Unilateralism Replacing Democracy
Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003
by STEPHEN KANGAL, M. O.M
The style of governance adopted to introduce into Parliament the current legislation geared to reign in the crime of kidnapping for ransom and other related offences is symptomatic of the creeping unilateralism that is dangerously assuming precedence over and replacing the tenets of our parliamentary democracy.
Both the Government and Opposition stand irresponsibly accused of failing to participate in the requisite consultative/collaborative/in the national interest approach on the Kidnapping Bill. This approach is now fundamental and conditional to effective governance in T&T. It is the sine qua non to enacting all urgent, special majority constitutional rights infringing, three-fifths majority legislation having regard to the current and future political configuration of the Lower House. There is no need to inflict on the nation out-dated, cheap, sterile and bankrupt politicking.
The Bill is a watered down, toothless version of an original Bill that has been re-drafted to circumvent the Government having to mobilise the requisite special majority for passing those critical constitutional human rights infringing sections of the Bill. The original deterrent, no-bail provision that would have rendered it more effective in stemming the tide of kidnapping has regrettably been excised.
This Bill will not achieve its deterrent effects unless and until frequent arrests are made. We should be cautiously optimistic into believing that this Bill (i.e. the legislative approach) is the panacea to ridding T&T of the menace of kidnapping or what should be more appropriately regarded as the illicit trade in innocent human life.
The kidnapping menace is not only holding our society under siege but is being conducted at a galloping pace without any let, respite or hindrance in sight. Sixty five have been committed with impunity so far and counting. This crime against our society has now targeted and encroached on the young and innocent (5 children have been kidnapped so far this year out of a total of 65 kidnappings (27 in 2002) and 60 murders (171 in 2002)).
The Police have laid kidnapping charges only in one of the 65 incidents although they boast of a 30% detection ratio. The Kidnappers are collecting ransom ($1.7mn for 2003) money as it were sou sou money. At least 100 telephone calls demanding ransoms would have been made but none has been intercepted in the face of the $60m spent in acquiring Israeli-made spying/ surveillance/ monitoring communications technology.
This sordid development has serious long-term adverse consequences for the full flowering and mobilisation of the innate human resource enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit endemic of all our peoples. If this trend escalates we might well become the crime/kidnapping capital of the Caribbean rather than a developed country by 2020.
Kidnapping is taking place in the face of public disclosures reported recently in the media and attributed to the COP that he was fully aware of the cadre of underworld persons that was perpetrating the nefarious crime of kidnapping. On the other hand, and in a contradictory vein, we have had statements by the Honourable PM Manning linking kidnappings to political considerations. The latest version is that of kidnapping being motivated by money considerations (AG Morean) and not ethnicity (meaning Indians) or both.
The misleading message being telegraphed is that only Indians have money in T&T. What of the Chinese brothers as well as the mercantile French Creole, the affluent Africans and the Syrian-Lebanese? Do they have guns and guards?
Not only is the Government unwilling to admit of an escalating crime problem but in the face of overwhelming statistical data (66%) it is reluctant to admit empirically and dispassionately that Indians first and foremost are being targeted for kidnappings. The Government has a compelling duty to ask why?
One must recognise and admit of the existence of various permutations/ dimensions of the kidnapping problem at the initial hypothetical level and then proceed to investigate it dispassionately. In this regard it is critically important determine whether the kidnapping selection criteria of victims are inter alia related to the banditry/burglary pandemic. Accordingly one may wish to focus on the variables of ethnicity, prosperity, geography (locational-theory), the culture of passivity (fight or flight), extra-specific non-aggression, the culture of ostentatiousness or wealth visibility, demographics and distribution (numbers) or low security awareness or consciousness.
The deliberate ambivalence shown in admitting of the existence of this aspect of the kidnapping menace that is adversely impacting on, inter alia, Indo-Trinbagonians is clearly symptomatic of the indifference/ don't care a damn that is meted out to Indian-related issues in the society by Indian and non-Indian politicians. Indians cannot even complain about marginalisation or articulate their legitimate interests in a most civilised, egalitarian manner without being hurriedly painted with the racist brush by non-Indians.
The only good Indian in T&T would appear to be a silent, passive docile one who allows others to define things for them.
The afore-mentioned contradictory explanations given at the highest levels for the spate of kidnappings must certainly leave the kidnapping targeted segment of our population deliberately confused, helpless and vulnerable as well as provide fodder for the kidnapping underworld. What am I to make of the latest pronouncement that the police was doing their best to arrest the kidnapping menace and yet it is galloping out of control with 65 being committed hitherto in 2003 with several repeat offenders (known kidnappers).
