Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 19th 2015 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 19, 2015
Some weeks back, I wrote
glowingly about the NHS
care I received in London for a
debilitating migraine, excruciating
pain and dehydration. Recently,
researchers at the London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
said one in 28 NHS deaths could
be attributed to poor care such
as inattentive monitoring of the
patient's condition, doctors mak-
ing the wrong diagnosis, or
patients being prescribed the
wrong medicine. This shows me
two things. The first is, no mat-
ter how many caring, dedicated
physicians there are (there are
many), if there is a lack of
accountability, if health gets
mixed up with politics, people
die. The second is, we wouldn't
even begin to be able to do a
similar study in T&T because we
live in a kingdom of fear and lack
As in almost every public serv-
ice in this country: works, hous-
ing, gas and oil industries, edu-
cation, armed services,
administration of justice, Cepep,
healthcare is run like a mini
kingdom. Like every monarchy,
the cadre of people rule with an
iron hand, with the fist of fear
that keeps people ignorant and
cowed. Then there are the syco-
phants who buy their way into
favour, and a profusion of jokers.
There is no democracy here. It
feels like living in the days of the
Raj, where a monarch invests
great power into small rulers who
do what they want. The serfs
(the rest of us) are allowed to
make noises at festivals of the
flesh---the six-month run-up to
Carnival, and the festival of con-
sumption---the three-month run-
up to Christmas, and murdering
one another which is dismissed
as gang related' or domestic'
but never recognised for what it
is, a society that is splitting at
the seams due to political neg-
lect. We are given four days off
to drug ourselves up with alco-
hol, sex and freeness. At a price.
Our free will has been broken.
We are crippled into inaction.
Real education is denied us---our
teachers are not respected or paid
or educated properly. Our chil-
dren run wild, straight into the
Kingdoms like spectacles. As
Trotsky told CLR James, we use
the spectacle instead of politics.
What is politics? It's about
power. Power to do what? Well,
outwardly at least, it is the power
invested in you by the people
who voted for you to run the
country on behalf of the people.
Politicians are servants of the
people. Do we see it like that?
No. We jump in awe as the min-
ister of this or that walks past all
the workers in his ministry with
his accoutrement that includes
bodyguards, entourage, designer
shades, a walk of urgency that
culminates in a VIP room where
he is served salmon sandwiches
or if he feels for it, cow heel
The atmosphere is one that is
designed to instill fear in the
ordinary clerk who looks intently
at his computer hoping to avoid
scrutiny that may pillory him or
her. There is no wonder then,
that a column I did on Jack
Warner got almost 2,000 likes
and my plea for answers in
healthcare met by virtual silence.
What does that tell me? This:
people are afraid to talk. They are
afraid for their jobs. That we are
comfortable with a public lynch-
ing---not private introspection.
There is no space where people
feel free to think. We are not
even aware how anxious we are.
How careful. The rage comes out
on the radio in inchoate, ram-
bling, anxious, hating anxiety,
sometimes directed at personali-
ties, sometimes directed at
another race. It comes out in our
everyday murders. But we dare
not come out and ask for redress
The best way to keep someone
unbalanced is to keep them
guessing, to keep them without
knowledge, to make us feel too
unworthy to ask questions. We
have to acknowledge it's a psy-
chological game. Every time we
are afraid, we play that game. I
asked some questions last week,
starting with, "What is the state
of public healthcare in this coun-
try?" In private conversations I
get regaled, but in public we are
Why should we speak out?
Why care? Everyone should care.
If you have dependents, you
should care. If you are diabetic,
you should care. If you have
hypertension, you should care. If
you have heart disease, you
should care. If you are obese, you
should care. If you have cancer,
you should care. If you are in
line for chemotherapy, a kidney
or heart surgery, you should care.
You should care about your life,
and your quality of life, and the
taxes you pay, and the returns
you get for these taxes. You
should care about your children's
health, and the health of the eld-
erly in your family.
When you see those politicians
on the platform in their bright
yellows and reds you shouldn't
think "how can I be diverted
from my own life, laugh away
my frustration at these perform-
ers?" We should take our heads
out of the sand and say damn,
it's about me. It's about my
heart, my lungs, my diabetes.
