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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Honouring Lloyd Best...

I still have no words of my own. I did not know him myself. I knew his brother Earl - languages teacher and sports aficionado at my Alma mater - but not at all well. But I do feel the sense of loss than others have felt, and know that the loss - personal, national and regional - is great.

The intimations that follow are not mine. I could not have said what needed to be said as well as those that knew him.
...herein lies Best’s greatness. Neither money, fame, nor position has lured him away from his original project: the attempt to understand our society better and his insistence that our condition does not result from inherent human wickedness but is the product of our historical experience. Sometimes Best places too much emphasis on objective conditions and leaves little or no room for the subjective—cultural, religious and/or sheer badmindedness—disposition of the players in our daily drama. Surely, one’s Hindu, Christian, or Islam belief shapes one’s conception of the world. This may be one area where Best’s idealism and glorification of objective circumstances (read historical conditions) trends to skew his interpretation of events.

Although he says “the honour is in the work”, Best remains one of the most auspicious members of the tribe. He is someone to whom we can never give ‘nuff respect.

Lloyd Best’ life functions can be interpreted to be all derivative of his core pre-occupations: dreamer and visionary. From this perspective Lloyd can be seen to have exploited his roles as economist, academic, lecturer, publicist and politician to give effect to this long cast of eye.

Both his core pre-occupations and functional roles deserve critical, dispassionate appraisal...

- Dennis Pantin, Lloyd Best as sportsman

Paying tribute to Lloyd is both easy and extremely difficult at the same time. Easy because there is an instantaneous outpouring based on an intense desire to say thanks in celebration of one who has enriched our space with his tireless endeavouring to disclose the possibility of a new world to us. A world which he insists must be created out of our own sweat out of our own blood and out of own tears, a world ‘crucibled’ in our own history and geography.

And yet, within this ease there is a nagging difficulty. A difficulty created by the sheer volume, originality, range and intensity of Lloyd’s works. A difficulty which dwarfs one’s own outpourings of thanks dwarfed even more so, that Lloyd is present to muse over the form and content of our tributes.

To say thanks in Lloyd’s presence thus demands a shift away from that which though important, can become mere entertainment, mere relating of one’s joys and sorrows as we delineate that which is instructive and exemplary in our cycling with Lloyd. One is thus forced to be either poetic or to strive, to effort at disclosure.

The thing about Lloyd Best is that one always knew that he was important, not important in the cocktail party sense, but important to the country. Lloyd is a man whose beliefs could never be compromised for the sake of a high sounding office or a tax-free car. Even people who do not know him personally are fully aware that he is important and good for the country.

- Martin Daly SC, Tribute to Lloyd Best

Among the intrigues of constantly shifting hemispheres of our space, there is arisen, a citizen of our highest, yet, elusive aspirations that wont to fashion our sphere in the likeness of monument and reflection as expressed by a well distinguished labour only, that can register it in its full, maturing height. He is arriving, just when the lure of the lost is being immanently secured and its gleeful proponents draw their blood-tipped pens to final rites and obituaries!

Those innocent indignations do not touch him though. How can they, when he fails to be, among them, a witness to his own funeral; rather, he participates in his dying no less than he is doing in his living transcendence! He will have no part in the fictitious existence in which his mission-like zeal to offer critical alternatives to out-dated paradigms has been an unrelenting resistance to being swallowed-up in the rhetorical flourish of political ruse. Lloyd Best is a gift deferred, a symbol of our own genius that is impossible to be absent; one that we love to punish, to ignore and eventually bury beyond our memory!

- LeRoy Clarke, A Sober Heroism

Lloyd Best and I entered Queen’s Royal College in the same class, 1A, in the same year, 1946. This immediate post-World War II period displayed the expected twin features of metropolitan authority and instinctive colonial allegiance. Minions in constitutional fetters, we would sing lustily of Britain as the Land of Hope and Glory, the Banner of the Free. The irony quite escaped most of us...

