Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 3rd 2013 Contents A27
November 3, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
"Go, go, go, said the bird:
Cannot bear very much reali-
---TS Eliot, Burnt Norton
You have to love Trinidad,
yes. Take my friend X.
There he was, walking down the
road in downtown Port-of-Spain.
He sees a man who looks
unkempt, homeless, and obvious-
ly at risk of disease, crime and/or
To his surprise, the man hails
him out loudly. "Mr X!"
He recognises the man as
someone he used to know 20
years ago. He is shocked at the
change in him. Nevertheless, he
asks, "Eh, how are you?"
Without blinking an eye, the
man looks my friend in the eye
and says: "I okay."
X understands, closes the
exchange with, "Cool."
The men walk on. Pride is pre-
served, a level of democracy is
observed. But reality remains
unacknowledged in the open.
Behind closed doors, among
women, in salons, lulled with
music, with the intimacy of
being pampered by another
woman, talk flourishes. My
masseuse, a clever woman from
East Dry River who owns her
own home and car at 35, spent
the full hour giving me her take
She told me an MP visited East
Dry River, Port-of-Spain, before
the local government elections
with an entourage of four Prados
and two SUVs, promising food
cards. She asked one of the driv-
ers whether the Prime Minister
was there, and if not, why her
tax money was being spent on so
much security and vehicles when
sick, old people in this country
have to hustle for transport?
The driver shrugged. He was
She told me: "They think we are
stupid. That we can be bought for
a few T-shirts and food cards and
make-work, Carnival and ten-days.
If they wanted to help, they would
build a day care centre where chil-
dren are supervised after work, or
an adult literacy school or a health
centre that works."
Her grandmother, 86, after having
suffered a heart attack, had to sit in
casualty on a hard chair with other
sick people for five hours before
being seen by a doctor.
We agree that we endure ridiculous
waste of our tax money. (This is not
including the alleged reports of the
current feeding frenzy, nepotism,
and the millions being siphoned off
from Government "projects.") But
the waste is glaring---like a respected
political analyst being paid some
millions by the Government to pon-
der young men and crime. The man
on the street could do that report
for free. It s big money---bringing in
drugs and guns to our transshipment
islands using young men as pawns.
Who is responsible? Big business,
government members or the armed
forces? We can only surmise. It s an
open complicity. If we ask too many
questions, we could get killed. So
let s shut up.
It s illiteracy plus make-work
(the budget for dependency pro-
grammes swells each year) plus
deadbeat fathers plus zero work
ethic thanks to generations of
handouts, plus lack of infrastruc-
ture and opportunities. We have
to hand it to the Government,
though: the commissioning of the
study was a glib sidestepping of
the "problem" of the young man,
while paying somebody thor-
oughly equipped to write about
him to "study" the problem.
We had fun, too, in that darkened
room: the masseuse and I coined
multimillion studies of our own,
such as: "Why Political Power Swells
Heads and Stomach Simultaneously"
and "Why People Who Don t Know
The Difference between Loose and
Lose Tend To Be Political Syco-
The masseuse finished our session
with a crack to my neck, saying:
"We are not as stupid as they think.
We see through them."
What is pathetic is how jaded
we are, how cowed by power,
fearful of an ever-present menace
of loss of life, livelihood or status
if we speak up. We should be:
the Government is the largest
• We accept we have one of the
highest rates of murder in a non-
• We accept opaque procure-
ment arrangements. We are
falling on the international trans-
• We accept being a transshipment
point for drugs.
• We accept that our overflow-
ing dumps do not qualify to be
called landfills because of the
toxic waste from burning plastic
and chemicals being absorbed
into our soil and our water, con-
tributing to cancer (this amazes
me: how a tiny island like Barba-
dos, with only some sun and
sand, recycles up to 80 per cent
of its waste, yet we recycle noth-
• We accept rubbish underfi-
nanced public health care institu-
tions---overrun with rats, cockroach-
es, having a skeleton staff, with obese
nurses who have no concept of
nutrition, machines selling junk
snacks and drinks, inadequate equip-
ment and beds, and poorly paid doc-
tors...and apart from the sprawling
white elephant in Mt Hope, we will
be spending millions on ANOTHER
hospital in Penal?
• We accept the crime: the slew
of high-profile rapes flagged on var-
ious embassy Web sites (forget mur-
ders for now, forget that women in
depressed areas get raped routinely
• We accept up to 400,000 func-
tionally illiterate adults among us.
• We accept the depth of the
rot that requires more leadership,
less posturing and fewer guns.
Now I am convinced that we have
more reality than we can bear, thank
you very much, and if the vagrant
on the street is "ok," then, "cool."
