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Romancing the Pound
Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2002

By Stephen Kangal

What is the nexus which, on the one hand, connects firstly, oneís exemplary parental provision for the education of oneís children at The Court of St. James, secondly having undergone unfortunate by-pass surgery in 1989 and thirdly, the domestic financial management supremacy endemic in Indian womanhood with, on the other hand, not complying with oneís legal obligation to disclose to the Integrity Commission via, the criteria outlined in the Second Schedule, the possession of substantial pounds sterling in Wimbledon Common?

For one the skillful emotional appeals could not be targeted exclusively on the faithful to divert their attention from the political leadership crisis into which they have been immersed following the departure of Team Unity as well as to evoke empathy and sympathy for the ideals of caring Indian fatherhood. The event was broadcast live on Radio Shakti for all T&T. The message which was telegraphed: Why is an innocent man being persecuted for fulfilling his paternal obligations so bountifully when he is not the "beneficial owner" of the funds?

What was billed as a tell- it- all, command performance press event or a full disclosure scheduled for Camden Common, Couva far removed from Camden Hill Road in the vicinity of Kensington Palace, anti- climaxed into a monumental non-event full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. It turned out that far from being a mere appendage to an alleged Sterling account to serve as a contingency mechanism to facilitate oneís children continuing education, it was in fact, ab initio, a full-blown joint account embellished with enormous sterling transactions which bear no approximation to the monthly accretions of the former Chancellor of La Fantasie Gardens.

The traditional tranquillity which presides over sugar-cane enclosed Camden Common reverberated with unsubstantiated charges of British- Trinbago collusion. The British High Commissioner should make public his secret dispatches to No.10. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) which was the embodiment of bilateral co-operation in the multilateral war conducted against the nefarious drug-trade and its sibling- money laundering, white- collar scourge, is now branded as a conduit for collusion and bilateral conspiracy to harm the innocent and deprive the individual of British-inspired justice.

Trinbago could also have requested the alleged banking details on the basis of Article 26 of the 1982 Double Taxation Accord that is designed to prevent fiscal evasion with respect to tax on income. In fact this is a matter which should now engage the investigative arm of the BIR with respect to potential less than full disclosure of income derived from external sources in oneís annual tax returns. Ignorance of the laws enacted by the former lawmaker himself of both laws (the 1987 and 2001 Acts) does not establish reasonable grounds for pleading mitigating or extenuating considerations, diminished responsibility or innocence.

Under para. 7(2) of the MLAT Her Majestyís Government (HMG) could have exercised her competence/right to request T&T to keep confidential the information requested/supplied. Did the British enter such a proviso/conditionality?

What is unsettling to me as an ordinary Trinbagonian is the figure of a potential and immediate past Prime Minister unnecessarily publicly attempting to buff a Foreign Head of Mission on very tenuous grounds and whose corporate citizens like British Gas and BPtt are progressively contributing to the monetisation of our energy resources. This pathetic episode, as so many previous ones, clearly unmasks the bankruptcy of political leadership that is daily eroding the psyche of the national community, decelerating the economy and thereby threatening our bread and shark, doubles and roti as well as our penchant for wining in public.

The confidentiality of documentation seized of the Integrity Commission is prescribed under paragraph 11 of Act No. 8 of 1967. This stipulation does not have extra-territorial jurisdiction binding on HMG. There is a deliberate intention to obfuscate the terms of the MLAT with the confidentiality caveat contained in paragraph 11 of Act No.8.

But the police, the agents of the Integrity Commission, the British HC, the PNM, some farse members of the print media are severally and individually engaged in collusion to tarnish the reputation of the Baron of Palmiste with a view to diminution of his political fortunes at the polls. How can the British be held liable for collusion and in violation of the terms of the MLAT, when the information leaked to the Press is allegedly false? One must assume that Scotland Yard did not provide false information on a Govít- to- Govít arrangement and therefore the alleged false information is not of HMGís origin? What is false?

In fact it is alleged that a potential fair judicial trial (for what?) has been overtaken by a pre-trial conducted by the media/ man-in-the street. I will go so far as to conclude that a pre-trial has been undertaken quite unwittingly by the prime suspect himself. Why would one speak prematurely of going to jail if one were not pre-empting the results of the investigative/ judicial processes? Also, why is judicial trial a possibility? In fact why all the fuss about impending, imminent arrest and incarceration? My cocoa payol francophonie neighbour always admonished me of mouth open and story jump out.

There is an uncanny coincidence between the sources of alleged deposited funds, country visits for ostensible fund-raising and the countries which have concluded MLATís and Double Taxation Agreements with T&T. These are, inter alia, Canada, UK and the USA.

The current ferment on instituting integrity standards underlines the high premium which the nascent T&T political culture has accorded to this aspect of public life. The mushrooming of the press and electronic media industry reinforced by the growth of investigative, forensic journalism as well as healthy, creative competition among the houses for the readership ratings constitutes a significant catalyst for political transformation. The Press/electronic media has now evolved as a vigilant watchdog of the public interest and will serve as an effective deterrent to potential political deviants. The Press has always functioned as the third force in T&T politics. This is one of their raison díetre.

I detected in the epilogue of the Camden Common Theatrics a mood receptive to reconciliation with the forces that were branded as traitors, neemakharams, Judases and corbeaux etc. to aid the PNM removal process. Previous marriages solemnized and consummated by proxy of political convenience have always lacked compatibility/sustainability foundering in acrimonious divorce. I hope that the minor outfits( there can be no minor outfits in a hung parliament) that were consigned to pseudo-called political hibernation (frozen in nitrogen) will not allow themselves to be re-incarnated exclusively to advance the political hegemony of the power wielders only to be marginalised and discarded again on the platforms of inclusion, unity and expanding the geographical base even though politics elsewhere is the art of the possible and compromise but in T&T has degenerated into the classic art of deception. The strategy should be tough negotiations geared to dismantle forever, the trappings of the dictatorialism of guru politics for the benefit of posterity.

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