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Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

Gender fluidity and the law

20 hours 5 min ago

Gender fluidity allows individuals to be categorised, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman.

Presenting an identification document which does not accurately reflect one’s sex and is incongruent with one’s gender identity can prompt invasions of privacy, prejudice, stigma, violence, discrimination, and harassment in a wide variety of settings, including—employment, education, hotels, health care, housing, government agencies, and law enforcement.

Nonbinary gender identity is already an option on drivers’ licences in Oregon. Washington, DC, New York, and California all permit nonbinary residents to record a gender-neutral option on all relevant legal documents, including birth certificates.

The 2021 Canadian census hopes to capture the prism of genders across Canada. The plan is to offer a third gender option besides ‘male’ and ‘female’. Statisticians at Statistics Canada (SC) are unpacking age-old notions of sex, sex at birth, gender, and gender identity according to Marc Lachance, director of the social and aboriginal statistics division.

Laurent Martel, director of demography at SC, wants all Canadians to identify themselves within the census. Feedback after the 2016 census from LGBT+ advocacy groups on the present binary gender options suggests that the census dataset is imperfect.

To test its assumption, SC first floated the non-binary gender option in an opioid awareness survey. Respondents were asked what their sex was at birth and what their gender is at the time of taking the survey: ‘male,’ ‘female,’ or ‘please specify’.

The new census hopes to identify people whose current gender was not reported exclusively as male or female, or those reported as being unsure, or people who were reported as both male and female, or neither male nor female.

Canada has set aside $6.7m (£4.97m) over five years to establish a ‘Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics’ to fill the gaps in its data. This will enable the Government to fund certain programmes and better serve all citizens.

Recently, a court in the Netherlands advised lawmakers to officially acknowledge a ‘third gender’ after ruling that a Dutch citizen was allowed to register as neither a man nor a woman at birth in 1961. This person’s gender could not be determined at birth and the parents decided to register the person as male.

In 2001, the plaintiff underwent medical treatment and changed gender to female. Eventually, it also turned out that the female gender did not fit the person, whose personality is experienced as gender-neutral, the court said. This meant feeling neither like a man nor a woman.

The judges recommended the recognition of a third gender and amendments to the law to enable the registration of a third gender.

In the UK, only male and female genders are recognised in law. People can legally change their documented sex—but only to male or female.

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, applicants have to be over 18, diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived for at least two years in their acquired gender and intend to live permanently in their acquired gender until death.

In 2016, the House of Commons’s women and equalities committee argued for creating a legal category for people with a non-binary gender identity. In its reply, the Ministry of Justice announced in July 2017 that it would initiate a public consultation. This has since stalled.

In May 2017, France’s top appeals court ruled against offering a ‘neutral’ gender designation to a 66-year-old psychotherapist who at birth could not be identified as either male or female but who was officially registered as a man. The French court said the distinction between male and female was a cornerstone of social and legal state-space and that recognising a third gender would involve uncountable legislative amendments.

In India, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi fought to convince India’s Supreme Court to recognise a ‘third gender’ in 2014. The court ruled that it is the right of every human being to choose their gender. Guna Yala is an autonomous archipelago of 300 islands off Panama’s eastern coast. A typical Guna wedding includes a ceremonial abduction of the groom—not the bride. The young man then moves into the bride’s home.

Thereafter, his work belongs to the woman’s family, and it’s the woman who decides whether her husband can share his fish, coconuts or plantains with his siblings or parents.

In Guna society, women are property owners and decision makers, so it is not unusual for boys to become ‘Omeggid’ and take on female responsibilities.

Humanity has slipped away from its original sexual organisation of society as it inches towards a genderless mortality into eternity.

Categories: News

‘Flawed’ process fallout

20 hours 7 min ago

According to the late Patrick Manning: “This country owes a debt of gratitude on this matter to Sir Ellis Clarke and the team of technocrats whom he led from T&T, the region, and the United Kingdom. It was a dedicated group of technocrats who sat for long hours and hammered out an arrangement which this evening was the subject of approval of hon members. I thank and congratulate my honourable colleagues opposite for sitting with us and arriving at modifications to the initial proposals that could meet with the approbation of hon members on both sides. It is a historic day and while we would not expect that there would be a change in the crime situation tomorrow, what this certainly does, it sets the stage for better arrangements in the future and a police service in which the national community can have more confidence and levels of crime that would be more consistent with the national aspirations of the people of T&T. Permit me also to thank hon members on this side, my colleagues for having been so patient in this matter and lending their support to this historic legislation.” (Hansard, House of Representatives, March 27, 2006, p. 114).

In reply to this appreciation of support, Opposition MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar said:

“We thank those on the other side and our side for some very novel and innovative ideas that have come forward…However, whilst we record that we have completed; done a lot of work and all those who have assisted, at the end of the day, it is the implementation. It would not be easy. I ask the hon Prime Minister to put a dedicated committee in place to oversee the implementation. If it sits there it is not going to happen. The Police Service and the commissioner are very busy. For this to work it is the implementation. I request respectfully, that a dedicated committee be set up for implementation of the legislation.” (Hansard, House of Representatives, March 27, 2006, pp. 114-115).

Both Manning and Persad-Bissessar were right. The enactment of this package of legislation (Constitutional Amendment, Police Service Bill and Police Complaints Authority Bill) was regarded as a landmark occasion to bring about fundamental change to the Police Service.

However, Persad-Bissessar envisaged the need to oversee the implementation of the legislation. That is exactly the fault line that has appeared. The pre-parliamentary process was exposed in this round of implementation insofar as the process was described by the Government as being “flawed”, while the Opposition did not subscribe to that view.

Today most of the challenges of implementation have come home to roost. The pre-parliamentary process had its challenges with the issue of talent pooling of people who did not apply for the job of commissioner being advanced for the job. Secondly, the discrepancy that has arisen between the Salaries Review Commission salary for a commissioner from inside the service and the contract negotiations for a commissioner from outside the service. Thirdly, the leak of the interview process that revealed that Gary Griffith did not emerge on top the interview list certainly hit him a political blow before he even got started on the job.

Section 7 of the bill that amended the Constitution to remove the Police Service Commission from the day-to-day operations of the Police Service has not had the kind of implementation yet that the legislation envisaged based on the recent Manpower Audit Report.

According to that section:

“123A. (1) Subject to section 123(1), the Commissioner of Police shall have the complete power to manage the Police Service and is required to ensure that the human, financial, and material resources available to the service are used in an efficient and effective manner.”

The Police Service Commission was replaced by the Commissioner of Police in exercising the functions of appointment, promotion, confirmation, transfer, and discipline of all officers except the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police since 2006.

What Parliament did in 2006 was to remove the prime ministerial veto, replace secrecy with transparency, replace the Police Service Commission with the Commissioner of Police for everyday operations, and make the appointment of a Commissioner of Police subject to a professional search by the PSC and political endorsement by the elected representatives.

The problematic fallout, so far, is the resistance of the existing administrative and political cultures to accept this transition.

Categories: News

They took. They went. We lost.

20 hours 8 min ago

First, the good news. The new Angelin platform, commissioned by bpTT, is home to be installed. If all goes well, it will start producing much needed additional gas in early 2019.

Good news for those who work in the energy sector and for all of us, as the additional gas will help stem the drop in gas production, help T&T fulfil its supply contracts and add to the overall economy.

It’s a crying shame, though, that it was not better news. As the platform set off to its future location, we could have been celebrating a major moment for T&T’s engineering and manufacturing sector, (who knows) future major orders, and many more people in employment in the economically deprived area of La Brea.

Sadly, this outcome will remain just a dream and no thanks to our all too familiar culture of confrontation, bravado, and intransigence when it comes to industrial relations.

It all seemed to be going well. T&T’s Tofco had been awarded the fabrication of a similar platform, Juniper. That project was expected to employ over 750 people at its peak, 95 per cent of them being T&T nationals, 55 per cent of them from La Brea.

Juniper was delivered and is in operation but not without upheavals. Following industrial relations problems that threatened the project, the fabrication of parts of the platform had to be moved to Texas to make sure it was delivered on time.

The result of all that? For Angelin, bpTT did not want to go through the high risk attrition game it saw during Juniper’s construction. To be safe, in early 2017 it decided to build the platform outside T&T.

