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Leave no big stone unturned

Sunday, June 9, 2013

At the end of the police investigation into these dreadful e-mail allegations raised by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, I, and many others, suspect we will be no closer to the truth. At the end of it, we will be back to that uncertain, ignorant and hopeless place where we will have to say, in the absence of scientific evidence, whether we believe the e-mails are real or not.


Of course, the sure way of avoiding that outcome is to import independent, reputable experts whose findings the majority in the society will trust. I would have thought that the personalities involved—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and super minister Suruj Rambachan—would be only too enthusiastic to clear the way for independent expertise which, after all, will remove all doubt with studied, scientific findings. And who can argue with that outcome?


I know that if I were unjustly accused of tiefing a dollar, a pen or a newspaper, never mind plotting in vile language to harm a journalist and manipulating the Parliament, President and public to favour financiers, I would opt for the investigative option that promises the greatest credibility, that utilises the best technology available to civilians, and that is likely to be least debatable.



Then, not only could I breathe a sigh of relief that my good name remains immaculately unblemished, but I could also point at my accuser, call him/her out, and shout without a drop of fear, “Yuh lie! Yuh damn lie!”


But that’s just me. And in addition to clearing my name and returning fire upon my accuser, in this instance I also enjoy the bonus of political leverage as my party heads into a local and then a general election. Indeed, were I secure in my honesty and certain—cross my heart and hope to die—that there is nothing to be discovered no matter how expert the experts are, I would spare no expense and leave no big stone unturned.


But that’s just me. As it is, the country is left with politically life-changing allegations, some robust and some jokey denials by the accused, verbal attacks on the accuser, and an investigation being conducted by a Police Service that very few trust. Every citizen who has had to interface with a police officer, a police station or even those related to police officers has a story to relate of unpleasantness, abuse of authority, lack of compassion, laziness, arrogance and ignorance. 


So pervasive is this sentiment among citizens that when one encounters or witnesses a diligent police officer(s), one is moved to write a letter to the editor or phone in to a radio station to issue a big, public thank you to said officer(s). Those expressions, rather than making us happy that good men and women exist in the Police Service, should sadden us for they are so scarce. 


The coming of Stephen Williams encouraged my flagging optimism but that did not last long. Even after he made his way to the Belmont Police Station at the behest of former junior National Security minister, Collin Partap, I remained willing to give him an opportunity to find his way in those big police boots he had to fill.


When it became evident that Mr Williams’ crime plan and his strategy to salvage public confidence from under the growing pile of murdered citizens relied seemingly exclusively on crunching statistics, I forced myself to defy pessimism. 


When he spoke in praise of former National Security minister, Jack Warner, however, I could no longer make excuses or hold tight to the hope that he would understand the social and political moment in which he has ascended to the top job and strive to inspire meaningful change within the service and confidence among the population that the Police Service is meant to serve, not abuse. 


That Mr Williams strolled past his impartial, independent corner and threw himself behind a politician was bad enough. But the damning thing was not what he did but what he said. Pressed by reporters (why journalists needed to press is another, related question) to say exactly what he considered so exceptional about Mr Warner’s leadership, “…Williams said one example was the introduction of the tabulation of criminal activities on a daily basis instead of over a two-week period as was done traditionally.



Every morning at 6 am he said, ‘We can now tell you what is the status of crime, and every regional Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) can tell you the situation across his region. Prior to minister Warner that was not part of the culture.’ While some people were still sleeping, he said that senior superintendents, ACPs and Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson are tabulating the crime statistics…The daily reporting and assessment, he said ‘will continue’.”


Obvious questions include: why were the police not conducting daily reporting and assessment before? Why did the Police Service need a minister of National Security to introduce this basic practice? Is this, in Mr Williams’ mind, worthy of such high praise? How low are his standards of “exceptional” leadership? 


Dr Rowley and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard are constrained by their offices in what they publicly declare about the Police Service. The easy metatext of their comments is that they do not trust the service to conduct this hugely important, technologically nuanced, political powder keg of an investigation. For that, police officers and Mr Williams have no one to blame but themselves.


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