Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 7th 2013 Contents For the last month or so, I have been telling my
friends that it was my view that T&T s political
system was in danger of being totally corrupted
by the circularity of money between the country s
contractors (also known as Trinidad s political
investors) and its politicians.
By that is meant that in this country, political parties get
elected based on the money that they receive from the political
Having been elected by donations made by political investors,
the party in power then ensures that a significant percentage
(perhaps the majority) of the contracts awarded by the T&T
Government and the state enterprises are received by those
The investors view the money they provide to run election
campaigns and "enhance" the lives of politicians as true invest-
ments: They make judgments on the cost of their capital, the
length of time it would take for their initial investment to be
returned to them and the amount of profit they would derive
from the transaction.
In other words, the investor has worked out in his mind
that if he gives Party A $10 million and that party wins the
general election, that he needs to receive contracts worth at
least $100 million during the five year election cycle of which
at least $20 million would be "profit" for the investor. By this
calculation, the investor would have made doubled his money
in the period from one election to the next.
This should not be construed as being an attack on any
political grouping in particular as it is clear that both sides
have indulged in this practise to the point of the corruption
becoming almost systemic and engrained.
Money is the umbilical cord that connects the investors
with the parties.
While it is true that every government in every democratic
country finds ways to reward their friends, there are not many
democracies in which the understanding between the parties
and the investors is as clear as it is here.
If I am correct, this explains why during every election cycle
since independence, every party in opposition demands that
the Government introduce procurement reform and make the
required adjustments to the country s campaign financing
It also explains why the parties that form the governments
that have been elected with the funds from the political
investors, always seem to make as if they are serious about
procurement reform and campaign financing, but never get
around to implementing those crucial changes in the country s
One of the reasons why former Prime Minister Patrick Man-
ning opted to go in the direction of government-to-government
arrangements may have been to cut the umbilical cord that
connects the investors and the parties. But there were problems
with foreign contractors as well, apparently.
It is also why Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar would
be able to redeem herself among the majority of T&T voters
who are sick and tired of the umbilical cord between political
parties and investors.
It may also improve her electability at the next general elec-
tions greatly if the Prime Minister were to ensure that when
next Parliament meets the much-promised procurement leg-
islation (which is currently before the Cabinet) is tabled and
debated as a national imperative. Campaign finance reform
laws should follow shortly.
A significant minority of people in this country have already
reached the conclusions above about T&T s politics and are
ready for a system in which the best contractor with the lowest
price always gets the contracts awarded by the State and there
is no quid pro quo about party donations.
Campaigns will have to be financed in some other way.
• Given the divided nature of T&T s politics, many of them
hedge their bets and give money to both campaigns. But some
investors go all in and for them the success of their party
becomes a matter of life or death.
If T&T s politics is seen through this lens of money going
to and from the State, the true nature of the contestation for
political office in this country becomes clearer.
Is TSTT a state enterprise?
On Monday, the Court Protocol & Information Unit of T&T s
Judiciary sent a letter to the Guardian complaining about two
"errors" that it claims were made in last week s column, which
were brought to my attention "given the potential impact on
future matters to be brought before the Courts."
The judicial letter pertains to the commentary entitled "Has
the Court of Appeal quashed the Integrity Act?" appearing
in this space in the Business Guardian s October 31 edition.
That commentary dealt with the Court of Appeal s ruling
on October 28 in a matter brought by a pensioner, Magdalene
Samaroo, who had brought a case under the Freedom of Infor-
In 2006, Ms Samaroo, whose attorney when the matter
was initially filed was one Anand Ramlogan, sought a copy
of a letter that was sent by the Integrity Commission to the
directors of TSTT informing them that they were not required
to give annual declarations of their incomes.
According to Newsday s Jada Loutoo, whose reportage of
the matter was depended upon as the story by the Guardian s
Derek Achong was not published: "Samaroo had on January
17, 2006, made an application under the provision of the Free-
dom of Information Act for a copy of the letter from the
Integrity Commission to the directors of the board of TSTT,
informing them that they were not required to give annual
declarations of their incomes. The woman, who made the
application under the Freedom of Information Act, contended
that the letters she requested, were sent to TSTT s board of
directors by the Integrity Commission."
There are several things worthy of noting about the paragraph
• The fact that it has taken nearly eight years for this matter
to reach the Court of Appeal;
• The fact that Ms Samaroo attempted to use the Freedom
of Information Act to get information from the Integrity Com-
• The fact that the information that Ms Samaroo requested
related to whether TSTT directors were required to file annual
declarations of their income with the Integrity Commission.
Put another way, nearly eight years ago, the lawyer who
now represents this country as its Attorney General, brought
a public interest case seeking to have the correspondence
between the Integrity Commission and TSTT made public
under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 2010, then High Court Judge Carlton Best ruled that
TSTT was a public authority because it met two criteria set
out in the Freedom of Information Act to be so considered:
that it was supported by government funds AND it was an
entity over which government was in a position to exercise
Two Mondays ago, the ruling of Justice Best (as he then
was) was set aside.
Is it a coincidence that TSTT and the Integrity Commission
were involved in the recent Freedom of Information Act and
that both TSTT and the Integrity Commission were also
involved in the case that the Court of Appeal delivered judgment
on in June this year.
In that case Justice of Appeal Gregory Smith decided that
TSTT was not a state enterprise because NEL, and not the
Government, holds the 51 per cent stake in the telecommu-
Following is the letter from the Judiciary:
Dear Mr Wilson,
Your kind assistance is sought in rectifying the matter below.
The article entitled "Has the Court of Appeal quashed the
Integrity Act?" appearing in the Business Guardian on Thursday
31st October, 2013 (p.BG 3) contains two errors which I wish
to bring to your attention given the potential impact on future
matters to be brought before the Courts.
In the second paragraph of the aforementioned article, the
writer stated: "This week s judgement determined that TSTT
was not subject to the Freedom of Information" Act. This
statement is not correct. The relevant case before the Court
of Appeal was compromised with the express reservation that
the Court was making no pronouncement on the issue as to
whether TSTT is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The Court of Appeal pointed out material differences between
the Integrity in Public Life Act and the Freedom of Information
Act and left the question as to whether TSTT was subject to
the Freedom of Information Act open for future argument
In the third paragraph of the Article the writer stated that:
"the Court of Appeal...confirmed the determination in June
that TSTT was not a state enterprise...." This is not an accurate
representation of the Court s determination. The Court of
Appeal accepted its earlier decision that for the purpose of
the Integrity in Public Life Act and because of the provisions
of that Act, TSTT was not a state enterprise to which that
Act would apply. The Court made no general finding that
TSTT was not a state enterprise for the purposes of any other
Act. Therefore the statement at paragraph 7 of the article that
"It seems clear, therefore, that for the purposes of the law,
TSTT is no longer a state enterprise" does not reflect the
finding of the Court of Appeal.
It is important to rectify these errors so as to correct any
erroneous impressions that the article may have engendered
in other present and potential litigants.
I would be grateful for your intervention in ensuring the
facts are accurately represented. I shall contact you to discuss
Sincerest thanks for your kind consideration.
Cassie Ann James
Senior Court Communication Officer
Court Protocol & Information Unit
The Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago
Hall of Justice.
Of umbilical cords and political investors
NOVEMBER 2013 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | PAGE BG3
Chief editor-business: ANTHONY WILSON
Editing and design: NATASHA SAIDWAN
Fax: (868) 623-2050 (Editorial)
Fax: (868) 623-2050 (Advertising)
22-24 St Vincent Street,
PO Box 122.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar
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