Is it OK for journalists to break
the law? Yes, if there s a clear
public interest at stake, said Eng-
land s Director of Public Prosecu-
tions Kier Starmer this month.
He told The Guardian (the British
paper, not ours) that it "would be
very unhealthy if you had a situation
where a journalist felt that they
needed to go to their lawyer before
they pursued any lead or asked any
Does that count for anything
here? Starmer s writ did not extend
even to Scotland, still less to the
Caribbean. But he s a bright and
energetic guy who had an influential
job. England shares its common-
law legal principles with the
Caribbean. The judges who sit on
the Privy Council are familiar with
his ideas. His views are worth a
thought. Or two.
Who is Kier Starmer? In England,
legal celebs are vanishingly few. He
worked for years as a defence lawyer,
often on human rights issues. He
dealt with Caribbean death penalty
cases, and the conduct of British
soldiers in Iraq. He was here in TT
in 2011, meeting the chief justice,
attorney general, DPP and justice
Starmer also worked on the ten-
year McLibel case, where McDon-
ald s (yes, those of the Happy Meal)
sued two low-income environmen-
talists over a campaign leaflet. The
pair won their point. The European
human rights court gave a £57,000
ruling against the British govern-
ment, on free-speech and fair-trial
Starmer begins his guidelines with
the words: "Freedom of expression
and the right to receive and impart
information are recognised and pro-
tected both under the common law
and by the Human Rights Act 1998."
The common law system extends
to the Caribbean. The UK Human
Right s Act obviously does not---but
unlike Britain, Caribbean countries
have a written constitutions which
guarantee free speech.
Any restriction on press freedom,
he says, must be "necessary" and
"proportionate." He says "neither
journalists nor those who interact
with them are afforded special status
under the criminal law." There are
plenty of crimes a persistent inves-
tigative journalist might be charged
with; bribery, computer misuse,
fraud, theft, and offences under the
Data Protection or Official Secrets
So, should journalists be prose-
cuted? Starmer sets out a two-step
Has an offence has been com-
mitted? And is there enough evi-
dence for a conviction?
Was the journalist investigating
an issue of public interest? And if
so, did the aims of the journalist
outweigh the overall criminality.
The key words are "public inter-
est." That is not the same as "what
the public finds interesting."
Last week, a bunch of high-profile
British journalists did in fact face
the courts. Best-known is the flam-
boyantly red-haired Rebekah Brooks,
former editor of Rupert Murdoch s
defunct News of the World and big-
selling Sun, and once a close per-
sonal friend of Britain s prime min-
ister, David Cameron.
She is on trial with seven others,
including the News of the World s
former head of news and its former
managing editor. Charges, which
they deny, centre on widely-report-
ed phone hacking, and an alleged
cover-up conspiracy. Three former
news editors also have pleaded guilty
to phone hacking.
In one incident, an investigator
working for the News of the World
in 2002 hacked and deleted phone
messages of a missing 13-year-old,
Milly Dowler. This was obviously
against the public interest---relatives
and police were led wrongly to
believe that Milly was still alive.
Rebekah and her co-defendants
have little public sympathy. A satir-
ical magazine, Private Eye, featured
her on its Halloween cover. "A joke
in especially bad taste," said the
By contrast, "public interest"
would apply where a journalist
uncovers a crime, or a miscarriage
of justice, or "significant unethical
conduct and significant incompe-
tence," where journalism contributes
to public debate, or exposes a cover-
up.There is plenty of room for public
interest investigation in the
Caribbean, and elsewhere. Journal-
ists need to work with---and pro-
tect---unofficial sources, and some-
times illegal ones.
Rebekah and her crew are not the
only ones under scrutiny. Also last
week, David Cameron warned
newspapers to show "responsibility"
in reporting leaks about the security
services. If they don t, then "it
would be very difficult for govern-
ment to stand back and not to act."
Translation: Keep quiet, or we get
Cameron s comments came after
media reports, based on leaked
information, that the US had bugged
the phone of Germany s massively
respected head of government,
Angela Merkel, and was tracking a
big fat cable-load of lesser mor-
tals---60 million calls a month in
Spain alone at one point last year.
Bugging Merkel s phone was ask-
ing for trouble; there s no way it
could have helped fight terrorism.
Incidents like that make it harder
to protest about Chinese or Russian
state snooping. Starmer argues for
a review of legislation governing the
security services, while Cameron s
business minister Vince Cable says
The Guardian was "entirely correct
and right" to publish leaks about
Appointed to his present job just
five years ago, Starmer stepped
down at the end of October. At 51,
he is well short of retirement age.
'MORE REALITY THAN WE CAN BEAR'
SHOULD JOURNALISTS BREAK THE LAW?
Links Archive November 2nd 2013 November 4th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page