These people on the podium
singing and dancing and hiring
calypsonians to make us all laugh
and jeer at another section of the
population aren't doing their
jobs. It's hard to keep your eye
on the ball. Reality is hard.
It's lonely, this talking about
issues in the run-up to the Sep-
tember 7 election, when the juice
is in the politics. Despite Trost-
skys warning that spectator
sports is a substitute to politics, I
plod on hoping people will care
about the issues in T&T, and
ultimately reclaim our power over
our servants, the politicians who
took our faith and turned it into
Mervyn Richardson is
strategic co-ordinator for
the National Operations Centre.
It's a big job, and no doubt he
does it well. He is also under
investigation for the alleged
cover-up of a ganja find outside
the prime minister's residence.
Minister of National Security
Carl Alfonso said a week ago,
that Richardson should stay in
post because: "He has to be
considered innocent until proven
Fair enough. But how long are
we going to wait for a clear
answer? A couple of days? Half
"Innocent until proven guilty"
does not apply all-round. Unless
they get bail, those accused of
petty or violent crime can spend
a long, long time in prison
waiting for trial.
In theory, they are "innocent
until proven guilty." But in prac-
tice, it's "guilty until proven
The US State Department's
annual human rights report says
that T&T's prisons held 3,481
inmates last year. Of these, just
1,428 had been convicted.
The rest were waiting to be
tried---that's 2,053 people, close
to 59 per cent of the prison
The state department reports
what we all know. Prisoners
may be kept waiting in prison,
innocent till proven guilty, for
six to ten years.
At a much earlier stage, pre-
liminary bail hearings are
repeatedly postponed for this
reason or that, bumping up the
Meanwhile, prisoners are kept
in atrocious conditions; some-
times locked up, ten live bodies,
in a cell measuring ten feet by
ten. That's barely room enough
to lie down on the floor for
sleep. Lighting, ventilation, or
sanitation standards? Forget it.
It is not just T&T. The US
State Department reports other
Caribbean countries where
remand numbers are way too
Guyana: of 1,962 prisoners, 39
per cent were awaiting trial last
year, innocent until proven
Belize: 1,527 prisoners, with 35
per cent on remand.
Bahamas: 1,396 prisoners; of
the 753 in maximum security,
almost half were on remand.
St Lucia: 634 inmates; 59 per
cent on remand. That's the
same unenviable proportion as
in this country.
For those who are out on bail,
it's a different story. They are
out, pretty much free to do as
they please for a good few years.
That's wrong too. For the guilty
ones, there is plenty time for
evidence tampering. For victims,
The culture of delay in inves-
tigating apparent wrongdoing
extends way beyond the court
CL Financial went belly-up in
January 2009. It took 22 months
to establish the Colman enquiry.
Sir Anthony finished taking his
mountain of evidence in May
2013. We are still waiting for his
report. If it recommends crimi-
nal proceedings, they will be a
good few years down the road.
Sir Anthony said last month,
that two of his three local attor-
neys "proved to be so incompe-
tent, inexperienced or lacking in
any sense of professional
responsibility that they became
unavailable or only partially
available;" the attorneys contest
He complained of insufficient
resources: "Had an enquiry of
comparable scope been set up in
London, there would have been
at least four solicitors assisted
by a firm of forensic account-
ants and five counsel."
And then there's Jack. He, too,
is "innocent until proven guilty."
Long after well-supported com-
plaints of wrongdoing, he was
appointed national security min-
ister. It took a Caribbean foot-
ball body to commission the
report from a Barbadian former
chief justice which eventually
forced him out of office.
Two years later, it took a US
federal court to indict him.
Chief Justice Ivor Archie said
clearly last week, that the Judi-
ciary is not wholly responsible
for the delays which plague the
criminal justice system. He has
repeatedly called for more
resources for the police, for the
DPP, for the legal aid service,
for defence attorneys, for the
forensic science centre. He
wants a whole new approach,
by-passing preliminary enquiries
and with a good, hard look at
the jury system.
He has made some progress.
New criminal procedure rules
are intended to cut down on
But right now, it's election
season. Any thoughts from the
politicians? Other than an artis-
tic (and uncosted) mock-up of a
"Floating Cultural Museum"
suspended above the Frederick
POLITICIANS TURNED OUR FAITH INTO FEAR
GUILTY TILL PROVEN INNOCENT?
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