case of the murder of Uttamdeo Marajh of Palo Seco, it has been proven that the firearm that was used to kill him was one of those that went missing from a police station. The population is now asking whether the gun was stolen or was it rented out "to put down a wuk?"
And what do we get from the Government in all of this Mr. Speaker? In a flash of sheer brilliance, the Member for San Fernando West, who has said unambiguously that the PNM is failing to deliver, is reported in the Guardian of August 2005, to have offered the deeply profound explanation "we are all responsible for crime". She is quoted as having said:
"Who failed when you look at the criminals? We can't cover our eyes. All leaders failed us." She forgot that the UNC had crime under control.
Mr. PM, take note of what your members think of you when it comes to crime.
Incidentally Mr. Speaker, her view that the PNM is failing to deliver was comprehensively supported by the Minister of Housing.
Once more the PNM's penchant for misunderstanding the concept of responsibility is apparent. The Member for San Fernando West does not understand that the people put them there to run the country. They have the resources. They have the power. This responsibility cannot be delegated. The buck stops with the Government and no amount of platitudes can change that.
Mr. Speaker, I am totally convinced that there is no particular analysis or set of recommendations that can help us with the Fearsome Age of Crime that the PNM has created. They have ensured that crime is a lucrative business. They have painted criminal activity as a romantic area for career building for the young people of T&T. By an absence of law enforcement, by dividing the society along ethnic and urban/rural lines, by making heroes out of the captains of crime and by using the URP to provide an economic base for criminal activity, the PNM has succeeded in their tenure in making criminal activity the only area of sustainable economic activity.
Mr. Speaker, every year at budget time, the UNC gives its recommendations for solving the crisis of crime in T&T. This is not rocket science. Crime has to be fought at two levels: at the level of crime prevention and at the level of crime detection. At the level of crime prevention the object is to prevent the crime before it is committed. This involves a holistic approach designed to change the culture of lawlessness to an attitude of lawfulness. Its dimensions are economic, social and cultural. We must deal with things like unemployment and poverty, homelessness and hopelessness. We must dismantle the ghettoes, not by giving it a paint job as is proposed for Laventille and Morvant, in this Budget, not by transferring them from one place to another in an attempt to house pad, but by building communities with all the facilities for decent human living
At the level of crime detection you must ensure that the Police Service is given the necessary resources to apprehend wrong doers after the crime has been committed. Resources do not mean only physical resources such as police stations, vehicles, guns, blimps and other modern equipment, but includes human resources such as a Police Service recruited on the basis of merit, properly trained, where promotion and advancement are made on the basis of a meritocracy, not racism, patronage, cronyism and favouritism. Having been arrested and charged the accused is taken to Court; we must do what it takes to make our courts and the criminal justice system efficient, swift and effective. The question of prison reform cannot be over emphasised if we are to deal with the problem of recidivism Proper systems of management must be put in place at all levels.
But most of all, Mr. Speaker, there must be the political will; the Government must dissociate itself from crime and the criminals. They cannot use the criminals for their nefarious endeavours and then pretend that they are doing something about crime. Most importantly, do not romanticize criminal careers as the PNM did with Mark Guerra; do not dignify criminals with lofty titles and stop using criminals to steal elections. Do not use them to terrorise the Opposition whether at election time or otherwise. Mr. Speaker, do you remember the "Marbuntas" of the 1960's? The PNM has a history of criminalizing the politics of this beloved country.
This Government lacks is the will to defeat crime precisely because of its involvement with crime and criminals. The problem is not a shortage of resources. We have the resources. We know that there are 60 gangs and they have 500 members - so what are we waiting for? In whose interest is it to ensure that the criminals grow and prosper? Only the PNM hierarchy and their financiers from the drug mafia are benefiting from crime.
Mr. Speaker, if we are to deal with crime, if we are to set this country on the road to progress once more, we must strengthen our existing institutions and build new and relevant ones. Last year I warned the Government that if they continued to undermine the institutions of our society, they would be leading us to disaster. In particular I referred to the Prime Minister's vindictive behavior towards one Marlene Coudrey, his discrimination against Devant Maharaj, his discrimination against the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha in their application for a radio license, his interference in the judicial process with respect to the Bajan fishermen ad his interference with the police when his former driver got into trouble with the Marabella police.
