Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2013 Contents A27
October 27, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
"Humanity must perforce prey
on itself. Like monsters of the deep."
Coincidentally, I hear two similar
stories on the same day from
India and Trinidad.
The first, a news report from the
Times of India: In a backward village
in India (there are 600,000 villages
in India) a man attempted to molest
a young girl. Her parents demanded
justice at the panchayat (local self-
government). It was decided by the
villagers that his punishment would
be licking their spit off the ground.
The villagers spat on the ground.
The man was forced to lick this spit.
That night he committed suicide,
unable to deal with the humiliation.
The other, a story from a police-
woman: A woman from Chaguanas
is brutalised by her husband. She
has a black eye from being bashed
in the head. He hammers her and
then urinates on her. The woman
wanders somewhere in Trinidad,
The next day this happens to me:
A woman driver appears from a
side street and hits my bumper hard.
My car gets a scratch. I am shaken
up but not damaged otherwise. She s
a bank worker in some kind of well-
pressed uniform. Not management.
Thirtyish. Long hair tied up in a
ponytail. Boxy frame. Not from Port-
of-Spain. Nasal voice. Brown skin.
We eye one another warily. I check
my car. There s a scratch.
I say to her: "It s fine. It s a scratch.
Let s forget about the police station.
I ll handle it. I am shaken. Just say
sorry, and let s be on our way."
She refuses to apologise---"I am
not saying sorry"---even while she
walks off, jumps in her car and drives
off; I stare disbelievingly.
Asking her to say sorry was like
slapping her in the face.
The stony set of her face reminded
me of many such moments. People
actually flinch when asked to say
"Please," "Thank you" and "Sorry."
As if they are being abused. Between
the damage of arrival and the fat off
the oil boom, the words humility
and humiliation became inter-
changable. So saying "please" feels
like begging. "Sorry" feels like self-
immolation. "Thank you" is about
feeling beholden. The words don t
equate with empathy, gratitude or
I have to remind myself why I live
here. We live amidst perpetual sun-
shine, rapacious laughter, an Eden
of green, endless childish diversions:
a string of public holidays, Christ-
mas, Carnival, cricket. We are at
heart, a hugely talented, a deeply
damaged people not given to intro-
We are intuitively democratic---
tolerant over religion, political alle-
giances, race, colour, size. We are
Zen-like, innately peaceful. The daily
murders have more to do with the
temper tantrums of entitlement than
a studied hate crime. The woman
with the poom poom shorts and
hijab sit side by side at a concert
We are that.
Then there is the elephant in the
Outsiders observe primarily that
we find the idea of service humil-
iating (we fail to see the link between
good business and service); that our
people (when not partying) are gen-
erally angry; that obese and ill, we
have turned towards ourselves.
Foreigners find us fascinating:
• Why are traffic laws not enforced?
• Why are some 40 per cent of you
still functionally illiterate?
• Why is there no confidence in
public health institutions?
• Why is the judicial system so slow?
• Why don t the police enforce laws?
• Why don t you recycle?
• Why are your obesity figures
among the highest in the world?
• Who brings in the drugs and guns
and puts them in the hands of the
• Why don t people keep their word,
• Why do you not have building
codes despite the fact that you are
at risk of hurricanes and earth-
• Why in such a rich country with
free tertiary education do so few of
you, proportionately, attend univer-
• Why do you not have a proper
• Why do you only have statues of
entertainers around your city?
• Why don t more people read?
• Why don t things run on time?
• Why isn t there a proper plan to
fix roads (other than texting a min-
ister when there is a problem)?
• Why is there no accountability
across the board?
And finally, the most cringe-worthy
• Why are people in this country so
easily diverted from the real ques-
tions by the spectacle of costumed
politicians who are clearly in the
middle of a feeding frenzy?
Coming back to the woman from
Chaguanas whose husband urinated
on her, the man in India who com-
mitted suicide after licking the spit
of the villagers and the woman who
would rather die than say sorry: It s
a treble analogy for the state of our
country. The first is: we are a
wounded, humiliated people, uri-
nated on by indentureship and slav-
ery. The second is: our wounds,
combined with loss of Old World
civility and easy oil money, have
made us simultaneously arrogant,
insecure and ignorant of the fact
that humility is a sign of great eco-
And finally: we, the people,
who have been made to lick the
spit of politicians for some 50
years, are so rigid with anger and
humiliation that we have shut
That s why men feel it s noth-
ing to urinate on a woman
they ve beaten up. And that s
why women find it impossible to
say sorry when they are wrong.
