Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 16th 2015 Contents Three weeks before a general
election in T&T and apart
from generalised platitudi-
nous manifestos that can be
written by a secondary school
student from both parties, we
seem to have all shut our eyes,
tight. Unlike proper functioning
the leaders of the two parties
have yet to have a public-tele-
vised debate on television.
Am I missing something or are
we frozen? Has the leader of
either major contesting party
used any of these facts as a
premise to take us forward?
• T&T continues to rank in the
top ten for homicides per capita
around the world. This is accord-
ing to the United Nations Infor-
mation Service with data com-
piled by the OAS.
• A majority of the murders
are committed by young men
who obtain guns by illicit means.
Who is supplying the guns?
• We remain a transshipment
point for the drug trade. In this
tiny oil-rich island why have we
made no inroads into drug traf-
• The recent jailbreaks show
the protective services remain
riddled with corruption. As a
nation we are not surprised
because we haven t been able to
tell police from thief for a long
time, maybe since the attempted
coup of 1990. We get bluster
from the top. Who will take this
bull by the horns?
• The 2014 Corruption Percep-
tions Index showed that on a
scale of zero to 100 (with 100
being a corruption-free society
and zero a corrupt society), T&T
scored 38 points.
We know that the alleged cor-
ruption---millions of taxpayers
dollars missing from the Life
Sport Programme, resulting in
the resignation of the sports
minister, is not an aberration but
a symptom of everyday gover-
nance. What came of that?
Nothing. We just happened to
catch that one. Millions have
gone down the drain on projects
in front of our credulous eyes.
There is so much we don t
know! Smart men get away. That
debacle showed us yet again that
there are few or no systems for
accountability for taxpayers
money. The rail idea from both
parties is perceived as another
way for politicians to line their
pockets especially as the problem
can be solved easily by creating
more parking and a more-effec-
tive bus service.
In 2012, a US Department of
State wrote: "Foreign investors
have complained about a lack of
transparency and delays in the
investment approval process.
Complaints focus on a perceived
lack of delineation of authority
for final investment approvals
among the various ministries and
agencies that may be involved in
Some projects have been
delayed for several years and
some prospective investors have
abandoned Trinidad and Tobago
as a result." What about the ones
who do invest here, do we need
to scrutinise them?
Who can be more vulnerable
than the sick, the poor, and the
ones in the lowest rungs of the
social order who also happen to
be the least educated? They have
no voice. The scurrying of cock-
roaches and an occasional rat in
our public hospitals make no
noise. The fact that NGOs like
Vitas House cannot access vital
drugs for cancer patients from
the Health Minister, and that
there are VIP wings simply for
government officials to have
pompous meetings is just another
symptom of a system that needs
I don t know where the oil
money is going but its not going
into equipment, training nurses
and attendants, paying doctors
properly, or creating an account-
able system. We have among the
highest rates of cancer, hyperten-
sion, heart disease and hyperten-
sion in the world with no pre-
ventative health care plan in
There is too much emphasis on
hot air like laptops and tablets,
which are meaningless to children
without teachers. The fact is that
over 400,000 of us are function-
ally illiterate. The functionally
illiterate came out of a primary
and secondary school system that
is desperately short on qualified
teachers. Is there a teachers
training programme? Why do
dozens of schools lack permanent
principals? The lack of a decent
education impacts on EVERY-
THING. It leads to the cycle we
live in---delinquency amongst the
youth, poverty, illness and crime.
It deprives our country of human
resources and sustainable devel-
opment. Teachers should be paid
as much or more than doctors.
We don t need more schools. We
need quality teaching.
The lack of education means
the Government has created a
dependent, ill-equipped popula-
tion which will quickly slide into
anarchy and more crime once the
money dries up---and it will---
once the oil price has plummet-
ed. The make-work programmes
cut into a significant slice of the
GDP. They are chaotic and in the
hands of gangs.
It gobbles a huge unmet
demand for employment in
tourism, in construction, in
almost every industry in T&T. If
this fund is formalised into an
unemployment benefit, it will
allow people to apply for jobs
and train to work. We need to
take care of our vulnerable, but
The oil price has fallen from
about US$100 US dollars a barrel
to about US$48 dollars a barrel.