The company’s decision led to perhaps one of the most memorable sound bites in the country’s history, when Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union president, Ancel Roget, told bpTT to take their platform and go.

To run the full quote, he said: “take your platform and go because we are not prepared to have any construction in an environment that is unsafe, unhealthy and certainly that is devoid of industrial relations practices”. A tad rich given Tofco’s solid health and safety record, and the preaching about industrial relations practices coming from a man who, just a year earlier, had been found guilty of defamation against a former NP manager after allegations he made against her were found to be, in the words of the judge, ‘wholly unsupported, untrue and outlandish’. To put it in plain English, the man lied, and in a big way.

That’s why, instead of seeing Angelin departing from La Brea, we had to witness the platform arriving from Altamira, Mexico, where it was fully built. Our loss, Mexico’s gain. (And, yes, Mexico is known for its lower wages, when compared to the US, but its average monthly wage is around $8,500 (TT), hardly breadline material.)

The loss wasn’t limited to Tofco or another contractor. What it is all too easy for our union leaders to forget is that the economic ripple effect of such major projects is huge. Every employee, when paid, spends at local grocery stores, helping local food producers; at shops selling clothes or domestic appliances, helping local sales people and manufacturers; and, yes, even rum shops. That, in turn, brings in much needed additional tax receipts to help pay for public services.

In this case, the loss was even more criminal. It would have brought much needed foreign direct investment, injecting additional US dollars into our economy at a time we worry about our foreign currency reserves. And it wouldn’t have been the kind of speculative FDI many governments worry about. After all, bpTT would be investing in pipes and wires, not stocks and bonds.

The full cost of a project like Angelin can easily generate $10 billion (TT) of business in the shape of manufacturing and services. Not everything is spent directly in the country (mostly because of the very specialised nature of the equipment or services required) but the fabrication of this type of platform can bring in over $1 billion (TT) in direct investment. Ironically, it’s the unionised workers of Altamira in Mexico who have a lot to thank Mr Roget for his flippant remarks. They took the platform, thus taking the wages that came with it.

The actions—and reaction—by the union leadership may have also baffled many of their comrades in other countries. Elsewhere, you tend to see unions fighting tooth and nail to secure contracts to longtail sectors like shipyards in order to save jobs in the short term and secure the future of their industry, as they know a manufacturing plant without a major contract almost certainly equals gates closed forever.

The crucial question is whether all of us, especially some of our union leaders, will learn from the two recent and sobering industrial events—the loss of our steelworks and, soon afterwards, the loss of the Angelin contract.

If they don’t, we must. It is about time we question our country’s approach to industrial relations and, at the same time, challenge this scorched earth policy routinely adopted by major union leaders.

They may rejoice with their memorable quotes or stunts. Sadly, we can hardly rejoice when we see lower investments, fewer jobs and a poorer country thanks to their actions.

Categories: News

Rescue the West Indies from ‘Windies’

20 hours 10 min ago

Almost when we were not looking, Dave Cameron and Cricket West Indies discarded the historic cricketing nation of the West Indies for the inane and gimmickry-driven “Windies”–what a travesty!

Apart from the absolutely nonsensical rationale given for changing the name of the West Indies cricket team to this nauseating “Windies”, the unilateral action of Cameron’s board is repulsive, and an affront to the great West Indian cricketing tradition and the nation.

The constant ring of this “Windies” by the television commentators in the series against Bangladesh got to me. This is not merely the change in the name of an international cricket team, but the attempt to dissolve the 500 years of the existence of the West Indies and all that that means. Viv Richards says when he walked to the wicket it was to honour his ancestors who toiled in the sugar cane fields of the West Indies.

There is much to be said about the process, the name, and the rationale given by the board. Let us start at the name change of the board from the West Indies Cricket Board to Cricket West Indies. Like good little “Mimic Men” as V S Naipaul (thanks for the many painful self-realizations) described us, the board followed Australia in placing “cricket” before the cricketing country that is the West Indies.

However, no Australian administrator in his right mind would dare replace Australia with “Aussies”.

Completely contradictory to the rationale given by the board for the change of its name ie, that “we need all of our stakeholders to work in partnership, and the name change is an important first step in our strategy…” the unilateral and deceptive change of name of the team was done without discussion and consultation with the “stakeholders” and owners of West indies cricket, the people of the region and the West Indian Diaspora.

Nowhere in the release of May 2017 was there even an attempt by the board to give a logical rationale for its change from West Indies to “Windies”; surely it cannot be the trite reference made to “...the Windies name has long been associated with the representative teams within International cricket...”

Can Cameron and the board tell us what good news has resulted from this change of name and brand? Surely it could not be on the field of play; not greater organisation of the teams and the relations between the board and the players; not in terms of nurturing and managing our West Indian players to get the best out of them. If the change has resulted in earning greater returns from the series played against other teams, then that should be told to us.

The changes have surely not resulted in greater crowd support at the cricket grounds around the West Indies; the teams have not ascended the cricket ladder in the various forms of the game; and we are not attracting the top teams to play against us beyond a charitable grant of a Test match or two, a couple ODIs and T20s, no doubt in recognition of the once great West Indian cricketing nation.

I have been told assuredly that the new name and branding had nothing to do with the only West Indian international chain hotel/resort, Sandals, associating itself with West Indies Cricket.

What I have been told is that West Indian commentators and cricket writers have been surreptitiously and with mafia-like stealth forced into referring to the team as the “Windies”. This Cameron board has been the most destructive to West Indies cricket.

We must not as “West Indians,” who C L R James observed back in the 1960s, “crowding into Tests, bring with them the whole past history and future hopes of the islands,” allow a dozen men to sit in a room and so dramatically, violently and perversely mutilate a cricketing nation’s name. What’s in a name? It becomes our birthright.

“This is not just cricket, this thing goes beyond the boundary; it’s up to you and me to make sure that they fail; soon we must take a side, or lost in the rubble in a divided world that don’t need islands no more are we doomed forever to be at somebody’s mercy? Little keys can open up mighty doors”—‘Rally Round the West Indies.’ Rudder.

We owe this to Constantine, Headley, Worrell, Sobers, Lloyd, and our great West Indian ancestors.

Categories: News

Is it politically macho to be wrong and act strong?

20 hours 12 min ago

From all appearances, it would appear that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is not set on offering an apology for the now controversial ‘sari skit’ although there has been a call for him to so do from the Leader of the Opposition, several religious heads, women’s groups, and other non-governmental organisations. And also, notwithstanding a protest outside his office by hundreds of citizens who considered the performance at the PNM family day to be brutally disrespectful and ferociously derisive. There has even been an approach to the Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate possible breaches of the Equal Opportunity Act.

PM Rowley himself, has dismissed the criticism as “foolishness” and his Minister of Communications has labelled it “a bit of fun”. But given such public condemnation, to frivolously and mockingly brand the not so good theatre as fun, is perhaps an act of foolishness in itself. The question therefore is why in the face of such growing discontent and dissatisfaction would the PM not offer an apology? Why would a leader be so politically disinclined to confess to error when major sections of the society stand in such strong solidarity and conviction that their cultural or religious views have been trampled upon? Why would a Prime Minister aspiring for a second term of office not simply admit that the portrayal can easily be perceived as insensitive and brutish and that it carried a subliminal message, that violence against women is acceptable?

According to a Harvard Business Review (2006), “for leaders to apologise publicly is a high-stakes move: for themselves, for their followers, and for the organisations they represent. Refusal to apologise can be smart, or it can be suicidal. Conversely, readiness to apologise can be seen as a sign of strong character or as a sign of weakness”. Perhaps the most recognised and international political apology was that of US President Bill Clinton and a televised one at that, in which he admitted to an inappropriate relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In that much publicised address he said that, “it was wrong”, that he deeply regretted having misled the country and that he promised to put the past behind him to redirect his attention to the nation’s business. It was discovered afterwards that, apologising did not hurt Clinton at the polls as at the end of his presidency, his approval rating remained high at 66 per cent.

In this particular case and given the strong public sentiments that have been expressed, it would appear that PM Rowley has nothing to lose in offering an apology. In fact, he should be cognisant that a successful apology may have the ability to transform hostility into personal and organisational triumph, while little or no apology can foster individual and institutional ruin. No leader should be so impervious to the sensitivities of the people. Surely it is in his interest to retract and recant and to provide a public expression of regret. One would never know whether such an apology is merely strategic and not authentic.