ACaricom passport opens
doors. Three weeks ago,
the Caribbean Court of Justice
ruled that Barbados was wrong
to refuse entry to Shanique
Myrie. As a Jamaican, she had a
right to "definite entry" for six
months. She could be turned
back only for "a genuine, pres-
ent and sufficiently serious
threat affecting one of the fun-
damental interests of society."
Last month, the Honduran
embassy in Taiwan was shown a
Belize passport. It smelt some-
thing fishy. The passport was in
the name of Kim Won-Hong, a
South Korean then in a Tai-
wanese prison, resisting extradi-
tion to his own country on
large-scale fraud charges.
"Citizen Kim" was arrested on
July 30. He got his Belize pass-
port on September 9, through
means unknown. He hoped it
would get him out of jail and
into Central America. No dice:
he was sent to Korea on Sep-
Belize s Prime Minister Dean
Barrow acted fast. The first most
Belizeans knew of the scandal
was on September 19, when
Barrow fired his junior immigra-
tion minister, Elvin Penner; he
had not shown "scrupulous
regard for appearances."
Dead right. The applicant s
photograph is supposed to be
taken by the passport office; it
is hard to see how that could
have happened, if Mr Kim spent
August and September in a Tai-
wanese prison. The required fin-
gerprint record is missing.
Elvin Penner personally signed
Kim s passport picture and
application form on September
3. He stated that he had known
Kim for three years. His signa-
ture is on a nationality certifi-
cate signed on September 9---a
week after the application it
supports---but backdated by peo-
ple unknown, to April 22.
Penner says he was the victim
of a bold-faced identity fraud.
He tried to help a Korean he
had known for years through
business trips. He "personally
went with him to the passport
office," but admits a "major
Elvin Penner is one of Belize s
11,000-strong Mennonite minor-
ity, fundamentalist Christians of
mainly German origin who
migrated to Belize from the
1950s. Indeed, he was the first
Mennonite elected to Parliament.
Belizean scandals are equal
Penner came under fire before
last year s general election for
supporting mass naturalisation
of Hispanic migrants. He said:
"We want to get our voters in. I
won t deny any at all. I am right
now digging myself into a hole."
Barrow said this month: "If
there is one thing that can and
will bring down this government
it is hustling in immigration...I
have said pretty much every
second Cabinet, if you are doing
so...for God sake stop it, stop
it!"Penner has put Barrow in a
tight spot. Belize allows voters to
recall their representatives and
force a by-election. Dean Bar-
row s United Democratic Party
has just 17 seats, to 14 for the
opposition People s United Party.
If they lose one, that makes it
First step in a recall is to col-
lect signatures from 30 per cent
of the voters. In Penner s seat,
the magic number is 1,755. Pen-
ner s opponents hit that target
Barrow initially said Penner
deserved a "second chance" and
opposed the recall campaign.
Then two weeks ago, he dumped
So, how did "Citizen Kim" get
his passport? A low profile
immigration ministry investiga-
tion is in progress. The director
of public prosecutions says that
the police are best placed to
investigate. But police commis-
sioner Allen Whyllie stonewalls:
"No complaint has been made
The substantive immigration
minister Godwin Hulse says
passport procedures are "water-
tight." But something went
Says Hulse: "There are those
who believe that the Belizean
nationality and passport is a
commodity to be traded on the
open market." He now plans yet
more watertight procedures. And
he wants penalties for cheating
raised from US$250 to
US$25,000, with up to 15 years
It has been clear for years that
Belize s immigration system
needs root and branch reform.
There are reports of a "visa hus-
tle" for Chinese who want a
stepping stone to the US, run
through the Belizean embassy in
Havana. Sri Lankans, Somalis,
Nepalis and Nigerians have been
found with unauthorised Belize
A year ago, an alleged Hezbol-
lah member, Rafik Allaboun, was
held in Mexico. Besides his US
and Lebanese citizenship, he had
picked up a Belizean identity in
48 hours flat. He held a birth
certificate, social security num-
ber, passport and driver s licence
in the name of Wilhelm Dyck, a
Mennonite baby who died in
1976 at just two months old.
Belize ran an official pass-
ports-for-sale programme until
2002. Some purchasers were
solid. The top-placed "Belizean"
on the Forbes rich list is Huang
Maoru, who lives in China and
runs a retail business worth
US$1.8 billion--more than his
adoptive country s GDP. Less
happily, a Mexican drug baron
arrested in October 2001 with
1.5 tonnes of cocaine had bought
a Belize passport just a week
St Kitts-Nevis, Dominica,
Antigua and Grenada now sell
passports through "economic
citizenship programmes." Prices
start around US$100,000. And
they too doubtless have a
"watertight" system of controls
to keep out undesirables.
CARICOM'S DEVALUED PASSPORTS
'LICKING THE SPIT OF POLITICIANS'
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