Alleyne, Amoroso, Best, Boxhill, Carr, Corbie, Dumas, Finigan, Hajal, Ince, the 1A names scrolled every morning alphabetically down to Solomon. Twenty-five of us. Competition was unrelenting. We drove one another, drove many out: only thirteen survived to the sixth form. Eight of those, Lloyd among them, won island scholarships.

Surprisingly, Lloyd had not for many years been perceived as among the academically best. Two things about him were already apparent, however (and the contemporary Caribbean will at once recognise that nothing has changed). One was self-confidence. The other, closely related, was unwillingness to accept without question practices taken as established or theories posited by the cognoscenti...

Lloyd [had not been well in his] days. But the weakness [was] physical. The self-confidence and optimism, thank God, [had] not dimmed. Nor [had] the eagerness to challenge received ideas and propose new ones. That above all is what for forty years he [had] consistently urged on this country and this region, and elsewhere, too: the indispensability of dispassionate analysis and thought and plan in the interest of societal progress.

It is only a pity that while we hasten to quote his observations and his maxims - “As Lloyd Best says” is one of our favourite phrases - so few of us, especially those who pass for politicians, actually heed his constant monitions, let alone reflect upon his proffered correctives.

-Reginald Dumas, A Remeniscence

[Lloyd Best] is the single most influential person in my intellectual development, in terms of philosophy, history, perspective, socio-economic reality of we West-Indians. I am sure that Lloyd Best was a prophet among us, who was way way ahead of his time. His philosophies, perspectives, teachings, ideology, are now beginning to achieve currency in wider society, and we haven’t yet begun to explore the implications of what he has taught (or at least what he has been saying) to us over the past 50years. I was blessed to have been taught by him at University, and will miss his weekly columns, and his editorials in The Review. I will miss the opportunities to see and hear his views on our political realities, economic realities, and social realities, as for me, he had the only cogent understanding of where we are at here, and where we need to go, and how we can get there. Condolences to his family, friends and supporters…

- Larry Olton, QRC Old Boy, via email

Monday, March 26, 2007

On the Celebration of the Abolition of the Slave Trade...

Now, I'm not against anybody for wanting to celebrate and commemorate the abolition of slavery or the granting of universal adult suffrage or any such thing.  Mayhap though we need to stop looking back in the way that we do in order to move forward.

While, yes, as Clive Harvey said in the service at Trinity Cathedral yesterday, people of colour are still considered to be commodities by many in the world today, perhaps we are our own worst enemies in that regard by holding so fast to the memory of historical victimisation.

I don't see the Germans or the British, for example, celebrating the fall of the Roman Empire and their resultant freedom.  Nor do I see the Americans making much much ado about their Puritanical roots and the journey over from Olde England.  I do see though grand American celebration at Thanksgiving of their first year of survival in the "New World".

Perhaps it is the attitude of gratitude making us choose to celebrate things given to us which feeds our culture of entitlement.  Other than for a few freedom fighters of colour, the abolition of the slave trade was something given, not something that the people as a whole won for themselves.  It was not the case, as in Haiti and to a lesser extent in Jamaica I think, that the people rose up and threw off the things that shackled them.

Perhaps instead of celebrating the "gift" of freedom, we should all reclaim Arrival Day as ours, and not accord it an East Indian thing only.  After all, the achievement is not the gift of freedom, but survival and growth having arrived no matter how we got here.

Perhaps we should do as the Jamaicans do and celebrate our heroes too.  Certainly, we can find the names of some brave Trinbagonian slave who was instrumental in or at least contributory to the freedom movement.

I'm just saying that even as we look back, maybe we can look back differently, if only to make sure that we don't continue to make victims of ourselves.  But that we look back with the firmly held assertion that an evil thing as Western-styled slavery will never happen to us or anyone again.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

TRINIDAD EXPRESS: "...Ramesh slams 'harassment' [of the Chief Justice]"

The Trinidad Express of Monday March 3rd carries an article which states, emphasis mine:
A civil rights association has slammed Prime Minister Patrick Manning's decision to have Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma impeached a second time as harassment and oppressive.