But a larger social purpose would have been served.

Perhaps it is politically macho in the Caribbean to be wrong and appear strong. But with elections 2020 around the corner, the time would soon come when even politicians would realise that it is never too late to apologise.

Ashvani Mahabir BA, LLB, LEC, MA, is an attorney and communications consultant.


Categories: News

‘Serious cut tail for CJ’

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 23:30

Last Thursday, the Privy Council delivered what many consider to be a scathing judgment against the Chief Justice of T&T, the Honourable Ivor Archie.

Owing to the seriousness of the matter, the Privy Council noted that “The courts in Trinidad and Tobago have dealt with this important and sensitive matter with commendable speed. The

Board has likewise expedited the hearing of the Chief Justice’s appeal.”

The Privy Council heard this case on July 23, 2018, and delivered its judgment in less than a month’s time. Would the Caribbean Court of Justice (if it was this country’s final appellate court) deliver such a judgment in record timing?

The entire country should be commending the various courts for the speed in which they dealt with this matter. But this is not so when looked upon by the “fair-minded and informed observer.” There are people whose “private suit” cases are languishing in the local court system. We remember how expeditiously a special elite police group hunted down a cell phone for Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s son. Or how many ministers are escorted with police detail and blue lights flashing and blaring sirens on the rest of us who are stuck in traffic and have absolutely nowhere to move.

Our system seem suited to helping its own whilst others die in the process of accessing it. A sort of corpocracy where the affluent helps its own.

Moving along, my reading of the Privy Council’s judgment was that despite the eloquence of the CJ’s legal team, the PC stated that “…each of the grounds of appeal relied upon by the Chief Justice must be rejected and that this appeal is dismissed.” After treating with the CJ’s grounds of appeal individually, it employed use of language that they “MUST BE REJECTED.” I pointed out in earlier articles, the PC is very crisp and cute with articulating its reasoning. They employ English language in a manner that their judgments withstand the test of time.

To break down the effect of the Privy Council’s ruling in simple local parlance, the CJ got a “serious cut tail” (for further meaning of this local phrase, see page 54 of Cote ci Cote la under heading ‘CUT A..’). Following the delivery of the ruling, CJ Archie issued a press release stating inter alia that he was “nonetheless heartened by the decision…” Chief Justice Archie said that he brought the proceedings because the Law Association (Latt) declared that they could hold a member of the Judiciary “to account.”

But the PC was at pains to point out that the Latt had in fact written to CJ Archie stating, inter alia that it fully appreciated that it had no power to compel him to respond and that it had no disciplinary or other power in relation to him. (See paragraphs 11, 40 of judgment).

In attempting to vindicate his resort to the courts, the Chief Justice somehow seeks to rely upon a statement of the Privy Council that “The Latt will be conscious of any possible legal constraints relating to the publication of its report” (See paragraph 24 of judgment). Far from connecting with the ratio decidendi of the case, this statement, when taken in context, meant that the Latt had already proceeded with considerable caution and that if anyone was able to conduct an investigation and present its conclusions in a responsible manner, it was the Latt.

That statement was meant as a statement of fact that the Latt has been acting properly on all accounts.

So whilst the CJ is heartened by the decision of the PC, many are disheartened by his press release. His press release seem to suggest that he will approach the courts yet again, should he find disfavour with any steps the Latt takes in the interest of accountability. This is just plainly wrong as a matter of common sense and principles held by decent-minded citizens of our society. I here wish to ask who has been paying the CJ’s costs of these proceedings thus far. I hope that it is not the taxpayers.

Senior attorneys have already spoken out on the negative impact the allegations surrounding the CJ has had on the confidence reposed in the Judiciary. The CJ’s refusal to respond and/or refute allegations is embarrassing on the rest of T&T.

International press has been lapping up the Privy Council’s ruling much to the embarrassment of T&T.

Categories: News

Messages from and to PNM

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 23:28

He may not be a politician any more but new Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, at yesterday’s appointment function, would have echoed the view many on the “ground” hold about the political landscape.

Less talk and more action is what Griffith promised on the anti-crime fight and that’s likely what J Public also wants from politicians.

In Griffith’s new Top Cop role, the latest murder of Dr Sinanan Lutchman has unfortunately guaranteed him the opportunity to “hit the ground running” and begin to get systems in gear.

Griffith’s Herculean task is complicated not only by the Police Service’s internal challenges plus the external landscape of organised crime, drugs, guns, and gangs, but also the level of messages emanating from the political landscape.

Government particularly came in for its fair share of messages—and doing its own messaging also—in a recent series of unforced errors.

The new job of National Security Minister Stuart Young might have benefited if his image didn’t have to now cope with perception that he might shrug off violence towards women as a “lil bit of fun.”

The latter, his view on last Sunday’s controversial PNM Family Day gorilla/sari stripping skit.

Griffith may have to work doubly hard to rebalance scales and ensure protection of women in the face of Young’s casual take on the PNM buffoonery. The situation effectively demonstrates the dilemma presented by Young holding multiple portfolios (as noted last week).

As PNM PRO or Communication Minister, he may have thought his message might defuse the heat generated by the skit depicting the disrobing of a yellow sari from a woman.

Whether he considered the effect of this on the Indian/Hindu community, he obviously didn’t care how the Opposition—whose signature colour is yellow—would respond since the skit targetted UNC’s political image.

However, Young clearly didn’t get the memo on how his opinion would have impacted on his role as National Security Minister in a country overrun by crime and violence toward women—with his Government claiming concern on this.

Those factors also seemed absent from the Prime Minister’s complaint about alleged responses on the matter.

PNM’s Tabaquite unit which did the skit—and had to defend what some PNM officials didn’t do directly—seemed to have organised the depiction on the basis that gorillas and political satire have always been accepted as part of Carnival.

With T&T’s political landscape now minefield status, Government has learned the hard way Carnival is only two days of the year.

However much of T&T’s large Indo sector was affected by the issue, it has proved political weaponry for the Opposition.

Potentially potent if Equal Opportunity Commission scrutiny sought by UNC’s Devant Maharaj finds the skit breaches EOC law on offending people in certain ways publicly.

The issue has communicated to PNM how certain PNM “ground” sentiment within could work against it. And that “casual” in the face of concerns, isn’t real communication.

Different messages of dissatisfaction from the “ground”—within PNM turf this time–were sent with Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds’ watery Beetham “reception.”

Most telling was the admission by Beetham Gardens Community Council PRO Kareem Marcelle. Despite his apology to Hinds, he said many residents remained unapologetic.

And in-house PNM again, party leadership sent its own telling reply–a slate by the leader—following messages about party unity with the emergence of potential challengers for PNM’s September internal poll.

The level of concern about challengers is demonstrated in the fact that the leader traditionally doesn’t have a slate, PNM strategists explained.

His slate will therefore be geared to ensure his team—and he—maintain party control, rather than the former frontline Manning PNM personalities expected to contest.

How much detail on election plans will be given at this afternoon’s PNM General Council meeting, remains ahead.

But whatever message Prime Minister Keith Rowley conveys at tonight’s PNM meeting in Malabar, it’s likely to weigh in–directly or indirectly—on the assorted messages his party has sent and received in recent days.

For J Public, however, action also speaks louder than words.

And will be judged by that.

Categories: News

Scrutinising feminismtoo

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 05:17

The topic of feminism is raging like a wildfire across academia, the claim is that for virtually all ages women have been oppressed and are still oppressed today. The oppressor being the patriarchal system that is built upon masculinity. Feminism then is said to be a battle or a war with the women and their struggles for femininity on one side and masculinity and its history of ‘ontopness’ on the other.

However, instead of focusing on what exactly feminism is, feminists spend more time trying to get females to aspire for business-oriented success and careers. Thereby, the feminists, whether they realize it or not, are turning the female into the very masculine creature whom they despise. The claim is that if they take the current male economic prestige away they will become happier. The movement is now an openly anti-woman and anti-family movement resulting in a mass of people being brought up with their heads bent downwards, looking down that is, on their mother rather than looking up to her as they should. The healthiest and most solid foundations of every society are being ignored; motherhood and the household.

