Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 11th 2015 Contents A18
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 11, 2015
Sometimes I think journalists
talk too much. We have an
opinion on everything. In the
process of reporting, we eventu-
ally know a little about a lot of
As editors and reporters we are
on occasion elated that the police
checks have given us a gruesome
murder. It s a lead story.
Sometimes we get so busy
reporting individual stories that
we don t have time to join the
dots. The other thing is that the
noise about us is relentless. The
carols and parang have now given
way to our finest state funded
heritage, the soca and chutney
encouraging us to drink, and
dance like fornicating dogs on
And there is the radio and tel-
evision, the endless talk, the din
of the traffic, and the ringing,
pinging of a million cell phones.
Last night, the strains of panmen
practicing for Carnival put me to
sleep but this morning, a calypso
blasting with a woman s voice
repeating "Ah feeling sexy," is
blocking all thought.
The plus side of living in a
country the size of a village real-
ly, people talk a lot amongst one
another. They talk endlessly to
journalists as we line up for pop-
corn in the cinema, in waiting
rooms, in the aisles of groceries.
I never used to understand this
"trust" in journalists. But now I
understand. People talk to us
because they WANT us to know
certain things so we can be the
conduit of change, so we can
pass the messages along to
someone who has the power to
change things. This week, I
watched, read and listened. A
daily paper shows a dead robber
face down, people turned away
from him. He is being treated as
casually as a dead dog. Turn the
page and a stray scrawny dog
sniffs the pavement where a man
in white protective gear is bend-
ing over a murder scene. The
murdered man s final minutes as
he was hacked by a cutlass
would have been the sight of a
dirty drain, garbage bags and a
I was listening to the breeze
swirling leaves around the savan-
nah when a sudden movement
startled me. It was policemen on
a motorbike, part of a motorcade,
telling me to get the f--- out of
the way. He kept up the abuse
while I moved aside, my heart
pounding at the sight of so many
guns, helmets, uniforms.
Close your eyes for a minute.
See the flashing lights in T&T,
hear the sirens. Lower your gaze
from the beauty of the hills.
A woman in the bakery asked
with thinly veiled aggression as I
mulled over warm bread, "Did
you hear about the man in the
wheelchair being manhandled by
two police?" I had seen the video
and heard the sadistic chortling
of the man taking the video. A
plain clothes policeman was slap-
ping a wheelchair-bound man. A
burly female officer took over.
She coldly, brutally, deliberately
released the breaks of the dis-
abled man s wheelchair and
shoved it down a street.
While packing my purchase,
the woman in the bakery offered
her opinion on the video. "You
know what happened with that?
You know why the, Minister of
National Security, Police Com-
missioner and Police Complaints
Authority stepped in?"
"That kind of brutality goes on
ALL the time. It s just that this
time they got caught on a video
that went viral on Facebook. So
now the authorities are
shocked. But they know it goes
on all the time."
I wanted to kneel and thank
her for her fearlessness on behalf
of all citizens when she told me
her story. Six years ago, a police
officer, the head of a police sta-
tion, got into an altercation with
her mother and sister.
He slapped and beat up the
two women. But my intrepid
young baker did not give in to
fear of the gun power of the
police. She was not taking that.
She reported the incident. She
took the policeman to court.
The case is dragging on as they
do in this country. In the mean-
time, the police officer, still head
of a police station, sends his
police friends to block the
entrance of her driveway, to fol-
low her about threateningly.
We may not be living in a
police state, but we all live in
fear. Except for the young baker.
At a lime with friends, I heard
a similar story but this was more
menacing than the other. An
activist, one of the few fearless
members of civil society who
spoke out against state corrup-
tion was followed home with
police officers with machine guns
who told him he had to come to
the police station for a crime he
hadn t committed. He shouted as
loud as he could to alert neigh-
bours until the police and their
guns slunk away. This demon-
strates something about us in our
noisy, unthinking society. We
drown our fear in noise. We are
more afraid of change than we
are of fear because the ones with
the guns have their own agenda.
That s why we pulled down the
former Canadian police commis-
sioner Dwayne Gibbs who was
actually putting systems into
place. The powerful can t control
the masses when there is order.
The moneyed and the armed rule
with chaos. Will somebody please
turn up the volume?
Living in fear...
THE MONEYED, THE ARMED RULE WITH CHAOS
King Abdullah, the 90-year-
old ruler of Saudi Arabia, was
taken to hospital on December
31 with breathing difficulties.
Pneumonia, said Saudi officials.
The king matters. He is no fig-
urehead; he runs the country.