In a statement last Saturday, the T&T Civil Rights Association said it had reported the matter to the International Commission of Jurists and the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, asking for their intervention.

The statement was prepared by the association's chairman, former United National Congress attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.

In a July 2006 article on this blog, apart from directing readers to an excellent piece by Raffique Shah and an address made by Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe, information on the website of the very International Commission of Jurists to which the former AG refers was highlighted.

Dated August 27th, 2002 and captioned "Attacks on Justice 2002 - Trinidad and Tobago", there were a few interesting few paragraphs under the sub-caption, "Conflicts between the Government and the judiciary", and I strongly recommended reading again, particularly given the fact that the article refers to attempts by the then Attorney General to legislate away the independence of the Judiciary between 1999 and 2001.

It is to be noted too that the CIJL is a sub-body of the ICJ, and not a separate organisation.

Despite the former AG's assertions though, research suggests that there was not a first impeachment. Indeed, current moves by the Prime Minister are but a continuation of the process that began in January of 2005, more than two years ago.

Impeachment proceeedings had been pre-empted by CJ Sharma's legal team in early 2005. This action effectively blocked Prime Minister Patrick Manning from approaching President G.M. Richard to advise him, under section 137 of the Constitution, to commence investigations into allegations of misconduct on the part of the Chief Justice. Trinidad Guardian article dated April 14th, 2005 under caption "President holds key to CJ’s fate" tell the tale.

This was corroborated by a lengthy television statement made by Attorney General John Jeremie in July 2006. Up to that time, more than a year later, the proceedings filed by the CJ had not completed hearing. As such, despite the fact that several judges had made allegations of misconduct against CJ in January of 2005 and that further and multiple allegations continued to surface since that time, most notable being alleged interference in the matter of The Police vs. Basdeo Panday, the CJ continued to hold office and command of the Judiciary.

It was on the basis of the allegation made by the Chief Magistrate in the case of The Police vs. Basdeo Panday though that the Attorney General, according to his address,
...wrote separately to the Director of Public Prosecutions and to the Commissioner of Police. In [his] letter to the Commissioner of Police, [he] requested that the police take steps to investigate the matter of the allegations made against the Chief Justice, as well as the allegations made by the Chief Justice against the Chief Magistrate, the Attorney General and all other citizens mentioned in his complaint.
It was out of these investigations, he went onto state, that decision was taken to lay charges against the man Satnarine Sharma, the sitting Chief Justice, for attempting to pervert the course of public justice.

Subsequent to this, the CJ's legal team withdrew their main legal challenge to impeachment proceedings in September 2006.

On November 30th, 2006, following much legal wrangling, the Privy Council ruled against Satnarine Sharma in his attempts to block the criminal proceedings and he handed himself over to the Police. The man Satnarine Sharma came then to begin facing his criminal charge before Senior Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim in the Port of Spain Magistrates Court on February 26, 2007.

According to today's press, criminal charges have been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions, clearing the way for the resumption of impeachment proceedings against the CJ.

It is not honest then to state that the Prime Minister was going after the CJ for a second time. Further, to state that pursuing impeachment under section 137 of the Consitution is "harassment and oppressive" is similar disingenuous because those proceedings never ended. They were stalled. In actuality, as the Express states in its article on the dropping of the criminal charges, legal sources indicate that:
...it was oppressive and an abuse of process to pursue two separate actions against the Chief Justice based on the same allegations and a decision had to be made on which matter would take priority.
Thus one matter - notably the one where CJ Sharma would not have to face jail time - has taken precedence over the other.