As feminism began to take root many were able to spot its contradictory foundations of sand. The English journalist GK Chesterton stated in a famous work that it “is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.” Being on top of the business world and therefore on top of complete strangers, is then (for the feminist) far more desirable than being on top of their own family. Being a manager in an alien organization is seen as a far more desirable thing than being the manager of a self-owned home. In fact, it is seen as better to either have a stranger look after that work for you or not have it at all. This goes against one of the very nature of womanhood and economic activity, because business and trade were brought into existence to provide for the family and not to demolish it.

So why must women win bread? Because men win bread, and if women depend on men for bread then they are viewed as enslaved, even if they are given the bread out of love, rather than for actual slave-like work where they are given the bread by an employer. Feminism is built on this materialistic and selfish idea that the job of being a mother isn’t a job since it cannot provide for her worldly and selfish gain. Money then begins to become evil as it is not generated for her family as it was designed to, rather it is generated for the self, turning the very purpose of economics on its head.

You may be able to tell that I am incurably convinced that the reason for winning bread is to feed a family and not to feed oneself. Furthermore, I am even more convinced that it is not only bread that a family must feed on. For bread alone will choke and perhaps even kill. A family cannot live by bread alone; but by bread and by water and unlike bread, that is to be eaten three times a day, you must drink water throughout the day. I, above all else, believe men to be far oo weak to, and incapable of feeding the family the life-giving water that they need. Women are the spring of this luscious water, giving not only the physical life to their children but also providing the lake of prudence, justice, temperance, and courage, all of which are necessities in a family. These virtues are truly the four individual foundations to which we must rebuild every society. Ever since the raising of children and the passing on of virtue began to be scorned (by the feminists) we’ve seen the world become far more broken than it already was. What we now need is women, women who are true women and not women trying to be men.

Only when women go back to keeping the market in check by showing us that it is at their service will we see our nation prosper and thrive in happiness and love. The current concept of ‘ontopness’ or prestige which I mentioned earlier cannot occupy a position of prime importance. For business, trade, and economic activities are but a means to this end and are not an end in themselves.

It is only through virtuous living that we can truly achieve the utopian society which we desire and which is, of course, at the heart of all our attempts at social reform. To achieve the dream we must forget the society that forgets the woman, which is nothing but a society that has neglected itself. After all, the woman is the life of the family and is therefore the cornerstone of society. However, we must also reshape our perspective on the market/business world seeing it to be what it is; a mechanism brought about for the family and not to its detriment.


Categories: News

Abdicating responsibility?

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 23:59

In a chance encounter after church last Sunday, a former senior public servant noted that the public have misplaced responsibility on politicians and not focused enough on ensuring that people do their jobs; in the public service, state enterprises, the private sector. It can be corrected simply enough in the private sector; dissatisfied customers will go elsewhere and the business will die. This cannot happen with either the Teaching Service or the Police Service as they are the bedrock of any society.

Why the connection? First, teachers are a critical element in making a country prosperous and stable by ensuring the youth can read and write and well versed in the fundamentals so that they can become good citizens and contribute responsibly to the development of the society. They are meant to complement the basic training and values that students should receive at home. The Police service is responsible for the maintenance of law and order; this presumes the existence of good citizens who will follow or can be induced to follow the law, and good police officers.

When last I checked, the basic qualification for a position in the government service was five CXC passes which must include Mathematics, English, and one science subject. This forms the basis of an educational objective; ensuring that a maximum number of school graduates leave with a “full certificate” (five CXC passes which must include Mathematics, English). To make that a specific measurable goal, one would need to add an objective, say 50 per cent of graduates.

This objective then becomes a measure by which to evaluate individual school performance and by extension, whether teachers are meeting basic requirements. Where performance is below this level, corrective adjustments must be made. Remedial change as appropriate could be devised to address the failings of weaker schools, the relevant teaching departments and teachers. In addition, the performance of these schools should be monitored to ensure that the remediation plans are working.

The purpose of this measurement process is to ensure that the required number of students meet the country’s education standards and requirements. Why? Because educational success is fundamental to meeting the country’s developmental needs and to ensure that the country can take care of itself. How? To meet the country’s manpower needs—the next generation of CEO, doctors, lawyers, engineers, chemists, plumbers, masons etc. That is why the education process is critical to any society’s future as it is responsible for guiding the development of the next generation.

Manpower planning critical

Approximately 19,000 students sit the SEA. In 2018, 2,595 students scored below 30 per cent. Students under the age of 13 who scored below the 30 per cent mark had to re-sit the exam, while students above 13 were placed in secondary schools with a special curriculum (T&T Guardian June 29). 16,042 from government and government-assisted schools sat the

CXC/CSEC. Of this figure, 1,486 scored no pass marks (Newsday August 14).

These are alarming figures. It also noteworthy that the Education Minister did not say how many passed with a full certificate, defined as five CXC’s including Math and English. Indeed, all this information should be available for the last ten years by school by subject.

We live in an information age and sorting this data into information should take minutes even if the printing (for all schools) should take hours. A search of the Education Ministry’s website and publication reveals no such data. Requests of various specialists in the area indicate that this information is a closely guarded secret. So where are we going if we don’t have information? Exactly what success is the Education Ministry achieving? What of evidenced-based policy goals?

As a country grows it requires more skills sets, new and different skills. Every year people die, retire or emigrate, some get sick. Employment and career opportunities are created as a result of this growth and replacement process. Much of this happens without planning. But it would be better informed if there was some mechanism which anticipates these changes. That process is called manpower planning and even if not done in detail, it should be subject to some oversight/ review in general terms.

When the Minister of Health is saying that he is looking for 250 specialist doctors, he would have arrived at the figure from an assessment of the country’s health care needs. One month nago, the Energy Minister complained that over 200 hundred engineers applied for the ten vacant positions advertised. But those needs didn’t arise last month. It simply says that nobody was doing the planning required ten years ago; If it was done, then someone didn’t listen. When questioned on the large number of non-specialist doctors versus specialist, the Health Minister refers to the Education Minister.

School dropouts and those with low educational performance are a feeder route into the sub culture of gangs and crime related activity. Acting AG Fitzgerald Hinds was chased in Beetham by “misguided” youngsters, not adults. Billions have been spent on security and education and both areas need significant performance improvement. Paying higher salaries will not solve the problem and a more integrated policy framework is required. It starts with leadership and management.

Categories: News

Caring for creationand

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 23:55

“The ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion...Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. (Laudato Si, on care for our common home, #217).

If we are committed to ecological conversion/healing our wounded creation, we must demonstrate that, as Pope Francis said, the effects of our encounter with Christ become evident in our relationship with the world around us. CCSJ urges all parishes, schools, Archdiocesan departments, and Ecclesial communities to prepare to observe World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the Season of Creation. On August 6, 2015, Pope Francis declared September 1, annually, as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as has been the custom in the Orthodox Church since 1989. Over the years, many other Christian denominations have embraced this initiative.

Pope Francis asks that September 1 be “properly celebrated with the participation of the entire People of God: priests, men and women religious, and the lay faithful...The annual World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.” He hopes that this annual event “will become a significant occasion for prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate lifestyles.”

We are also urged to observe the Season of Creation which runs from September 1-October 4–the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. Christian communities around the world will be organising events to observe this “season”. The ecumenical website and the Franciscan Action Network’s guided rosary,, with an emphasis on Caring for Creation, as a response to the call to Prayer in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical, are just two of the many websites that offer resources that can be used during this season. And see CCSJ’s draft framework towards an Environmental Policy for the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain

‘A new work of mercy’
In 2016 Pope Francis declared care for creation a new work of mercy. As Catholic News Agency reported, “he encouraged Christians to make an examination of conscience, evaluating the ways in they have contributed to ‘the disfigurement and destruction of creation,’ given that ‘we all generate small ecological damage.’

After doing a sincere examination of conscience, ‘we can confess our sins against the Creator, against creation, and against our brothers and sisters,’ he said, explaining that we confess sins against the environment because ‘we are penitent and desire to change.’

“The grace received from confession must then be put into action with concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation, he said, suggesting the reduction of water use, recycling, carpooling, turning off unused lights and limiting the amount of food cooked to only what will be consumed as ideas to start with.

“Care of creation should also contribute ‘to shaping the culture and society in which we live,’ Pope Francis said, adding that economics, politics, society and culture ‘cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains. Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation.’”

