Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 10th 2014 Contents A26
letters on sunday
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt August 10, 2014
-Our strange axis of justice:
Crime and 'family' in T&T
The recent attention focused on the tragic death
of Dana Seetahal in the local media, academia and
general community has been heartening.
We know now that the T&T Police Service is not
cash strapped, overburdened or totally asleep (as
one is sometimes forced to consider) when it comes
to solving crime.
Rather, it may be a case of will---depending on the
individual victim involved, the possible perpetrators,
and the appetite of the general society to see (an at-
tempt at) justice.
Beyond this, it is possible that a fine distinction
exists between criminal behaviour conducted by the
family versus crimes committed by people bearing
no biological connection.
Closely linked to this desire to bring to justice the
perpetrators of serious crimes appears to be the rel-
ative or perceived weight of the suspects in such a
matter, and even the seriousness of the matter it-
self.Of course, we are all individually and collectively
shocked, saddened and outraged when a crime oc-
curs in Laventille, Morvant and the perceived de-
prived areas of society.
Those fearful of such occurrences then seek shel-
ter in "safer communities."
But in other cases, the response is far more
muted and unspoken. Such cases could involve mat-
ters which the judicial system has not, to date, con-
fronted in practice, or on any serious scale, such as
the crime of money laundering (despite the pur-
ported will to address the issue).
Other cases---in which silence and inertia by the
police and other actors become institutionalised---
appear to be crime within the family.
By this, I refer to the possibility of crime in the bio-
logical family. It appears that in such cases, a demar-
cation---both prosecutorial and psychological---is
drawn. The broader response to such behaviour
(when crime is commissioned or committed by the
biological members of a victim's family) is: "That is
The institutions of the State, police and the judi-
cial system then retreat or feel otherwise paralysed.
The legal fraternity and community would rather not
broach the topic or delve too deeply.
The psyche of the society seems to be too fragile
to consider the fact that "nice" people may be crimi-
There is greater readiness to associate criminal
activity with the more deprived sectors of the soci-
ety. When it appears to come from within other sec-
tors, there is little, if any, will to seek justice.
Put simply, the same conduct that constitutes se-
rious crime in legal terms appears to receive diver-
gent treatment in the country depending on this
highly irrelevant fact.
The police, with deep feelings of inequality and
unaccustomed to questioning "nice" people, become
overwhelmed, and the judicial system becomes a re-
flection of the wider society's silence.
The consequences of this are clearly broader. But
even in the most immediate sense, the implications
A substantial reward of three million dollars was
offered in the case of the death of Dana Seetahal.
Images proliferated the local newspapers of her
distraught relatives praying at church and of the visi-
ble sadness of the legal and wider community. But
their loss was not singular or different from the loss
of other people.
I am unclear why such resources and treatment
are available in one such case, while in others, the
issue is not even reported, and silence falls as people
and institutions remove themselves from any asso-
ciation with the matter.
Commiseration is de facto barred and the matter
left to die a natural death.
This forces me to reconsider the axis on which
justice is balanced in this country ... and the factors
that make a victim worthy of respect and considera-
tion by the judicial system.
Priya Nandita Pooran
Kelvin (last name not given) takes a bath at Mayaro Beach at a WASA distribution main to wash off after
a sea bath on Monday last. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
THE WASH OFF RITUAL
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Kindly e-mail them to:
Box drains are con-
tributing to flooding.
We are building box
drains all over, which
makes the water run
much faster to the
streams and rivers, caus-
ing major flooding and at
the same time stifling the
earth of much needed
water to replenish the
My suggestion is to
build box drains with per-
forated beds, so some
water can seep under-
neath. That will serve an-
other purpose---when it is
not raining, no water will
stagnate in the drains to
the Ministry of Planning
should not approve any
plans for houses that are
to be built above a certain
amount of feet above sea
level without a cistern to
trap the runoff water, to
maybe be used in the
non-rainy days and in the
The Explanatory Notes to the Con-
stitutional Amendment Bill state:
"The petition would need to (be) sup-
ported by at least two-thirds of all the
persons who, on the date of issuance
of the petition, were registered voters
in that constituency."
How does the percentage of vote
required for recall (say 67 per cent)
compare to the average of the percent-
age of votes cast in constituencies in
It would seem that if the numerical
translation of the former exceeds, or is
equivalent to, the numerical translation
of the latter, then the concept of the
right to recall is likely to be frustrated,
even where 99 per cent of the votes
cast in a recall were in favour of recall.
The notes to the bill further state:
"The Bill would amend section 73 of
the Constitution by preventing a can-
didate in a general election from being
elected as the member of the House of
Representatives for a constituency,
unless he obtains more than 50 per
cent of the votes cast in the con-
Why use different variables---"regis-
tered voters" (persons registered to
vote) and "votes cast"---to determine
the outcome of a recall and a run off?
Should not the same variable be used
in both instances?
Given that the right to recall could
only be triggered after the third year,
there will in effect be a one year win-
dow for recall since a by-election can-
not be held in the fifth year.
If, as is being argued, the proposal
for a runoff is necessary given the
proposal for the right to recall and also
to ensure that an elected MP receives
at least 50 per cent of the votes cast,
then why limit the right to recall to
only a one year window---and the
fourth year at that, given the costs,
possible delays in installing the new
government, and other hiccups that
are likely to be associated with a
Further, since 50 per cent of the
votes cast in a runoff will always
translate to less than 50 per cent of
the persons registered to vote in any
particular constituency, there can
clearly be an outcome where the suc-
cessful candidate in a runoff would
have received less than 50 per cent of
the registered voters in the same con-
stituency, and in that regard, would be
a minority MP, thus defeating the pur-
ported purpose of the runoff.
CONCERNS ABOUT RIGHT
TO RECALL AND RUNOFFS
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