The former AG's allegation in the Express article that, "The decision of the Prime Minister [to proceed with impeachment] amounts to oppression in law and constitutes an abuse of power by the Prime Minister" is further refuted by Justice Carlton Best. Following a hearing of last objections to impeachment proceedings by Sharma's legal team, he stated:
It seems that no other person under the Constitution, but the Prime Minister, can initiate this. If the Prime Minister is ill, somebody else will do it. If he is away, somebody else will do it. This is nothing personal with the Prime Minister, it has to do with the office of the Prime Minister.
According to the Newsday article, Justice Best found that, "Manning was the only person with authority under section 137 (3) of the Constitution to take action against the Chief Justice. "

One must be careful to note at this stage, more than two years later, that despite multiple allegations made by several judges and legal professionals, the Chief Justice might have continued to sit with impunity over the Judiciary.

That all moves against him were challenged suggests that his intent was to remain in office despite any and all allegations made against him, and despite the provisions of the Constitution with respect to the investigation of allegations of misconduct.

That the Court of Appeal and Privy Council gave way to arrest Sharma suggests that submissions made to them showed that there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge. It is to be noted that the criminal charge covered only one case of interference in the course of justice. Other allegations made by judges and lawyers were not considered in this singular matter.

In these circumstances, that the State has seen it fit to drop criminal charges to permit the continuance of impeachment proceedings should be considered gracious.

Despite the years-long debacle over Chief Justice Sharma's alleged misconduct, the article referred to above remains to date the only article on the ICJ website relative to Trinidad and Tobago's Justice system.

Given the length of time that the case of Satnarine Sharma has been in the public space, that the ICJ has seeming ignored the machinations of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago since 2002 is indeed telling, and suggests that there may be no reason for concern, nor that any unsubstantiated old talk on the matter need be taken seriously.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

SUNDAY EXPRESS: The chimera of opposition unity

In "The chimera of opposition unity", Professor Selwyn Ryan presents a very interesting study of Trinbagonian electoral history and on Winston Dookeran's next moves toward General Elections in Trinidad and Tobago. This is a must-read.

SUNDAY EXPRESS: 'Too long to treat hurt cop'

In Ruth Osmon's Sunday Express article, 'Too long to treat hurt Cop', she reports on the case of a special reserve police officer who was injured in a vehicular clash on Friday night but who was not treated or seen by a doctor until Saturday afternoon. This was even though the injuries described by the doctor that the Express met with her on Saturday evening could be deemed serious. While another newspaper reports that emergency surgery was carried out in order to save one of the officer's eyes, the woman's relatives relate a different story.

According to the Express article, the officer arrived at the hospital at around 11:00PM on Friday, but no doctor had come to see her as late as 2:00PM on Saturday afternoon. The officer's relatives and friends indicated that it was only after they made contact with the Minister of Health that doctors appeared to get into action.

It is a sad, sad condemnation of the health sector that the Minister has to get involved in operational affairs and individual cases in order for persons to receive attention. This is a situation analogous to the CEO of the Neal and Massy Group having to get someone to clean up a spill in the aisle of a Hi-Lo outlet. Situations like this speak volumes about the very medical "professionals" who are clamour for improvements in salary and, as an aside, infrastructure.

While I am not about to paint all doctors and medical administrators with a broad brush, it does appear that there are a few in the system more concerned with money and malpractice indemnification than they are about their patients. The system, it seems, is sick and infected with persons who are not interested in doing the jobs that they were hired to do.

Perhaps this is why the Minister has sought assistance from socialist Cuba, a country where the individual is more concerned with the good of the society than they are with themselves. With the Cuban doctors' and specialists' influence, perhaps the Minister hopes that the Trinbagonian medical system can be "infected" with the required degree of professionalism, if the local medics can actually be shamed into doing their jobs by the presence of the foreigners. Perhaps this can help in the interim, even as calls are made to change the manner in which the medical profession is administered locally. [Read to the end of the article on changes to the British General Medical Council.]

That said, we are all concerned about the state of the health sector. But while we hold the Health Minister up for responsibility as chief administrator of the system, let's remember to hold the people who are supposed to be delivering the service to the same standard. And when people come clamouring for more money, ask them what they did today to deserve it.

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