Read the joint statement from Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew to mark last year’s World Day. As Crux reported, they said that “what’s happening in the world today reveals a ‘morally decaying scenario, where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators.’ They call on those ‘in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth, and to attend to the needs of the marginalized.’

“They stressed that care for the environment, and care for the poor, are inextricably linked. ‘The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people...The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe.”
If we truly love our country/world we will “find new ways forward” to respect the sacredness of creation. Let’s reconcile our relationship with God, creation, and humanity.

Categories: News

Give father his rightful place in the home

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:17

Recently, many people have been sending me an illustration that I am guessing they believe to be in support of my recent #proudlysubmissive article and social media postings. The illustration is that of a large umbrella that has the father over the mother and the mother over the children. It further denotes that the father is the protector and the provider and that the mother is the teacher and nurturer and, of course, our poor children are merely to obey the parents.

This illustration felt wrong to me.

It left me with the barefoot, mute and pregnant feeling that I blamed in my last article as the whole reason we have dirtied the concept of submission.

It even dirties the concept of children submitting to leadership.

So, of course, I took to The Word to confirm, to discover the truth.

My word count is limited so I will not detail every scripture quoted (which may be a good thing, it’s always a great idea to do your own studies and not blindly follow others).

Here are my findings: ° Ephesians 6:4 ESV – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

° Colossians 3:21 ESV – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Right off the bat, we see that children are not just meant to be obedient full stop, just like wives aren’t meant to just be submissive full stop.

Too often, we see scripture partially.

For years we saw the submission of wives only and did not see the responsibility of husbands and we see the obedience of children only and not the responsibility of fathers.

In both letters, the Apostle Paul sets the responsibility of parenting with the father and in Colossians he even warns of the consequences of poor fatherhood.

I went deeper into the word father, which means I sought out the original text.

The original word used, πατήρ, means nourisher, protector and upholder. It is the same word used when referring to the Heavenly Father, so of course it appears more than 400 times in the Bible and is further described as the person who imparts life and is COMMITTED to it.

What I found even more fascinating is the fact that the Bible quotes fathers more when referring to the instilling of discipline, than mothers, it is either specific to fathers or neutral in its language.

My word count is quickly coming to an end, so here are some scriptures you can check out in your free time: Hebrews 12, Matthew 7, Proverbs 22, 29 and 1, Psalm 78, Deuteronomy 6 and Titus 2.

Once again, we have relied on the human examples of the past to form our biblical ideologies, rather than humbling ourselves before the word to hear the truth. The demise we are seeing in our society today can only be fixed if fathers take up their rightful places in the home and more so if society allows them to.

We can no longer see them as merely financial child support. They must be allowed to have input. In fact, they must be allowed to set the tone for parenting in the home. That means the way we parent our sons must change. Our young men must be made aware of the enormous responsibility that awaits them. “Boys will be boys” must become a statement of the past and our boys must be held to a much higher standard from the very get go.

Let’s correct the ills of our ancestors and let’s put our families back in its correct order. Only then can we regain any hope of a better society.

Marsha L Walker

Categories: News

Of propaganda and hategroups

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:10

Among the more important imperatives of modern day journalism is exposing the people and agendas devoted to undermining trust in what now operates under the moniker of the “mainstream media.”

The difficulty with this, though, is that systems to unearth untruth and malpractice in the media are, at the same time, absolutely necessary in modern society to ensure that vested political and commercial interests do not prevail at the expense of the public interest.

This is why people are so attracted to the so-called “fake news” phenomenon as worthy of consistent vigilance and as a default when confronted with news and information that does not ring right with the status quo or does not conform with their belief systems.

It is also, at the same time, understandable that people in all their social and political spaces and environments should be concerned that lies and propaganda do not gratuitously enter the sphere of mainstream public communication.

Though all of this is not new, what is different are the newer, infinitely more ubiquitous platforms, the growing sophistication of propaganda campaigns, and a catchy oxymoronic tag.

I have used this space before to help people identify the symptoms of this contrived malady and how we can easily identify its purveyors. In many instances, for instance, the undermining of trust becomes a concerted focus of the most untrustworthy. The signs are relatively easy to pick up and essentially comprise a lack of accountability and transparency alongside clearly identifiable partisan agendas. Think of the last time you saw someone pronounce “fake news” on something and who is offering the assertion.

There is another, equally evident, feature of this: the propagation of expression designed to both defame and to promote hate. In social environments elsewhere, science and measurement are being applied to determine the connection between political and sectional survival and the employment of hate speech. No such compulsion here.

I spent two days in Jamaica last week examining this discrete component of the disinformation agenda. For it will help advance the cause of those concerned about the use of lies and propaganda to understand how promoting hate against individuals and groups feeds into the process of gaining sectional advantage.

It was generally agreed that the entire media industry, in all its facets, focus on actions to ensure that the promotion of hate—expressed as racism, sexism, xenophobia and discrimination against identifiable, vulnerable groups—does not gain traction within the body of mainstream media content, as indeed it sometimes does. It is a sad admission to make as a journalist, I must tell you. But it is the exception rather than the rule.

It is important, we who attended the Public Media Alliance workshop in Kingston last week concluded, that journalists and others operating in the sphere of public communication know how to identify what constitutes hateful content.

This becomes easier if there is, at first, a commitment to treat all groups and individuals with dignity and respect. Now, examine those recent social media posts about the demands of the LGBTQI community to be embraced by the universality of the human rights from which we claim to benefit. Think about the ignorant stereotyping of immigrants and why the disabled are yet to achieve social and economic equity.

There was also acknowledgement of the special status of children. I was quick to add this comes with astute disregard for how children look or behave. In the midst of the violence and mayhem, it has become far too easy to forget that our children require a special level of protection and are, in fact, protected by global convention and national law.

There has also been a tendency to assert cultural specificity on the question of human rights. Yes, we sometimes hear, “there are human rights, BUT what about our small size? What about cultural antecedents?” These are, of course, all entirely false and mistaken assertions. It is amazing that I once had to fight this point with a senior state official in the communication sector.

So, along with “false news” declarations and the hate, comes a declared disregard for human rights. These are all symptoms of a disease that has increasingly become endemic in the body politic. We so frequently point to more developed jurisdictions so afflicted but appear blissfully oblivious to its manifestations among us all.

Categories: News

Sir Vidia—who he was, who he became

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:18

In a letter to his father, a 19-year-old “Vido” Naipaul, as a lowly student at Oxford University, (in)famously wrote: “I want to come top of my group. I have to show these people that I can beat them at their own language.”

It’s a familiar quote; the ambition he articulated carried with it an undeniable arrogance, a trait that would come to define the man and his reputation throughout his literary career. There’s another quote about Sir Vidia from the Jamaican reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson contained in The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul by Patrick French, who describes him as “…a living example of how art transcends the artist ‘cos he talks a load of s*** but still writes excellent books.”

VS Naipaul passed away last Saturday at the age of 85, less than a week before his birthday. He leaves behind a body of work that is regarded the world over as masterful, both in its narrative style as well as in its insight on the post-colonial struggle for identity. But apart from being a creative genius, he was—to appropriate the title of one of his books—an enigma. Those who knew him, be it on a social or professional level, commented that it was difficult to discern where the artist ended and the man began…and vice versa. In the sporadic interviews he gave, there was a caustic undertone that permeated his carefully chosen and enunciated words. Perhaps it was how Naipaul hardly seemed to care if he offended anyone or how he refused to play the archetypical role as the proud, patriotic son of the soil.

Regarding his relationship with Trinidad, the land of his birth, it was clear that he not only physically left here all those decades ago, but, in emigrating, underwent a mental and emotional separation as well. On learning that he was selected to be a Nobel Laureate, he put out a statement that nonchalantly praised “…both England, my home, and India, the home of my ancestors.” Hard luck there Trinidad. The country probably responded with a unanimous and synchronised sucking of teeth.

Displeasures aside, the enigma of (his) departure remains, with some Trinbagonians continuing to ponder whether his contempt was real or that he was simply misunderstood. In an interview with UWI vice chancellor Bhoe Tewarie, during a somewhat hostile visit in 2007, Naipaul bemoaned that “…there hasn’t been any recognition or awareness” of him. Is he right? He did receive the Trinity Cross in 1989. But maybe what he was referring to a genuine appreciation for him beyond the whimsical ownership we adopt when one of our own excels on an international scale.