I told the Government that debating a Budget can only make sense when we had functioning institutions of our society in place, when our people were not divided and debilitated by racial and other forms of discrimination and when our democracy was functioning effectively. Since then Mr. Speaker, nothing has changed. Indeed, things have gotten worse and we continue as a nation to spiral downward.
Mr. Speaker, the office of the DPP, is a very important institution in our society. Unless the population has the confidence that this Office will be fair, fearless and strong, the very foundation of our democracy will be undermined. What is the nation to think when a judge of the International Criminal Court says?
"During my 46 years of practice I have not seen a similar case at the Bar. It is the height of wickedness on the evidence. There should never have been a prosecution of Professor Narinesingh. I regret I have to speak in such tones but it should never have happened. I tend to get emotional at these times but this is a serious matter and in my view wanton abuse of power. You don't piece together a case. This is the most serious charge we know. You don't do that."
Mr. Speaker, these were the words of Senior Counsel, Mr. Karl Hudson Phillips. as he summed up his defense of Professor Narinesingh. He concluded by saying: "Narinesingh has no case to answer and he should be discharged forthwith".
Mr. Speaker, no sooner had the Chief Magistrate discharged Professor Narinesingh, the DPP proceeded to send his files to a judge of the High Court, seeking to have the Professor rearrested. It is now history that the learned judge wasted no time in throwing the case out. How can anyone continue to have confidence in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions?
It is common knowledge that the DPP accused the Chief Justice of interfering in the Narinesingh case and this is now a matter before the court. I will therefore say nothing to prejudice the outcome of the matter. But I must ask: is there a connection of vindictiveness between the two matters? Are the Prime Minister and the Attorney General connected with this malicious prosecution? I do not know the answers to these questions but I have been around too long to take things on face value. This Budget is about confidence.
After all is said and done citizens may view this matter as good grounds for not having confidence in the DPP. Remember the DPP was accused of "abuse of power." As I said earlier, without confidence in this Office, our democracy will be seriously undermined. I ask the again how do we debate a Budget intelligently when we don't have the basics of our society right?
How could such an important institution conduct itself this way? How can we play with the lives of decent upstanding citizens in this manner? The Professor has an international reputation for excellence in his field. Does the DPP know how many lives the Professor has saved? Does he know how many tears the Professor has dried? Does the DPP have any idea of how much pain the Professor has eased and how much comfort he has given to countless fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers? But he proceeds on the basis of unadulterated spite and vindictiveness to incarcerate an innocent citizen who is contributing in every walk of life in T&T and also internationally. Mr. Speaker, there can be no excuse for this kind of abuse of power and if the PNM had any decency they would proceed expeditiously to do something about it. And it will be something that sends a loud message to all of the personnel of all institutions of the State that this type of abuse will not be tolerated in any form.
Mr. Speaker, the undermining of the judiciary does not end with the abuse of power by the Office of the DPP and the PM's persecution of the CJ. This Government is deliberately starving the judiciary of resources because it does not get along with some of the senior people and because it feels that too many cases have gone against it.
Here is an example Mr. Speaker.
On August 22, 2005, an empty paint bucket had to be placed in front of Deputy Chief Magistrate Mr. Mark Wellington's desk to collect rainwater at the San Fernando Magistrate's Court which came down through a leak in the roof. On an another occasion during a heavy down pour, the court recorder at San Fernando First Court also had to shift her books and the court's records to prevent them from getting wet as the roof above them began to leak.
Attorney Chateram Sinanan said: "When the sun is hot, the magistrate's court is like a boiler. When it is raining, it's leaking, and when it is raining, in addition to the leaks, it is impossible to hear the evidence as it is being given".
This is the condition of our courts after four budgets and $90 billion later. Last November, health inspectors from the San Fernando City Corporation deemed the existing court building a health hazard and a warning notice was sent to the judiciary ordering it to clean up the building or face shut down. Will Scotland Yard and the FBI repair the roof of the Court?
Mr. Speaker, again I ask, how can we debate a Budget when this is the state of our nation. This PM can find resources to help all of his Caribbean neighbors. But he can't find resources for our courts where the vast majority of the poor and humble people of T&T go to get justice. All he does when facts like these are brought to his attention is to put on his "bull frog" look to show that he could not care less.
The Budget speaks of many new industries coming on stream in the near future. Will they all follow the same pattern of ignoring our environment?
Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Management Authority has been suffering a similar erosion of authority form this Government. It is now known that the PM has disregarded everyone and every institution and decided to build an $850 million stadium in Tarouba. While the population can take solace in the PM's assurances that with this project we no longer have to worry about tsunamis that may originate from an undersea volcano off the coast of Grenada (a volcano which the experts advise us shows no sign of erupting in the foreseeable future) and that should any other Caribbean country fail in their obligations for the Cricket World Cup in 2007, T&T will fill the void, the EMA is getting a taste of how this PM governs.
And as if that was not enough, the PM proceeded to attempt to undermine the very fabric of this society by suggesting that objections to the project were driven by regional considerations. His exact words were:
"I have half a suspicion that if the complex was being built in Mucarapo, there would have been no objection".
In making this statement Mr. Speaker, the PM was showing his true colors. Divide and rule is his secret weapon. Not being content to divide the country along ethnic lines, he is now doing it along regional lines.
The EMA has served a Notice of Violation on UDeCOTT, the developers of the Tarouba Project. The EMA said that upon being served such a notice, developers will usually stop the project and come in to chat with them. In this case though, the EMA has been totally ignored. Is this going to be the case with all the building projects outlined in the all inclusive Budget? Why does the Government set up agencies if it intends to ignore them when it suits its purpose? That is lawlessness- an example for others to follow. Mr. Speaker, when the State and its agencies behave in such a manner, what is to be expected of the average citizen? The culture of lawlessness starts with the Government; no wonder there is so much lawlessness in this land.
The EMA has been treated with similar contempt and disdain by the State with respect to the two proposed aluminum smelters. In this regard I will quote from an article by Professor Julian Kenny that appeared in the Express of August 23, 2005. This in part, is what the Professor said:
"First, Mr. Manning was reported to have announced at the post-cabinet meeting of July 7 that the smelter would go ahead. This is, of course, highly improper, given the fact that the legal body responsible, the EMA, states in its advertisement that no approval has yet been given nor, (and this is most important,) has the full complement of environmental information necessary for pronouncement on applications for CECs at Union or Cap de Ville been received.
What is particularly disturbing is that Alcoa's application is either evasive or incomplete, with some boxes in the form answered 'to be determined'. Of particular interest are the answers concerning chemicals used and wastes to be produced. The form asks about the use of hazardous materials. The answer- 'gasoline and diesel'! The question of waste disposal - 'to be determined'! And so it goes. The State Company, I assume, being party to the application, thinks that as the Government has already decided that the smelter will go ahead, treats the application with undisguised indifference, if not contempt".
Mr. Speaker, once more the PM himself leads the way by undermining the authority of major institutions and sets an example for the youth of the country that has the inevitable consequence of worsening the crime situation. He is literally saying to all concerned- to hell with authority, there are no rules, and I, Patrick Manning, will do as I very well please. Well Mr. PM, the youths of the nation are watching and listening and the example you are setting is surely finding fertile ground among them.
The PM has recently dug in his "no rules" policy even further with the announcement of the creation of several new state enterprises that will no longer be subject to some of the strict financial controls that were required by law. These companies will not be required to adhere to the rule that contracts over $5 million must be approved by the Finance Minister.
The IMF expressed serious concerns about the removal of these controls during its Article 4 consultation that was held with Government in late July.
But this Government has little regard for the IMF now that the country's financial position is strong. Let them be reminded that it was following an oil boom that looked exactly like the one we are going through now, that this same PNM Government had to go the same IMF.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken extensively about the problem of crime in the society but I now wish to deal specifically with the issue of credibility of the police service in the context of the whole issue of the credibility of Government and the institutions of the State.
In an editorial dated July 28. 2005, the Newsday had this to say in its concluding paragraphs:
"But criminals are only one side of the equation. The other side is the crime fighters, which is the second front on which this battle must be waged. It seems reasonable to assume that crime can not have gotten so bad without the cooperation - or at least the incompetence - of police officers. There have been loud calls for Police Commissioner Trevor Paul to take strong action against errant officers. After all, it is likely that officers who beat prisoners are corrupt. Getting them out of the Service is therefore crucial to getting an upper hand on criminals. And it is here that the politicians must play their part, since expanding the Police Commissioner's powers, as well as beefing up the Police Complaints Authority, is a political task.
Whatever is done, its best that it be done quickly. If the people in charge didn't know it before, the 200 murders should have sent the message loud and clear - this country has reached crisis point."
Mr. Speaker, if this was crisis point what are they saying now that the figure is 285?
