Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of a number of existential challenges. The murder rate is set to exceed 500 murders yet again. The Police Commissioner announced the end of investigations into Emailgate, the ignominy called the “day of total policing” and the “plant-like substance” found at the home of the former prime minister. A Special Branch report indicating that individuals with gangland connections were the recipients of substantial contracts from one regional corporation is released.
Responding to the allegation of government-financed crime the Prime Minister first deflected, avoiding responsibility. Has firm, decisive action been initiated to assure that gangsters are not in receipt of state contracts? In deciding not to invoke Section 137 of the Constitution to investigate the Chief Justice, despite a substantial body of opinion to the contrary, Dr Rowley embellished his decision on the hustings implying that the judiciary was siding with criminals! When the Law Association publicly presented a different view, Dr Rowley accused the law fraternity of being pro-UNC.
Challenges change as societies change. If our institutions do not address the changing realities, public confidence will erode as our institutions will be seen as dysfunctional or useless. Recent surveys indicate that is already happening.
Strong institutions are the wheels which allow a society to function seamlessly. Daily life is predicated on the assumption that institutions function routinely; the availability of water, electricity, transport to work, traffic lights etcetera, and most importantly, that rules will be enforced. Dr Rowley missed the irony of defending his decision based on advice from a Queen's Counsel thereby reinforcing the bias to retaining the Privy Council and diminishes the standing of local jurisprudence whilst we celebrate Emancipation and Independence.
The bedrock of any society is the understanding that the rules are not just for some but everyone. The investigations were fruitless find no one accountable. Although crime remains the most pressing difficulty, it is but a symptom of deeper societal problems which require a multidisciplinary approach. As the Police Commissioner is beginning to understand, a “one-shot one kill” policy has serious limitations. It also requires uncorrupted, disciplined police officers who are motivated by more than just their pay packet.
Similarly, all the supporting institutions must be adequately resourced. The DPP, forensics, ballistics, the courts and the Judiciary must be above reproach. In this regard, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have a critical role to play in determining the allocation of resources. Our institutions must work well to maintain order and are critical to reinforcing business confidence without which private investment will not take place. The Prime Minister has much to do if he is to live up to his boast that the country is in “safe” hands.