However, it was that ambition to excel in writing that took Naipaul to England. When speaking at the 1990 Wriston Lecture for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, he stated that “ …as someone with a writing vocation there was nowhere else for me to go…and [England] also gave the means to fulfil that prompting.” The irony is that his much-lauded works are not about his adopted home, but are inspired by the one he left behind. Miguel Street, The Mystic Masseur, Guerrillas, and A House for Mr Biswas—these critically acclaimed are about his life in and the history of Trinidad. It would be irreverent to make any pronouncements on Naipaul’s psychology. But maybe, just maybe, is writings, satirical as they are, were a form of catharsis. Always feeling like an outsider, it was his way of coming to terms with the experiences of growing up in an overbearing family, of living on a complicated island, and the feelings of alienation when he first moved abroad. His writings were a journey of self-discovery, and he decided to take us along for the trip.

At his speech at the 2001 Nobel Awards Banquet, a weathered but still vibrant VS Naipaul spoke of his watch, informing the audience that the strap had broken while traveling to Stockholm. Until that night he could find “…no words to make the bad symbolism good.” He said that time for him has to stop. And indeed it did last Saturday. The opportunity for a reconciliation between him and the land of his birth never materialised. If we are to honour him, we have to remember that behind the genius was a man—a man who said questionable things but was nonetheless a maestro of the written word. He may not have overtly accepted who he was, but we can accept who he became—Sir Vidia Naipaul, Trinidadian-born British writer and novelist, Nobel Laureate.

Ryan Hadeed

Categories: News

Old age health

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:16

I’ve been talking to an acquaintance I met through these columns, someone a bit older than myself (I do that a lot these days) about the benefits of healthy living.

We both agreed that exercise may be the best protection that we have against aging and premature death. As he said, “three or four days a week of some hill work, from the flat up the hill with a moderate incline, about a total of one hour, is better than anything else.” It is also less stress. A day or so to rest afterwards and repeat.

Cutting out the heavy carbs and sugars and eating a moderate 1500 calories each day with huge veggies also helps.

Exercise and diet. Well there’s nothing very original about that, is there? Could there be other factors? Has anyone looked at this scientifically? Turns out that someone has, and just in April published their findings.

The people at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at data from 78,865 women who they had followed up for 34 years, and 27 years of data from 44,354 men who had been participating in two long-term projects. Imagine following up over 100,000 people for 30 years! A monster of a study.

They examined how five simple lifestyle factors impacted on the health of these women and men: regular exercise, defined as at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; a healthy diet; not smoking; normal body weight and very importantly for us, moderate alcohol intake, defined as up to five ounces (a glass) of wine or beer per day for women, or up to two glasses for men.

The results were both expected and unexpected. Simply put, maintaining these five healthy habits during adulthood would add more than ten years to a person’s life. Well they did expect an increase in life span but so much?

It’s also interesting, because most of the increase in human life span has been due to the massive improvements in children’s health that took place in the last 50 years. Now it appears there is something that adults can do to help themselves.

Interestingly, these same five habits help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

For study participants who didn’t adopt any of the five lowrisk lifestyle factors, life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years more for women and 25 years for men. For those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43 years more for women and 37 years for men. Women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so, gained 12 years.

My uncle Carl and I used to joke that every Sunday we spent at Maracas surfing (this was in the days before the Ministry of Tourism decided that concrete at a beach was more important than coconut trees and destroyed the beach), was worth an extra five minutes of life so perhaps there was some truth in that. Problem would have been the alcohol. Two glasses of wine is not much but then again that’s drinking every day.

The decrease in mortality and therefore longevity was mainly due to the effect on heart disease and cancer. Women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 per cent less likely to die from cancer. Furthermore there was a dose-response relationship between each individual healthy lifestyle behaviour and a reduced risk of early death, ie, the more you practiced each lifestyle, the longer you lived. The combination of all five healthy behaviours was linked with the most additional years of life.

The study raises a couple of concerns. It does not assess quality of life. Why live longer if you live miserably? Two, most of the people studied were white professionals, nurses, businessmen and the like. Is it applicable for us?

Categories: News

Privacy as a human right

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 00:10

Mr Justice Mann opined that the press overstepped the mark when it reported a story on the existence of a police investigation which, at that time, was yet to result in a charge. A beleaguered Sir Cliff Richard OBE wept at the Royal Courts of Justice on July 18, 2018, when the judgment was delivered. Unbeknownst to Sir Cliff, he was the subject of an investigation in 2014 while he was still assiduously pursuing his artistic career.

The rummage of his home on August 14, 2014, by police was given wide currency, first on the BBC, and then swiftly on tabloids worldwide, and on tablets and smart phones across the World Wide Web. The devastation was instantaneous and ubiquitous. Sir Cliff claimed that both the BBC and the police violated his rights both in privacy and under the Data Protection Act, 1998. His claims were substantial because his life folded and his finances crumbled.

Two years deeper inside the agony, a remorseful police force recanted. In June 2016, they announced that no charges could be brought against Sir Cliff.

In May 2017, the police accepted liability, apologised, and made a statement in open court and paid Sir Cliff £400,000 in damages and agreed to pay his costs and paid £300,000 on account of that costs liability. But the BBC resisted.

Justice Mann adjured that a citizen has a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to an investigation that is yet to result in a charge and, as such, the right to privacy trumped public interest.

The judgment speared the British media tradition of factually reporting details of pre-charge investigations. The boundaries of British media law have been redrawn. Mr Justice Mann ruled against the BBC. Sir Cliff Richard was awarded £210,000 in damages; £190,000 in damages with a further £20,000 in aggravated damages for the BBC’s decision to nominate the story for the Royal Television Society’s ‘scoop of the year award’.

The threads of every email from 2014 to 2018, tweet, text, and WhatsApp message riddled with black humour unravelled like a hand knotted Bukhara rug during the proceedings. Justice Mann noted that, while a reporter may not be a dishonest person, they seem capable of letting their enthusiasm get the better of them in pursuit of a story and twist matters to create a mosaic that could only be described as dishonest and permeated with tropes that arouse and excite the public.

Human rights simultaneously claim to protect both freedom of expression and the right to privacy. The privacy issues surrounding Sir Cliff’s case are not unlike those under consideration by a UK parliamentary committee inquiring into the democratic crisis created by big data and the targeting of pernicious views.

The committee has been examining the impact of online disinformation on political campaigning—and on ways to build resilience against misinformation into the UK’s democratic systems. The committee considered evidence on Russian state-sponsored attempts to influence elections in the US and the UK, of the efforts of private companies to do the same, and of breaches by Leave Campaign groups in the UK’s EU Referendum and their use of social media.

This inquiry is happening in the midst of exposures about the extent of disinformation and social media data misuse and allegations of election fiddling and law bending which have oozed like dense dark mud in the Devil’s Woodyard, around the 2016 US presidential election.

Exposés about the cottage industry of fake news purveyors that have spun up to feed US voters, in addition to Kremlin troll farm activity and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data misuse saga with its widespread privacy violations are all drooling.

Sir Cliff was exposed to trolling posts. He was trapped in his own home. He felt despair and hopelessness leading at times to physical collapse. He could not face his friends and family—or even his future. His life’s work was ripped apart and the adverse publicity on the internet and newspapers removed his status as a respected citizen.

This is why the parliamentary committee is seeking to harmonize the hymn book for all online advertisements and messages with those in use for published leaflets, circulars, and advertisements as it relates to political campaigning and privacy protection in the UK. Proximity does not matter any more.

Sir Cliff was on holiday in Portugal when the story broke. The lengths of distances are not obstacles any longer. Contiguity of cause and effect has decayed. Stories travel without itineraries, barriers or border control. Balancing the right to privacy with the competing right to freedom of expression remains contextual and cultural.

Dr Fazal Ali

Categories: News

The midnight reshuffle

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 00:09

For the ninth time in 35 months, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has made changes to his government (January 27, 2016, February 1, 2016, March 17, 2016, October 31, 2016, June 29, 2017, July 2, 2017, April 9, 2018, April 10, 2018, and August 6, 2018). This time he made a major reshuffle by reassigning Edmund Dillon as Minister of National Security to become Minister of Housing and Urban Development and replaced him with Stuart Young who retained his portfolios of Minister of Communications and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, while vacating his other junior ministerial posting of Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

These changes came on the heels of the Prime Minister moving the motion to approve the presidential notification in the House of Representatives on July 30 for Gary Griffith to become Commissioner of Police. It would appear now that the Prime Minister has put his core national security team in place.

