By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 09, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeSometimes we, as commentators, use our columns to pontificate about the correct moral and ethical thing to do, but I wonder if we were placed in positions of power would we not have done the same things that we condemn public officials for doing. I am thinking of Winston Duke, his wife, Kim de Silva, and all the other spouses of powerful men and women in government and trade unions who use their official connections to set up their better halves in business in which they are connected.

T&T is no exception.

A few days ago the inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department in which Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary during the Trump administration and wife of Mitch McConnell, the minority leader and most powerful Republican in the US, was accused of using her office to promote her family business that is led by her father and her sister.

In response to these charges, Chao declared: “Anyone familiar with Asian culture knows it is a core value in Asian communities to express honor and filial respect towards one’s parents” (New York Times, March 3).

Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, responded: “Public servants, appealing to a higher ethical interest responded: “Public servants, especially those responsible for leading tens of thousands of other public servants, must know that they serve the public and not their family’s private commercial interest.”

I wish I could tell this story to Duke, president of the Public Services Association (PSA) whose wife, Kim De Silva-Duke, director of Blackstone Engineering Technologies (BET), received $12.8 million dollars in contracts from WASA where, as the Express reported, her husband “was listed on the staff as manager.”

BET was awarded these contracts “to perform building maintenance, plumbing services and road reinstatement jobs.” Upon investigations BET listed a Ramer Model, a hand cutter, a road cutter and a water pump as its equipment. It is entirely possible that BET might have rented additional machinery to perform the jobs it was contracted to do.

The company also installed a main at Mt. St. George in Tobago, a project that was valued at $873,827.50. Ria Taitt noted that when this project was being undertaken, Duke was the president of the PSA and the Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly.

When the Express contacted Ms. De Silva to inquire about her company, it was rebuffed rather brusquely: “What yuh calling my phone for? I not interested in your story, ok. Whatever you are carrying I am not interested, so don’t call my phone concerning no story, please.”

Duke did not acquit himself any better when he was asked about the conduct of BET. He called Marvin Gonzales, Public Utilities, “a nasty man” and declared: “I have no part of that company, I’ve never been part of the company at all….They owe we money for so much years now. They owe us money. He not saying that….I have to live here like everybody else. I eh make no bones about that, but it is a legitimate company.”

Duke is the head of one of the major trade unions in the country, the president of National Trade Union Center, and an assemblyman in the Tobago House of Assembly. He aspires, I am sure, to be the secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly and perhaps even the prime minister of the country. He has every legitimate right to do so. But is this the attitude we should expect from our national leaders?

Such conflicts of interest happen all over the world and governments are always trying to signal that such behaviors are not always conductive to the wellbeing of the nation. How can WASA be in such dire financial straits and allow this behavior to continue unabated? Does the investigatory arm of the state bear any responsibility here?

What were Elaine Chao’s misdemeanors? She was supposed to visit China in her capacity as the secretary of transportation. She wanted to take her father, president of the Foremost, a global shipping firm with major shipping business in China, and her sister Angela, a director of the Bank of China, with her. In 2018, staff members from Chao’s office “helped edit chapters from a biography of her father.” After “helping to edit the book, Ms. Chao’s staff then built a marketing strategy targeting journalists to build Dr. Chao’s profile.”

These infractions seem trivial to many of us, a conclusion that the US inspector general arrived at. Yet, he referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation. The department declined to bring criminal charges against her. Perhaps that was the fair thing to do.

This comingling of one’s private business with the public purse is rampant throughout our national life. It occurs in both parties and in every aspect of national life. I do not hold myself exempt from or above such behavior. As I said, if I held a national office, I may have done the same thing.

But do the words “shame” (a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior) or “shamelessness” (behavior marked by a bold defiance of the proprieties and lack of shame) exist in our national vocabulary? And if they don’t isn’t it time that we try to put them back where they belong.

A society cannot be a decent place to live where these two words, “shame” and “shamelessness” cease to have any meaning in how we conduct our affairs.

We need to ponder the implications of this statement as we seek to bring some decency back into our society. Such considerations will have to start from the top.

6 thoughts on “Shamelessness”

  1. This is another case of a brutal attack on a successful black woman a day after International Women’s Day. Watson George wife can bid and be successful at it on any project. Example Minister of Finance Colm Imbert wife was recently paid $7.2 million as a settlement. She was the recipient of the contract to power wash Lara for $19 million. Amongst many other contracts. The AG wife is getting millions in rent money every year from the government. The 1% and the Chinese are ruining opps running this economy.

  2. It occurs in both parties and in every aspect of national life. I do not hold myself exempt from or above such behavior. As I said, if I held a national office, I may have done the same thing.

    When the righteous abdicate, the wicked rule, and all of us suffer.

    This is what has happened these past 2,600-odd years. Jacob abdicated, by reason of disobedience, and Esau rose in his stead to exercise the dominion. The whole world has suffered as a consequence. For Esau’s rule has been by the sword.

    “And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” (Genesis 27:40)

    This is the verse that prophesied the coming into the dominion of Esau aka Edom, the twin brother of Jacob/Israel. It is the latter to whom it is given by right to exercise the dominion:

    “For thou (Israel/Jacob) art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

    Israel lost the dominion because of disobedience. The curse that followed was that Israel would fall far beneath every other nation, as abundantly prophesied throughout Scripture, for example:

    “The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.” (Deuteronomy 28:43)

    This has happened to true Israel — the Negro — everywhere we have been scattered, including right here in the land of T&T.

    The social contract — see my recent post responding to Shah’s last article — mandated by Heaven, has been replaced by a social contract that seeks to undo Heaven’s dictate. “Here ev’ry creed and race find an equal place.” In the U.S. it is “e pluribus unum” (out of many one). The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights has it that we are (or should be) all equal. Meanwhile, no Negro is represented on the Security Council. And further meanwhile, Esau-Edom exercises the dominion, like it or not, in accordance with prophecy. And he does so, — by the sword, as prophesied, — not least by exercising veto power at the Security Council.

