Bring on an anti-corruption court

By Raffique Shah
November 07, 2018

Raffique ShahUntil scores of corrupt politicians, public officials and thieving contractors in this country are jailed for pillaging the public purse, and are seen wearing “prison blues” so that the population is convinced that justice is evenly dispensed, the lawlessness that runs rife in the society will ravage its body politic like an invasive cancer.

It will inevitably permeate the few decent souls remaining, like the persons whose compassion for their less fortunate brethren during the recent floods kindled hope in our hearts that there is still some humanity left in this jungle of feral greed.

Should we allow our country to slide into this netherworld, we would have effectively executed a “scorched earth” policy, leaving future generations no reasons to remain in this cussed country that would descend into a cauldron of tribalism and cannibalistic partisanship, or, put more crudely, a “dog eat dog” society.

My grim prognosis of just how precarious our situation is struck me in the wake of the disastrous flood at Greenvale Park, a government housing project few of us knew before the raging overflow from the adjacent Caroni River almost wiped out the community. In its aftermath, the two main political parties that were responsible for its establishment at a cost of approximately $300 million engaged in blaming each other for the disaster.

While this stand-pipe-type quarrel between Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Opposition Member of Parliament Roodal Moonilal raged, the Appeal Court, ruled in another matter involving the award of multi-million-dollar suspicious contracts on the eve of the general election in 2015. Simultaneously, I received information that corruption such as the 10 percent skim-off on government contracts awarded, and on expediting long-overdue payments, continues under the Rowley administration.

Regarding Greenvale, I find it unimaginable that the Patrick Manning government insisted on establishing a new development on lands that were unsuited for housing for several reasons, the most dire being its proximity to the Caroni river. For reasons thus far unexplained, that government persisted with pursuing change-of-use (from river reserve and agricultural lands) to the extent that it defied the Town and Country Planning Division’s objections and proceeded to start construction of 400-odd houses, hence break the law.

When the Manning government was booted from office in 2010, the People’s Partnership administration virtually took up the illegal baton and ran with it, eventually securing approvals from Planning. In the run-up to the 2015 election, then Housing Minister Moonilal distributed keys to Greenvale units with a relish, never hinting to the recipients that they faced grave flooding danger if the Caroni ever overflowed its banks. Historically, that river has wreaked devastation on communities farther away from its banks than Greenvale after excessive rainfall.

Prime Minister Rowley’s belated defence that the contractor had warned government in 2010 that certain engineering works, among them a “flood gate”, were imperative, is of little comfort to residents who experienced the river’s wrath. Surely there are numerous other, safer, flood-free sites that were available for housing purposes. Surely, too, construction costs would have been much cheaper without flood mitigation installations adjacent to the mighty Caroni.

As for Moonilal’s claim that the PP government met the project in progress and had no choice but to complete it…really? Wasn’t the Brian Lara stadium incomplete? Did the PP not halt works there? And does Moonilal really believe a few box-drains and pumps could save that community from the Caroni in full flood?

No way. But governments squander other people’s money, meaning taxpayers’, because they know that while they might be deemed culpable and suffer five years banishment to opposition, the individuals who made the fateful, costly decisions will never be punished by way of being jailed, as happens in so many other countries, Brazil being one of the more recent examples.

Public housing is one of the most corruption-ridden and corruption-driven avenues through which billions of dollars are siphoned into the grubby hands of greedy politicians, unscrupulous landowners and unconscionable contractors. From governments purchasing land at ludicrous prices to awarding contracts at outrageous unit-costs, to distributing houses to persons who neither qualify for nor deserve them—you name the crime, they commit it, confident that they will never be prosecuted, far less jailed.

And to think that they sleep easily, even luxuriously, at nights.

Well, if out of evil cometh some good, the Greenvale disaster gives us the citizenry an opportunity to call halt to this damn nonsense.

We should demand that government and opposition agree to establish a special court that will focus only on corruption. Its divisions will include an adequately-staffed investigations unit with powers to summon suspects for interrogation, an equally-equipped office of a special prosecutor, with summary trial by a judge or magistrate.

I don’t know about you, but I am fed up with joint select committees of Parliament and commissions of inquiry that in the decades they have been employed, have yet to bring one corrupt contractor or public official to justice. In the normal courts, we have only to look at the infamous Piarco Airport case that has failed to reach trial in more than 15 years.

Indeed, it’s a telling indictment against the entire justice system that we know officials high and low who have looted tens of billions of dollars from public funds, or engaged in wanton wastage, but they continue to parade as paragons of virtue.

Let’s insist on an anti-corruption court that will jail their thieving backsides, put them in “prison blues”.

10 thoughts on “Bring on an anti-corruption court”

  1. Raff, I hear your frustration and I do empathise with you wholly. Sorry to tell you man it eh go make a difference! Why? I was privy of so much corruption in Caroni both at high and low levels of the hierarchy at the company until one Government official at the time (’80’s) told me just as you can see you must learn not to see – more pain less gain. To the say the least I am still figuring the meaning to this day.

    The DNA is so rampant in all strata of T&T society that it has become part of our culture. Can you imagine having some of the legal luminaries belonging to the same nepotistic colleagues in the civil and criminal courts administering justice where time and outcomes are concerned?

    Think of Harry Ramsankar former Customs and Excise Commissioner about to bust a drug cartel when his life was snuffed out just trying to change a tire that was purposely deflated and what followed after would appear as a traffic accident. Similarly Gene Miles, Selwyn Richardson and some others who had premature deaths.