It is quite possible that the Prime Minister asked that the party line whip be lifted for the vote in the House on July 30 because he detected that there was division in the ranks of his MPs over the Griffith notification. Every PNM MP who was present, and voted, supported Griffith.

Whether moving Dillon from Knox Street to South Quay will be the answer to the Government’s problems on crime together with the departure of Stephen Williams from Sackville Street and his replacement there by Gary Griffith, we have to wait and see. There is still uncertainty (at the time of writing) about when Griffith will actually assume duties as the substantive Commissioner of Police. Stuart Young has already started his tour of duty as Minister of National Security based on official photographs released in the media.

So why did Prime Minister Rowley move against one of his most trusted Cabinet ministers in favour of another trusted Cabinet minister in a midnight reshuffle? That will remain a mystery for the general public however, Dillon has had to put a brave face on his reassignment based on the tone of the media interviews that he has given.

At the final PNM campaign rally in September 2015, Rowley promised the population that his government would hit the ground running from day one on the issue of crime. He had two brigadiers and a former assistant commissioner of police among his slate of candidates so there was every reason to believe that the PNM had the wherewithal to launch a credible attack against the crime epidemic in the country.

No one really expected, during the heat of the election, that 35 months later that one brigadier would be a backbencher, the other would be tending to the affairs of the nation’s housing stock, and the former assistant commissioner of police would be a Parliamentary Secretary in National Security.

On January 27, 2016, Rowley appointed the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dennis Moses, as a junior minister in National Security in addition to his duties as Foreign Minister. On February 1, 2016, Rowley added Glenda Jennings-Smith as Parliamentary Secretary in National Security. It was obvious he wanted to address the crime problem seriously however, the strategy has failed to date. On July 18 instant, the National Crime Plan was launched by Dillon and now he is no longer there to oversee it.

With two years to go before a general election, it is clear that Rowley is making a final roll of the dice to see if he can get it right in the fight against crime. Perhaps, the best clue to whether these changes are being welcomed internally in the PNM will come this week when people who are interested in standing for office in the internal elections of the party can declare their candidacies.

The PNM internal elections have been shifted from September 16 to September 30, so there is now a longer campaign period. Will there be challengers across the board or will there be unchallenged positions in a majority of cases?

The removal of Dillon from National Security and the replacement with Stuart Young has completed a shift of power in the Government and party towards a Young/Al-Rawi/Imbert axis of dominance.

Doing the reshuffle just after midnight on Sunday and immediately going on vacation on Monday meant that Rowley did not really want to talk about it. Why?

Categories: News

‘Make yuh play, or clear de way’

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 00:07

“…it will be a delusion to think that all will be well quickly once a permanent Commissioner of Police and Deputies are appointed…Now that many of the manpower cracks and gaps have been uncovered, there is need for a deeper probe into effective manpower utilization, management, performance, and accountability in the TTPS.”—Deosaran’s Manpower Report

To add to the permanent appointments in the TTPS is the change to Stuart Young taking over from Major General Edmund Dillon (Retired) as Minister of National Security. A couple weeks ago, this column suggested that Minister Dillon’s National Crime Prevention Programme had to show results otherwise Prime Minister Keith Rowley, to save his government from rigor mortis, had to do something drastic.

Sufficient time has not passed for the PM to have made a firm judgment on the likely success or failure of the programme. I interpret his action therefore to mean that he considers the need for results to be far more immediate than I could have projected and that he has been persuaded that Stuart Young and Gary Griffith in national security and the office of the Commissioner of Police would be a more dynamic fit and likely to get results in a shorter time frame.

Not too incidentally, when the PM did not show up at Dillon’s launch of his NCPP, I wondered if that was a signal that Dr Rowley was reluctant to identify too closely with Dillon and his programme if he had other plans. All the prognostications aside, the decisions have been made and the survival of the Government hangs on the efficacy of those decisions.

Griffith’s severally stated claims to have the antidote to criminality will now be put to the test. If he holds political ambitions and allegiances, he must know that a job well done can boost his political stakes subsequent to his tenure as CoP.

He should be sufficiently savvy to appreciate that.

Presumably, Young will seek to fully operationalise (with his own adaptations) the NCPP left behind by Dillon and the former minister has publicly committed to being of assistance if needed.

Minister Young cannot be expected to effectively manage the three portfolios he has been given; working in close relationship and with the PM to call on his support to implement measures could be useful. However, the communications portfolio is a full-time assignment and that of a specialist. Several governments have ended their term saying “we did not communicate all that we were doing to the public.”

Maybe the PM will experience another wave of consciousness and reach out to professional communication agencies for assistance: an effective communications programme is not about press releases and haranguing speeches by ministers and prime ministers.

A major challenge for Griffith, Young, the AG, and the other ministries and agencies is to adopt social rehabilitation, tough, unrelenting and intelligence-driven policing to smash the criminal culture. Achieving statistical increases in the interception, charging, and prosecution of criminals and their acts will not be sufficient; the gangs have to be systematically dismantled and criminals who refuse to be persuaded to change their lifestyle must be effectively dealt with by the law.

This and many other societies have not been able (or willing) to investigate and prosecute those who plot and fund the drugs and weapons trade of organised crime; the criminal on the block is dispensable: one gone, more come. Young and Griffith will have to demonstrate they are not afraid of taking on organised crime.

One vital challenge for Griffith is the one posed above by the Deosaran manpower planning report. Along with his Deputy Commissioner Administration, CoP Griffith will have to have professional assistance to begin to confront the problems listed in the report. For any CoP to be effective (and all that Griffith has stated and the aura he gives off places him on the streets tackling criminality) he cannot give his full attention to infiltrating criminal dens and effectively administering the TTPS.

The new CoP will have to win the support and respect of his executive and eventually the rank and file. He is no star boy sheriff riding in to clean up the town; without the support and respect of his officers he will fail.

Whichever political side you and I belong to, or indeed none of the above, criminality has to be conquered or failed state status faces us.

Categories: News

When people turn sheep

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 00:05

Last week Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told the Opposition UNC deputy leader David Lee ‘to go to church’ in response to his (Lees’) concerns about corruption at the National Lotteries Control Board. Mr Lee took umbrage and (rightly) complained of the matter being trivialized.

Lee sent out a press release insisting that he indeed ‘attend mass at 7 am on Sunday’ before joining his Opposition colleagues to demand accountability and transparency from the Government.

Now that’s where I part ways with both politicians. Going to church doesn’t stand up anywhere. Your actions do.

A daughter of a Hindu father, Muslim mother, educated in convents, I get religion. I don’t resist lighting a candle at a church, ringing a bell at a temple or bowing respectfully at a mosque.

All world religions can’t, however, simultaneously be right of course, since they each preclude the followers of the others from attaining heaven or nirvana or being raised from the dead. Which means most people think everyone else is going to hell.

I am startled how often in this country at the start of the most innocuous of ‘functions’ there is the national anthem, and there is the inter-service prayer from pundit, imam, and priest during which time attendees bow their heads in pious prayer to the God or gods of their choosing.

I’m not doubting the efficacy of religion, or its power to create a community, civic sense, service, bring comfort to the grieving and lost, create a moral compass, provide a code of conduct to adults or bring meaning to those stumbling about aimlessly in existential angst.

I do get as a young country that in the absence of a history or culture of questioning, in the absence of critical questioning, and in the absence of theological and philosophical studies we are inordinately dependent on props such as chants, rituals, and rosaries. Two hail Marys and we call it that.

The thing I can’t bear about it is the way ritual is used as a free pass for sloppy thinking. We know it’s that because in every religion—Evangelical, Catholic, Muslim, and Hindu, we’ve seen abuse of power towards boys in the Catholic church, towards women in the mosques, rogue Sadhus.

But we are a people who like a quick code. We don’t like digging too much in case we get mud on our faces. That’s why our education system encourages children to study by rote. Our make-work programmes require no thinking. In that way we are all slaves, perpetuating the systems put in by our various bloody colonisers.

Religious expression that is done by rote, that lacks authenticity, that feels like a sword of Damocles over our sinning heads lends itself to corruption at the top, so that the mosque, church, and temple become a microcosm of our government. The flock listen mindlessly, the people at the top preach, the powerful do what they want (usually involving the subjugation and often the abuse of the vulnerable—women and children).