The Guardian editorial of August 14, 2005 raised similar concerns. In part it said:
"What continues to strike us, however, is the lack of trust now being voiced in the Police Service by both the high and low in T&T's enduringly troubled society.
And it is not only in the Police Service. Indeed it is difficult to find just about any public institution in the country that enjoys the confidence of our citizens".
The editorial concluded as follows:
"But whatever the take by Manning and his admittedly many supporters on the efficacy of more than 30 years of PNM administration the ruling party will do well to ponder the increasing skepticism, cynicism even, of Trinbagonians of every race and class and what it portends not only for the troubled present but what seems to be destined, not only here and elsewhere, to be a tumultuous future".
An Express editorial of August 16, 2005 had its own unique way of stating the facts. In commenting on the PM's statements on the Grand Stand the editorial concluded with these words:
"Past experience tells us we should not take Manning at his word particularly since, unlike the Tarouba complex, no time frame has been given and certainly, no preliminary work is being done as even now is, reportedly, well underway in Tarouba".
Mr. Speaker, the Chamber also had its say in its column which was published in Newsday on August 12, 2005 under the heading "The credibility of the police". In one paragraph the Chamber said:
"While T&T has earned the reputation for being the land of rumor, and maximum public attention spans no more than nine days, all the local media claimed to be relying on "credible sources" which disclose that SAUTT has, via covert operations, uncovered evidence of involvement by a senior officer in kidnapping and ransom collection, as well as extortion and racketeering".
In another paragraph the Chamber said:
"It must really be a question of credibility when a hurriedly summoned three man press conference of ministers, one Saturday, became necessary to convince their audiences that the construction of the $850 million sports complex had nothing to do with national priorities or resource allocation to the Ministry of National Security".
In another paragraph the Chamber said:
"As soon as the PM proclaims that Government has put in place everything necessary to cope with terrorism, and that T&T is ready, off goes a bomb in a dustbin. The suspicious public has to cope with the continually broken promises of the Commissioner of Police and Minister of National Security".
Mr. Speaker, where are we going when credibility is being destroyed this way? Credibility is a cornerstone of democracy; without confidence in the State and its institutions people will be led to take matters into their own hands. This, Mr. Speaker, is where anarchy begins. This PNM has taken us well along this road and it is not far off when total anarchy will reign.
What does it say when the captain of the ship finds it necessary to lament the failure of the administration of the ship? Are citizens supposed to follow the rules and live in accordance with the traditional norms and values when the captain loses confidence in key institutions?
Well, Mr. Speaker, this is precisely where T&T finds itself at present. At the inauguration of the 43rd anniversary of our armed forces, this is part of what our President said:
"In the war against crime all patriots must be counted.
I get a sense from the things that I am observing that we are on the way to losing our focus, if we have not already lost it.
These may be regarded as harsh words, even unfair, because some of you will say that you are trying hard. But I must say things as I see them. It does no one any good if, instead of facing reality, we continue to delude ourselves in the false comfort of congratulations for minimal performance when the big picture tells us that we have a long way to go.
I am beginning to wonder whether everyone recognizes what his particular duty is, and how his task should be performed. I am not sure that there is not a measure of indulgence permeating the ranks that is tending to permit mediocrity which, in any circumstance, spells disaster, but which in our current circumstances, will do us absolutely no good".
The President told the Army: "The public sees you as having a critical role to play in reversing the situation that prevails in our country at this time by dealing decisively with the criminal elements that have been assailing the peace and security of our nation.
Do you think you cannot stem the tide? Are your energies diverted to concerns about the dividing of turf in the exercise of combating crime?
It cannot be business as usual. Ways must be found to fight the evil that is striving to bring this country to its knees".
Mr. Speaker, the President sounded an even more ominous note during his address to the Catholic Commission for Social Justice. He said:
"There is a kind of frenzy in society that threatens to catapult the people of the country onto another stage - a stage of war with one another that would do nobody any good". He emphasized his point by saying we will be burying our heads in the sands if we pretended to have a cohesive society. The President is echoing what most of us already know and have been saying for a long time. The reason why the extensive promises made in this and past Budgets have not materialized is not because of malice (incompetence, maybe) but because we are a divided people. In order to fulfill promises made in Budgets we must be able to mobilize all our human resources; but how can we do that when we divide the people day after day by pseudo-racist policies, discrimination, victimization and cronyism?
