If the priest could play…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 24, 2022

Liberty trains for liberty. Responsibility is the first step in responsibility. Even the restraints imposed in the training of men and children are restraints that will in the end make greater freedom possible.

—WEB Du Bois, John Brown

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeWhen we voted for the PNM in 2015, we felt that we were voting to end corruption and to bring to justice those who had stolen from the State. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Seven long years after PNM’s ascendancy to power, no one has been found guilty of any major crime of corruption, but then again, all those allegations may have been a mirage in our collective imagination.

And just when we thought that illusion had dissipated into the darkness of night, we are presented with an intriguing confession from Fitzgerald Hinds, the Minister of National Security and line minister for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. He says: “When I was Minister of Works… from 2015 to 2020, I was approached and offered a watch valued at $78,000 US dollars.” (Express, May 12.)

What did he do when the offer was made? “I chased the offer [and presumably, the person who made the offer] out of my office and immediately called my Prime Minister and shared those facts with him.”

What did the prime minister do?

Apparently he did nothing.

What was Hinds’ justification for not accepting a bribe from this distinguished leader? “I accustomed wearing my lil’ Seiko, comfortable like I wearing this morning, and I say well that will not only weigh down my integrity, it will weigh down my hand.”

No matter how exemplary Hinds thought his integrity and his down-to-earth manner were, he had an obligation to call the cops rather than the prime minister. However, such is his fidelity to his prime minister (not to the Constitution of land) that he could not do the right and legal thing.

Larry Lalla, an attorney like Hinds, got it right when he wrote: “Minister Hinds as a senior attorney-at-law, and seasoned legislator, and the Prime Minister, as head of Government, should know that under Section 3 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the offer of a bribe to an office-holder is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for ten years.” (Express, May 13.)

On reflection, I wonder if the social status of the person who offered the bribe had anything to do with Hinds’ rejection of it. Also, what would Hinds have done if someone less reputable than the briber had offered him a bribe of a lesser value?

Minister Hinds is an honourable man. Sometimes, though, he is so blinded by his self-imposed gravitas that he just doesn’t see things as clearly as he ought to, and this becomes a problem in matters of the State. It also sets a bad example to those who look up to him and the PNM for leadership and the results they hope to achieve through the implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Bill.

The Prime Minister says corruption is “widespread in Trinidad and Tobago” and that “the time has come to stop pretending the angel Gabriel will come down to save us”. He even admonished: “If you know something, say something and this country will protect you as far as we are able to.” (Express, February 20.)

He even told us: “There are hundreds of thousands of people who will never see one million dollars in their lifetime. But then there are others in nice white cotton shirts, nice polished shoes, in air-condition, eating the best, drinking the best, driving the best, talking the best and they are in fact the cancer in our society.”

And isn’t this the problem? Someone, “not any common man or some uneducated, unemployed fellow, but an educated leader with access to information and the security platform” (Hinds’ description), went into Hinds’ office and offered him a bribe. Hinds knew something, said something, but did nothing. Did he listen to his leader on this matter?

When the PNM came into power in 1956, it pledged to uphold “morality in public affairs” although it did not meet an inherently corrupt government in power. If there was corruption, it was perpetrated by the colonial government. The British stole our labour and wealth in different ways, but not through bribery and corruption. If Trinidad and Tobago became a corrupt society thereafter, it did so because of the actions and/or non-actions of those in power, both the PNM and the PDP (the People’s Democratic Party under Bhadase Sagan Maraj) in its various incarnations.

Even Karen Tesheira, a former minister, who was so hard on the Government’s corruption recently, admitted that she, too, was offered a bribe. She, too, may have reported it to her prime minister, Patrick Manning. She didn’t notify the police. We do not know if Manning did anything about it.

As I write, another government minister is accused of financial improprieties. I wonder if things would have been different if all those who were accused of being offered bribes or those who took bribes had been punished for their wrongdoings.

And so the rot continues because those in power are not prepared to do the right thing, even in small matters. We can’t expect the angel Gabriel to come down from heaven to save us, but we should not be surprised when the powerless in our society refuse to report what they see, believing as they do, “If the priest can play and be irresponsible, then why can’t we?”

It all has to do with the moral and spiritual values of our elected representatives and the examples they set while they are in power. The citizenry must also play its part, but it needs responsible leadership.

2 thoughts on “If the priest could play…”

  1. Trinidad and her Stillborn Child Tobago is about to enter 60Yrs of traveling in the darkness and like most of her subjects the aging decay of an unkempt 60 yr old is bordering on demise. Man/Woman is not perfect, though some believe they are. Mr Hinds cleared himself by saying something, one cannot deny that. what about those who tuck their tails between?. In 2010, with-then Prime Minister Kamla PS in administrative office, She was asked by one of her allied groups to tax the top 2% plus the banks, her answer to the MSJ, was that people don’t like paying taxes. The present property tax debate is a prime example. In 1966, then minister of home affaires, Dr Patrick Solomon demanded the keys from the police to unlock his step-son from custody. The first South Asian to be prime minister of Trinidad/Bago should have serve time in prison for corruption , Mr Panday have become nothingness, while withering in oblivion. Annan Ramlogan and many of his kind is presently awaiting their day in court. O’holloran never had a day in Trinidad court of justice. Some Lawyers, Doctors , Police-men/Women and Merchants are all part of the EVIL status quo that continue to strangle whatever little goodwill presently existing in our midst. Bribes are being paid for what should be a service to the populace. The face presented to the people are not the ones governing. True power in Trinidad is nestled in the hands of the 2% and the Banks not Dr Rowley. while Dr Rowley pacifies, Mr Imbert is doing a tremendous job on behalf of the CREOLES. A historical people, the nemesis in the early days of the PNM, is today controlling the commanding heights of the economy, providing low wage employment with no benefits. During their 2 stints in power the UNC up their game to a level never before seen in the annals of Trinidad history. their level of corruption is still unraveling as we speak.

  2. Corruption and government are two words synonymous with the PNM. It started deep in the bowels of the PNM with the 10% man, then proceeded to wrap itself around the party with John O’Hallaran stealing at least $2 billion and setting up the twin towers in Scarborough Ontario, Canada. From chocolate factories to medical centres abroad with Trini money the skill and the ease of thiefin is legendary.

    The web of corruption grew tentacles with ministers relatives getting 40 and 50 CEPEP contracts. In addition to most governmental contracts. Under the COSA NOSTRA code not a PNM dog barked. The chief executer of PNM excess is Noel Garcia, a man who pride himself in wastage and corruption. A billion dollars was spent on the Beetham waste water plant. Enter Garcia looking for corruption finding none but because it was Beetham he stopped the project and deprive the nation of more water.

    The latest coccundrum is the stopping of the Point to Penal, Debe highway. The project was stopped no doubt on the advice of Garcia, a billion dollars was loss when the matter went to court.

    Yes the thiefin of the PNM is legendary. Here are some examples.
    The Shaw Park Cultural Centre project was initiated by the THA at a cost of $194 million in 2006 and by 2012, rose to $552 million. The project today, in 2016, is now estimated to have risen to over $1B
    .The fixed completion date has been set at December, 2014, and a fixed final cost of $551.7 million (plus VAT) has been set.
    Scarborough Hospital. In the case of the Shaw Park Cultural Complex the price escalated from 194 million to a reported 552 million. The Scarborough Library from 19 million to a reported 86 million, the Hospital from 130 million to over 700 million and the Financial Complex from 22 million to a reported 106 million.

    Public sector debt currently stands at over a $135 billion. The PNM is the worst blight TnT ever experienced.

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