Should the victims throw their hands in the air, surrender to the plunderers and the perpetrators of the law of the jungle or migrate from their homeland (the classical flight response)? Must we continue to be assailed, abused and seduced with the false expectations- raising political refrain that we are on the road to a developed country status when we cannot even apprehend the law-breakers who have made Waller-field their killing fields in a population of a little more than 1 million? What is the value of comparing our kidnapping detection rates with those of other countries when they are not relevant?
On this important piece of legislation i.e. The Kidnapping Bill, as well as others that may be geared to provide teeth to our statutes, both the Government and Opposition are quite intent on scoring political points "a.k.a kicksing", cheap politicking while Dharti Mai T&T burns and the heart and soul of our peoples, including our young darlings of democracy are being traumatized/assaulted beyond recovery.
According to Tony Frazier (Guardian columnist)". while the parties/governments invoke partisan politics and race in seeking to respond to crime, those who are backing us in small corners for the kill place no such restrictions on their activities and are picking us off one-by-one." May I appeal to the electronic media to avoid insensitive replaying of TV images of recently kidnapped little children because this has the effect of recreating/re-living their stress, trauma and anguish when we as a society should do all to help and counsel them to expunge their trauma/anguish/ kidnapped experiences from their vulnerable, impressionable, young and innocent minds.
There is need to revisit, re-interpret, pay homage to and re-adjust to the message delivered by the 21st Century T&T electorate.
Since the political watershed year of 1995 when the verdict was 17-17-2, the electorate has telegraphed in clear unambiguous terms that they were abandoning the tyranny of adversarial politics and the Westminster concept of the winner at the polls monopolising all the rewards of the state. It seems to me that the electorate has made it abundantly clear that compromise, co-operation, occasions for power-sharing must now constitute the fundamentals and hall mark for good and effective governance in modern T&T.
Creeping unilateralism that incubated and gained momentum during the recent period of the virtual suspension of our parliamentary democracy must be reigned in. We must cultivate statesmanship. Cabinet/Ministerial dictatorship/provincialism is to be avoided. We must demonstrate statesmanship and political maturity in governance. Government must rise to the challenge in establishing the right conditions, after negotiations with the Opposition, for the successful passage of permissible Constitution infringing bills. This is the dictat of the electorate and the litmus test of good and effective governance today.
To blame the Opposition for not supporting the Kidnapping/ Police Bills and to seek to derive cheap political mileage is an admission of failure on the part of the Government having regard to the new signals and mandate repeatedly issued by the electorate during the last four general elections. Those who have ears to hear and sense to reason must take notice and not seek to dilute/obfuscate the message. This is a case of political business unusual. All must demonstrate respect for the intelligence of our peoples.
We must not forget that 1200 strategic voters located in three 3 marginals, i.e. Tunapuna, San Fernando West and Ortoire-Mayaro separated the Government from the Opposition. There is no need as a result to flaunt our arrogance politically and supersede parliamentary democracy with Whitehall unilateralism that reports to the Press when we should also be accounting to and according precedence to the People's Parliament. The micro-unilateralism that underpins this truncated Kidnapping Bill is a manifestation of the macro-unilateralism that characterizes the Government's fiat/ modus operandi on Caroni (1975), the BWIA Rescue Package, the MPATT industrial relations impasse, the proposed re-location of the hallowed seat of Parliament from its historical location in the Red etc.
Puerile allegations that brand the Opposition as being "irrelevant" and "irresponsible' have the effect of pre-empting/scuttling the necessary consultative/ co-operative negotiating climate with The President's Opposition. The obligation to put T&T first is that of both Government and Opposition and must not be invoked for political convenience. The Government must learn to give up some of their monopoly over the coffers of the state in the interest of achieving co-operation with the Opposition.
Any Opposition worth its salt has a right and an obligation to set the conditionalities for its support of the legislative agenda of the Government. In this case the Opposition linked the Kidnapping Bill to the Caroni issue. In respect of the Constitution- infringing Police Bills it established a nexus with Constitutional reform. On the other hand the Government has an obligation and a duty to enter into non-adversarial, meaningful and flexible negotiations with His Excellency The President's Opposition with a sincere intention of achieving agreement on the text of important legislation.
This is a process of give-and- takes as prescribed by the people; of the sharing of the rewards of the State with the 16 constituencies represented by the Opposition. This is the manifest and dynamic will as expressed in clear terms by the electorate to dismantle our traditional constitutionals dictatorship as well as the tyranny of Cabinet.
This are the parameters of the new political culture or janaam(era) that must prevail to achieve good governance that is equity-based in a multicultural society. The predilection for foisting an anachronistic genre of ethno-nationalism on the unsuspecting population as was done during previous periods of our political history must be curbed if not abandoned in its entirety.
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