Gas prices have also fallen. The
drop in income affect our ability
to keep paying for the make-
work programmes and if left
unmanaged, could plunge us into
Can we ditch the blandish-
ments and demand a serious
campaign? Or are we going to
vote for "eat ah food" and race?
Zero tolerance? Forget it. As
a slogan, it has a retro
feel. And it won t work
with T&T s statute books.
There s a maximum sentence
of five years in jail for a ganja
spliff. Even with the wriggle-
room currently applied, the
ganja laws throw a huge chunk
of our population into conflict
with the law.
If drug laws are to be
enforced with zero tolerance in
Westmoorings and in Laven-
tille, we ll need some serious
OK, so just fines, then?
There s a $25,000 maximum.
That might solve the fiscal
problems stemming from last
week s US$42 oil price.
Even thousand-dollar fines
and overnight jail stays for
those without bail breed con-
flict and resentment.
Then there s the buggery law.
That one carries a 25-year jail
There s 30 days in jail or a
$200 fine for "insulting,
annoying or violent language." I
love that "annoying" bit...five
minutes on Facebook in elec-
tion season and we can all find
a good few candidates for a
month in the lock-up.
There s a $400 fine for "lewd
or suggestive dancing."
In March, Maurice Tomlin-
son s challenge to the antiquat-
ed Immigration Act reached the
Caribbean Court of Justice.
Quick reminder: homosexuals
are banned from these shores,
along with "idiots," people with
dementia and the dumb, blind
and physically handicapped.
Acting Chief Immigration
Officer Terry Downes told the
court that the law is not
enforced: "We do not enquire
about the sexual orientation of
a person," he said.
So does that solemn under-
taking get thrown into reverse
if we suddenly go for zero tol-
With a bunch of crazy, out-
dated laws still on the statute
books, the only way is toler-
ance and non-enforcement. Or
else we can do some reform,
and stop letting Pastor Cuffie
dictate social policy to the
That s probably not what Eric
Williams had in mind when he
said: "I have given to the
nation as its watch words Dis-
cipline, Production, Tolerance."
But it makes sense.
Anyone know a business
operating in a residential area
without planning permission?
Any squatters? Or wads of
cash passed round the Hyatt in
Zero tolerance imposes an
automatic punishment for
those who break the rules,
without regard to discretion or
This concept dates back to
the early 1970s. It ties in to the
"broken windows" crime theo-
ry: "Consider a building with a
few broken windows. If the
windows are not repaired, the
tendency is for vandals to
break a few more windows."
That is not complete non-
sense. But it s not a one-dish
Rudy Giuliani and his police
commissioner Bernard Kerik are
sometimes credited with using
zero tolerance to bring down
the New York crime rate from
Oddly, the crime rate was
coming down before Giuliani
took office, and declined at
pretty much the same rate in a
lot of other American cities
where Rudy Giuliani wasn t
mayor and Bernard Kerik
wasn t top cop. They did some
good stuff, and some less good.
So did their colleagues, succes-
sors and predecessors.
But as a sales pitch, "zero
tolerance" was magic. In 2004,
George Bush appointed Kerik
interim interior minister of Iraq
in 2003, and nominated him
next year to head the Depart-
ment of Homeland Security.
Guyana s former president
Bharrat Jagdeo and our own
Jack Warner (then in opposi-
tion) flew in Mr Kerik in 2007
to tell everyone how to solve
the crime problem.
In 2009, Kerik took a four-
year prison sentence for crimi-
nal conspiracy, tax fraud, and
lying under oath; a nice bit of
Across the Caribbean, murder
rates are among the highest in
Bringing violent crime under
control requires carefully-man-
aged reforms for the police,
judiciary, prisons and social
services, with administrative
follow-through. And that s just
Bahamas, Belize or Barba-
dos---the problems are similar.
This current government
came to office in 2010 on a
wave of optimism. Over the
past five years, the average
monthly murder rate has been
slightly higher than under
Patrick Manning---although, to
be fair, it has been below that
of Patrick s worst years, 2008
There s no easy answer, on
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt August 16, 2015
VOTING FOR 'EAT AH FOOD' AND RACE?
THE TROUBLE WITH 'ZERO TOLERANCE'
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