  2. Lt Shah

    Your call for a Corruption Court is timely. The recent revelation (public secret) by the Prime Minister that billions of dollars were stolen from the people of TT by past politicians, HDC officials, contractors and other officials is an indictment on the moral fabric of this country. Where is this toothless bulldog, the Integrity Commission? The people of TT are paying them millions of dollars to check on the integrity of the politicians and officials of the country but have they recommended jail for anyone. They sit on their comfortable chairs, driving their luxury cars, eating drinking high class food but not doing their job for the citizens of the country. It has been alleged that this organization is staffed with has been officials of government departments, failed civilservants etc. No real work is done. They cannot make government officials, directors and senior managers of State corporation declare their assets which is one of the fundamental job of the commission. We saw where there has been persons who insist on getting the job of top official. Self serving persons on an Integrity Commission!!!!!! Our politicians have failed us for years. Not one of our politicians can walk with their heads high and say they are not touched with this corruption.

    Not that the Prime minister has informed the people of TT that there is and was corruption to the tune of Billions of dollars in the housing ministry; What is he going to do about this rotten situation? No solutions as usual.

    The bottom line is that government must get out of the builidng of houses. They should give incentives, grants, low interest loans to private developers to build the houses. No more buying land which is valued at $55 million for $185 million. In some countries politicians are put in front of a firing squad and shot for this corruption.

    We are seeing where some of the billions of dollars went over the past years. The country is nearly broke. Yet union leaders, politicians and citizens are acting as if money is flowing like a waterfall.

    The ball is in the Prime Minister hands now. Do something to get back the stolen money for the people of the country. This is your job mister Prime Minister.

  3. Let us begin now by cleaning up the corruption within the present government. The PM himself has been the target of one of these lengthy investigations which were highly questionable, the Tobago missing gravel Landate caper.
    Government troubles with the procurement last year of a passenger ferry and cargo vessel for the Trinidad and Tobago seabridge, which left questions as to the process by which the vessels were sourced and leased from Canadian company, Bridgeman’s Services Ltd.
    The continued presence of Port of Spain South MP, Marlene McDonald, as a Cabinet minister, even as she remains the subject of an active criminal investigation. McDonald is being investigated over financial grants issued in 2010 while she was Minister of Community Development, to the Calabar Foundation, an NGO run at the time her common-law husband, Michael Carew.
    Rowley’s failure to bring closure to a controversial 2016 bank transaction by Planning and Development minister, Camille Robinson-Regis. The minister is being called on to clarify the origin of an alleged $143,000.00, said to have been deposited to her personal accounts in January that year.

  4. There’s a new term floating around in the USA, “corruption by proxy.” The politicians here are as corrupted as everywhere else, but nothing can be traced to them. Their families and friends makes the deals, receives the bribes, fill their off- shore bank accounts with the loot and there is no laws on any of the books to get this cancer out of Humanity.

    This is part of the corruption that is drowning this nation. Thieves abound. Shah mentioned the airport scandal. Let me say the airport has paid for itself. I understand they still probing Linquist report alone was over $800 million. And 18 years of a PNM instituted probe I am sure resulting in nothing but millions to fund such a probe.

    But here is a list a small list of project that taught us what great thieves the PNM really is…

    Ch­agua­nas Cor­po­ra­tion ad­min­is­tra­tive com­plex–over bud­get by $10 mil­lion–24-month de­lay.
    Chancery Lane com­plex–$300 mil­lion over bud­get–24-month de­lay.
    Gov­ern­ment cam­pus and Le­gal Af­fairs tow­er–$300 mil­lion over bud­get–18-month de­lay.
    Wa­ter­front project–$1.3 bil­lion over bud­get–six-month de­lay.
    Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry tow­er–$300 mil­lion over bud­get–20-month de­lay.
    Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre–$234 mil­lion over bud­get–one-year de­lay.
    South PRC–$238 mil­lion over bud­get–13 months over­due.
    Bev­er­ly Hills Hous­ing–$106 mil­lion cost over­run–65-month de­lay.
    Lara Sta­di­um–sev­er­al mil­lion cost over­run–41-months de­lay.
    Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre–$700 mil­lion cost over­run–five-month delay.

  6. Timely, corresponds with the “corruption by proxy” quoted from secret empires. It’s the marriage of politics and finance.

  7. C’mon Lieutenant an uneducated man like me could see that ain’t happenin in sweet T&T.Who in authority has the moral standing and testicular fortitude to implement such. This land is the corruption capital of the world!!! Is there one politician in T&T whose hands are clean??? Yuh ever hear tief locking up tief? You been a parliamentarian, you know how you all operate. Doh kid yuhself my friend. The new sheriff in tong catch a few river sardines an he tink e doin someting. Why e doh go after the big sharks who swimming in the Gulf of Paria(from Cedros to Venezuela).

  8. This is obviously a bogus list. If you believe this political propaganda, I have some land in the swamp to sell you.
    The list is totally inaccurate and designed for political reasons.
    I can call more than ten richer people in T&T. Moonilal and Ramlogan would like to have that kind of money, but they are not even close. Jack warner is close to being broke and having problems paying his debts.

    1. In the 60’s there was a couple of Trinidadians Aleong and Black who formed a company called Riverway Park Development in Canada, came to Trinidad and had promotions at the Begerac Hotel in Maraval. As expected many Trinidadians were conned when they could own a lot at TT$500.00 at the time. Conned did I say? They bought first and then went to Montreal to see what they bought. As expected it was in the St. Lawrence river. This list has hints of propaganda where an international audience (gratis technology) will come to premature conclusions owing to the notable absence of some names on that list.

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