    When the righteous abdicate, it is the wicked that rule. And it is the righteous that then suffer most. That is an arrangement of TMH.

    “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:

    46 And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.

    47 Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;

    48 Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

    49 The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;…” (Deuteronomy 28:45-49)

    The Negro still have a saying: “He who will not hear must feel.” This is from the Most High (TMH), as evidenced in the Scriptural quotation above. Because you will not serve me, I will make you serve your enemies … in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in want of all things. Our punishment is therefore of TMH, just as assuredly as our redemption will be at the hands of TMH.

    “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee,

    2 And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;

    3 That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.”
    (Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

    In the meantime, TMH raises up miscreants like Duke. He is guided, not by the Good Book, but by the misbehavior of those whom he emulates. Cudjoe, for his part, affects not to know the difference between that which is righteous and that which is wicked, … or to suggest that he himself might be just as wicked as the wicked whose wickedness he knows he ought to condemn, but delicately declines from doing.

    I do not at all suggest that the righteous cannot fall short. Our forefather, David, sinned grievously in the matter of Bathsheba, with whom he committed adultery. He then compounded the sin by arranging to have her husband put in harm’s way and therefore to die in battle. For that death he was morally responsible, however artful the contrivance by which it was made to happen.. TMH arranged it so that out of his own mouth David condemned himself, albeit by parable brought to his attention by the prophet, Nathan. The point is that David was still righteous enough to be convicted in the spirit. He then acknowledged his sin, repented, and sought forgiveness. Psalm 51 refers. If Cudjoe has sinned, — he stands accused by at least one poster of eat-ah-food-ism, — the examples of Chao and Duke may be the parables by which he now is called to account before TMH.

    That may sound like pontificating. And it is. But to pontificate is not to assert perfection before God and Man. It is to recognize and submit to the clear moral standard to which we should all adhere, to admit wrong-doing where there has been wrong-doing, and to submit, like David, to whatever penalty that then will assuredly apply. It is only then that forgiveness will assuredly ensue. The same may apply to Duke btw, but where Cudjoe has shown in the past that he is on speaking terms with a good conscience, I cannot say the same for Duke.

    But… there can be no waffling on the issue. One must choose between the righteous and the wicked. Man’s standard, under the rule of the wicked, would allow for a middle ground. The wicked will always seek cover within such a gray area. They will plead that “both sides” are guilty, — as in the quote from Cudjoe himself above, — as a way to excuse their own misbehavior. That will cut no ice with the final arbiter. At any event, it is rare to find a case where Bim and Bam are truly equally guilty. It might take the wisdom of Solomon to separate between the covetous wicked mother, and the true grieving one, but close examination will usually reveal that Bim and Bam are not equal in wickedness. Yes, as we condemn Bim we must also condemn Bam, but with the expectation that Bam is like unto David, while Bim will wax unrepentant unto the end, as indeed Scripture prophesies:

    “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.” (Revelation 16:9)

    May this word to the wise be sufficient.


    “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

    2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.

    3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.

    4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.

    5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?

    6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

    7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

    8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.” (Mark 11:1-8)

  3. they all do it but that should never be a reaon or excuse . this kind of behaviour needs to STOP

  4. “A society cannot be a decent place to live where these two words, “shame” and “shamelessness” cease to have any meaning in how we conduct our affairs.”
    Whilst Caricom nation has surged ahead in their vaccination program. Sweet TnT was lucky to get 2,000 vaccines from Mia Mottley. It was the kindest gesture of any Caribbean leaders.
    Virtually all CARICOM countries have already received vaccines –
    Antigua – 40,000
    Bahamas – 20,000
    Barbados – 100,000
    Grenada 1,000
    Guyana – 80,000
    St Kitts and Nevis – 20,000
    St Lucia – 25,000
    Suriname – 50,000
    Dominica – 70,000
    Trinidad and Tobago 2,000 donated.

    Rowley mouth piece the Newsday newspaper took a principle stand and call India the “devil” without a word of condemnation from the P.M. or his Health Minister. The Indian Ambassador who normally would not say anything took the unusual step to rebuff Newsday. Internal matters is just that internal matters.

    Israel is at 58% vaccinated…where is TnT.. A lot of Trinis are ashamed of their government…sad to say.

  5. An increasing number of European countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. They include Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, Germany and France among other countries.
    In addition to that, European countries are turning towards Russia for the Sputnik V vaccine which according to the reputable British health journal Lancet has a 92% efficacy rate. Italy and other European countries have announced contracts with Russia to make the vaccine in their countries. Other countries around the world have been supplied with Russian and Chinese vaccines. Venezuela, for instance, have been supplied with 200,000 Sputnik V vaccines already and 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopham vaccine. Venezuela has also contracted Russia to supply 10 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine. While all of this is going on, the US, Japan, India and Australia, the quad, (sounds like the squad, you know the progressive Democratic representatives, AOC etc., but instead they are all right and centre right governments) have been brought together to provide Covid diplomacy to Asia and the developing world to bring about geopolitical aims. It sounds more like Covid blackmail than Covid diplomacy. So Russia and China have been providing vaccines to Venezuela, AstraZeneca is suspended in most of Europe, what is our erstwhile ally, the US, doing for us in the Caribbean? What about Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson? How many doses of those vaccines is the US getting for its allies in the Caribbean? The WHO should add Sputnik V vaccine to its approval list and let developing countries avoid being subjected to the morally egregious geopolitical aims of vaccine diplomacy or more accurately, vaccine blackmail.

Comments are closed.