We are comfortable taking orders believing that the word of the priest, imam or pundit is the word of God. We are unable to tap into our own ideas of God because we don’t have any. This is why it’s no surprise that T&T had the highest recruitment rates of ISIS fighters in the Western Hemisphere. That’s what happens when people turn sheep.

There are exceptions personified by people like Father Harvey (now bishop of Grenada), for instance, whose voice is powerful because it’s intertwined with the very hearts of the people he serves. There is also in his sermons, education of how to live, known in academia as ethics.

Dr Rowley’s flip comment deserves examination. It forces us, makes us ask ourselves—what does it mean to pray, to be a religious person.

What are the temple, mosque, church goers doing to ensure that religious rituals go beyond posturing, are above mockery? How do we develop a faith that combines critical thinking and rouses our conscience to serve others? Who are we when we are alone, bowed in prayer and no one is looking?

Categories: News

Instrument of appointment, no contract

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 23:20

Why is it that in our ‘sweet’ T&T, we always allow ‘the tail to wag the dog?’ Or if some would prefer to be more refined, ‘put the carriage before the horse.’

Gary Griffith, Commissioner of Police designate—at least that is what I think is appropriate to call him—has been given his Instrument of Appointment but he has no contract of employment for that position. For the Instrument of Appointment to be effective, it must have been dated. Why would the powers that be, particularly the new Minister of National Security, allow such an occurrence?

One would have been able to let this slide if the terms and conditions were already set in stone and any appointee was simply governed by same. But Gary Griffith now has the ability to negotiate his payment package and associated terms of engagement having already been appointed to the job.

He, therefore has more bargaining power than you or I think. Imagine the prospects of the Government offending the top cop at the risk of having to tell the population that it no longer has a Commissioner of Police. It has already told the Police Service Commission that its process was flawed but used the same resultant list to choose Gary Griffith who featured somewhere at the lower end. Deodath Dulalchan was at ‘numero uno,’ but for him the process was flawed.

The public is already furious over the fact that a group of politicians (PNM) have gotten together to appoint another politician (Gary Griffith) to a top position which should be independent of political influences.

What is more stabbing to the population is the fact that Gary Griffith will be paid for this period for which he is not even working. Whatever his salary, whether $130,000 or $40,000 per month, and whatever his date of assumption of duties, he will get his demanded salary paid from the date of his Instrument of Appointment.

Should the negotiations over Griffith’s terms and conditions and requisite approval of the Chief Personnel Officer take a lengthy period of time to get done, Griffith’s salary will still be paid from the date he obtained his instrument earlier this week. Without having worked a single day, taxpayers who are already stretched killing themselves to purchase text books for their kids, will be paying their newly appointed but non-working Commissioner of Police. This is absurd!

Mr Kazim Hosein, Minister of Local Government, is on record as saying that law-abiding citizens were now afraid of the criminals. The Minister was speaking at the Municipal Police Induction Training Programme last Tuesday. According to Hosein, addressing the crime problem meant going into communities that have been forgotten for too long.

This seemed to be a concession by him that is exactly what happened under the present administration. Law-abiding citizens have become afraid of criminals and many communities have simply been forgotten.

Whilst the Minister was in anticipation of Griffith’s appointment—“I believe Griffith is the right man for this job”—he said nothing about the appointment of Minister Stuart Young as Minister of National Security.

Minister Hosein’s silence is yet to be determined. However, why was there a need to remove former Minister Dillon from National Security and put Stuart Young instead? Could it be that there is high level of dissention in the rank and file of the PNM over the appointment of Griffith as Commissioner?

Alternatively, Young has traditionally launched attacks from PNM platforms about former PP Ministers having to face courts over matters which were outside his remit. Some supporters of the PP/UNC are now wondering whether the appointment of Young and Griffith is to implement a plan to pursue certain former political allies whom he (Griffith) has fallen out of favour with.

Whilst the Cabinet reshuffle was announced, the Prime Minister was in Tobago and much to Watson Duke’s ire, “in ah short pants.” But this is nothing new. Tobago seems to be the agora for all decision making and political wielding. After all, Cabinet announced that all Corporations in Trinidad are to be audited but not a single word about Tobago.

An administrative error in the Tobago House of Assembly led to millions of dollars being sent to a wrong bank account. Tobago Jazz festival has been the subject of innumerable financial queries. Millions continue to be unaccounted for but not a single audit on Tobago. I return to what I started off with. Paying people for jobs that they are not even performing.

Here we go again!

Categories: News

Old guard in PNM internal polls

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 23:18

After the heavy “lifting” of yesterday’s Cabinet retreat, resetting internal team focus and goals, the ruling party lets off some steam at tomorrow’s PNM Family Day.

While the event’s theme, Together We Can, seeks to reinforce a family spirit, the musical chairs involving PNM MPs might attract more attention than usual as a small reminder of the frequency of ministerial changes in recent times.

La Horquetta/Talparo MP Maxie Cuffie, who is expected to attend, isn’t among those pondering the series of ministerial shifts which affected him, however.

“I intend winning all the races,” Cuffie said yesterday.

Most recent of the changes Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley implemented last Monday—one of his most significant shifts to date—was replacing Edmund Dillon with Stuart Young in the Ministry of National Security. In what was a surprise to the Opposition also, it was as much a admission of Government’s failure regarding security as it was a signal of the intent to double down on the problem differently.

With new Young energy in National Security and similarly with Police Commissioner-designate Gary Griffith, their respective efficiencies—including the gift of the gab—are expected to up PNM’s crime-fighting image in the lead-up to elections.

Dillon’s performance apart, Young’s inexperience might have counted less than him being viewed as a better fit for certain reasons. Clashes had occurred between Dillon and Griffith since 2015.

In addition, Young is known as a fixture at the side of his boss, Dr Rowley, as well as a proxy of sorts and thus better able to “manage” the required interactions with Griffith.

However, because National Security is such a crucial portfolio, the wisdom of appending it to Young’s two other equally important portfolios in the Prime Minister’s Office and Communication is left to be seen.

The Government is already challenged in messaging, as the steady Opposition spotlight and scrutiny show. How much of Young’s post- Cabinet media briefings will be devoted to dispelling “fake news” as opposed to presenting information and facilitating transparency remains ahead.

His appointment begs the question of whether there is no other talent in Cabinet—or attracted to it—who could have been sourced for National Security as a dedicated position.

How the PNM’s base views yet another frontline position for multi-manager Young is another issue, as well as how he juggles the three jobs with his fourth post, that of PNM Public Relations Officer.

Young’s profile and personality pluses had ensured limited contenders for that post. Whether that changes in next week’s nomination exercise for PNM’s September 16 internal elections remains to be seen.

While incumbents are defending posts or seeking others, challenges are looming in several of the 15 executive posts: elections and field officers, general secretary and chairman. Some challenges are expected from previous officials of the Manning PNM.

Contesting the social media officer’s post against incumbent Ronald Huggins is Dane Wilson, who was a member of the party’s first social media unit. He decided to contest as he feels the PNM “needs to get back on track and get its message across. That’s not being done effectively.”

He explained: “PNM’s base feels disconnected from decision-making processes, alienated—as if what they’re saying isn’t being heard.”

Wilson feels while PNMites will welcome Griffith’s appointment, “It won’t change how members feel. They want PNM to operate as it promised while in Opposition, particularly with opportunities. Whether they’re right or not, people feel like PNM has been hijacked. If some contest posts it is because we all want to return PNM to togetherness in the movement.

“PNM is a grassroots party—not elitist. People want to help the leader. We recognise he needs that support. Recent by-elections tell us the party needs to embrace the Mariano Brownes, the Nafeesa Mohammeds, the Nileung Hypolites, in this critical stage facing national elections ahead.

“Just as a Cabinet retreat was done yesterday, PNM’s outgoing executive needs the same. The party has its own identity and needs to be rejuvenated.”

Tomorrow’s PNM Family Day, under the auspices of the current executive and on the eve of a nomination exercise which could produce some party division, might be timely for a united party spirit and an expanded one as the Chaguanas venue denotes.

Whether it achieves the rejuvenation and reinforcing that appears necessary will be fully known by September 16.

Categories: News