The President said a lot more but what I have quoted gives a good picture of how he feels. It is interesting to note that the only comment that the PM made on the President's words was that the President is entitled to his views. But this is entirely in character; he could not care what anyone thinks so long as he enjoys the trappings of the Office of PM, and he will divide our people to do it. The President however recognizes his divide and rule strategy and is warning us against it.
Mr. Speaker, it is wrong to ignore the concerns of the President as the PM is doing. He is the Head of State and his concerns are well founded. He is not the only one who is concerned. I have already shown where every individual and group in the country is deeply troubled about crime. The President speaks for the entire nation with his statements on crime. The time for urgent action is now. But the PNM has boxed itself into a corner from which it cannot extricate itself. Their problem is how to discipline those who put them in power illegally; the fact of the matter is they cannot because the monster on which they rode to power will eat them if they try to get off its back.
And therefore, Mr. Speaker, once more I ask, how can we debate a Budget intelligently when the Government is unable to manage something as basic and as fundamental as the security of our people. And how can we debate a Budget when the PNM and in particular the PM, is undermining every institution in this society?
DECADENCE IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Mr. Speaker, the Budget speaks of an enormous building programme to be executed by the establishment of several state companies which will by-pass the normal tendering procedures and so open the door to enormous corruption; this in a society already rotting - from the head down. Several Ministers are now under investigation by the Integrity Commission and the PM himself has a lot to answer.
In the now infamous Dansook case two Ministers were accused of taking bribes. Dansook, in a letter to the PM admitted to bribing the Ministers and expressed fear for his life.
Minister Khan did the decent thing and resigned in order to allow the investigation to proceed. But Minister Williams has retained his position. The PM accepts both.
The tale of how Dansook allegedly bribed Minister Williams is one of the most intriguing that I have ever heard. It was reported in the Sunday Express of May 15, 2005 by investigative reporter Camini Marajh. This is what she wrote Mr. Speaker:
"Dansan Dansook says he made seven pre-arranged money drops totaling $75000 to Energy Minister Eric Williams in the vicinity of Smokey and Bunty's in St. James, always on a Friday evening and always between 7 and 8 pm. He claimed Williams hit on him for money at a party function at Baliser House in December 2002 after his trusted friend let on that Dansook was providing him kickbacks from seismic exploration contracts.
He said Williams, who complained of having a pile of unpaid bills related to his election campaign, made an up-front demand for 15% cut of his (Dansook's) take on the Terra Seis contract but settled on a lower figure after he made clear that the requested sum was completely out of the ball park.
He said that payouts went like clockwork every month. He told Sunday Express how he would approach the parked PBR BMW on the Western Main Road in St. James, how Williams would put down the window and reach for the envelope stuffed with hundred-dollar bills and how the Energy Minister would ride out into the night, sometimes without a single word exchanged".
Mr. Speaker, this sordid story raises many questions. First, why did it take the PM so long to act? He did nothing for almost a year. Does he not know that by failing to act people will begin to think that he may have shared in the spoils? Why did the PM allow Khan to resign but did not insist that Williams resign? Why is the investigation of the Integrity Commission taking so long? Why did the PM send the case to the Integrity Commission instead of the Fraud Squad?
In another twist one Jerry Narace, the PNM's Ambassador Plenipotentiary, in a recorded telephone conversation, assured Dansook that the PNM "took care of its own". He even told Dansook "We have had people who have had their things thrown out". He has not been charged for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Mr. Speaker, this is a further case on undermining the judiciary and once more I must ask how can we seriously debate a Budget when we have a government that is destroying every rule and convention of decency. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, it is one set of rules when it comes to the PNM and its supporters and another when it comes to the rest of the population. Is this part of the 20/20 vision? Is this how the PNM intends to achieve developed country status by 2010?
This Budget will now legitimize the PNM's corruption agenda with the establishment of 15 new State Enterprise. Not only have they been dismantling the rules of accountability by forming several new State-owned companies that will not have to put out projects for tender or account for contracts awarded to their friends and family; they are now giving contracts to members of this House to make up for the loss of Ministerial port folio. Take the case of the Member for La Brea who has benefited from over $500,000 in contracts from this Government. Mr. Speaker, this is what is called civilized corruption. You do not have to fire a gun or break-in to commit the robbery; you merely have to have the right contacts.
|NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 this material is distributed without profit or payment to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material
from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. |