And worldwide, Saudi oil mat-
ters. It costs little to extract.
With a low oil price, the Saudis
have been pumping full throttle.
Government revenue falls short
of budget spending, but higher-
cost producers like Russia are
suffering far more. There s cash
in the bank to cover three years
What happens to oil prices if
the Saudis pull back on their
At this point, two caveats.
One: I m no energy expert. And
two: I m not a Middle East
expert. But I can t help wonder-
If anyone saw the recent oil
price crunch coming a year ago,
they kept very quiet about it.
And what s coming a year from
now? That s anyone s guess.
Most forecasters have a central
projection, based on current
trends. The best-guess forecast
from the Economist Intelligence
Unit last month was an average
$70 WTI oil price for 2015. As
we re now well below $70, that
implies an end-2015 figure above
that level. Other agencies have a
broadly similar outlook.
There are alternative scenarios,
based on "known unknowns;"
currency movements, tensions
with Russia and Ukraine, that
sort of thing.
Then we have the wild cards.
Back to the Game of Thrones.
The Saudi monarchy was found-
ed by King Abdul Aziz bin Saud
in 1932. Since he died in 1953
the country has been ruled by
his increasingly elderly sons---five
of them in succession.
There are still a dozen or so
survivors, brothers and half-
brothers of Abdullah. The desig-
nated heir, Prince Salman, is 78,
has suffered a stroke, and is
thought to show signs of
Last March, the king and his
Allegiance Council appointed an
alternative successor, Prince
Muqrin; he is a sprightly 69-
year-old who in his youth
trained with Britain as an air
force pilot. After that, anyone
can play. There are several hun-
dred younger-generation princes.
One is national security minister,
another heads the national
guard, and a third is governor of
the holy city of Mecca. Abdullah
has around 35 kids of his own---
though we can rule out the
daughters from an active role.
The wider royal clan runs to
thousands---then there are 20
million other Saudi citizens and
perhaps ten million migrant
Some love the existing order.
Others would like to see
changes; many women, for
example, would like the right to
drive. Around one-third of
young Saudis are unemployed. In
government jobs, the minimum
monthly salary is an un-princely
$5,500 (TT). Up to 140,000
study overseas, exposed to dan-
gerous foreign ideas. And right
next to Saudi Arabia, we have
Iraq. More specifically, we now
have Isis. On Monday, probable
Isis militants attacked a Saudi
border post from Iraq. Among
those killed was the commander
of Saudi Arabia s northern bor-
der forces, Brigadier General
Awdah al-Balawi. That high-
level hit suggests that Isis has
either good luck or inside-track
Isis, like the Saudi monarchy,
is dogmatically Sunni---though
there s no love lost between the
two. But the Kingdom also has
up to five million Shias---most of
them living close to the Gulf,
just across the water from their
co-religionists in Iran.
Just to the south is Yemen,
where al Qaeda and Shia militias
each have strong support. A car
bomb outside the Yemeni
national police college killed 30
More than likely, Abdullah will
be back at his desk quite shortly.
More than likely, there will be a
well-lubricated succession. But,
it s hard not to ask, what hap-
pens if life at the pump gets
crude and sticky.
That could be this year, next
year, sometime...perhaps never,
if transitions are managed with
Libya provides an Awful
Warning. Ghaddafi s 42-year
dictatorship was no barrel of
laughs---but it kept the oil flow-
ing. Then came Libya s Arab
Spring, bringing not flowers, but
a hot, dry summer. Hardline
Islamist militias now control
much of the country, some of
them linked to Isis or al Qaeda.
There are two parliaments, no
effective police or army, and
nobody is quite sure who runs
the national oil company.
For small non-Saudi producers
like T&T, the worst problem is
instability. A high oil price is
delicious. With a lot of pain, we
can adjust to a low one. But
wild swings each way bring real
danger. Oil price up, but the
good times may not last? Forget
the risk, spend. Oil price down,
but a possible upturn ahead?
Borrow, and postpone adjust-
An uncertain price outlook
frightens investors away from
high-risk, high-cost exploration
in the deep and ultra-deep
Atlantic waters. For the non-
energy private sector, big swings
in energy prices carry fluctuating
signals. That s no environment
for long-term investment.
And in the rest of the region,
low oil prices cut the chances of
investment in renewable ener-
gy---just keep burning the good
old oil, forget the carbon con-
tent, and complain like crazy
next time the price jumps.
NEXT FOR OIL: $20? OR BACK TO $100?
Links Archive January 10th 2015 January 12th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page