You ever read a book called The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born? You should. It’s a novel about how Independence has failed a country written by Ayi Kwei Armah of Ghana. The novel focuses on corruption at all levels. And one of its most startling images is that of a wooden railing in a government office that is rotten and corrupt to the core, and it was made rotten by the hands of all of the people who go up and down the staircase. If you think of that railing as representing all levels of society, then you get Armah’s idea. Things bad from top to bottom. The corruption in this place is deep. That’s why the entire country has reacted so strongly to Section 34. Because the extent to which people have gone to free Steve and Ish has shown us that it doesn’t simply end at bribes in brown paper bags. Section 34 shows us that governments and politicians are capable of dismantling the very Constitution of a country in order to protect their own.
This week the Government showed us that the shame surrounding Section 34 isn’t going to slow it down either. Early in the week we saw Minister of Finance, Larry Howai, firing a team of lawyers, and hiring a new set to continue the CLICO/HCU Enquiry. Anybody notice how lawyers are the new CEPEP? We have a government that sending out pre-action protocol letters daily: the Opposition, the THA, media houses. Nobody safe. We have two Commissions of Enquiry running right now. All heading into 2013, all paying a large cadre of lawyers who charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their services. In this latest legal cock up the Law Association President, Seenath Jairam SC breached the legal fraternity’s code of ethics and forced Karl Hudson-Phillips QC to have to use the phrase “eat ah food” in a letter. This is the same President of the Law Association who took a long time before weighing in on Section 34. The same President who is yet to come out and state whether the Law Association still has confidence in the Attorney General. But I guess we kind of have our answer now, yes?
After Howai hired the fresh batch that included Joseph Toney and Jagdeo Singh, COP Leader Prakash Ramadhar, convinced that flashing a smile and saying things in a deep measured tone makes it ok, legal and above board, jumped in to endorse Howai’s actions. No one wanted to acknowledge the elephant in the room, that here was the government, for the second time in two years, changing a legal team in mid-stream and appointing an entirely new team of lawyers. Remember, this is what happened with Ish and Steve’s extradition case. In this instant, the switcheroo is being done to ensure that all of their legal friends get a turn at the trough. Legal CEPEP. In fact, Joseph Toney admitted as much when he defended the appointment by complaining that he received no work under the PNM from 2002 to the present. What Toney seemed to forget was that he functioned as the attorney for the EXIMBANK during the PNM’s time in office. But amnesia seems to plague this government. In the space of a day both Ramadhar and Toney, behind some very shifty smiles, showed their true colours and their real motivations.
Now, when Hudson-Phillips QC has to rouse himself to rest down a public licking on the head of the Law Association, things rough. Jairam SC should have known and done better. And as Hudson-Phillips points out to him, “As president you have failed to demonstrate an adherence, not to the highest, but to the most basic principles of professional etiquette and conduct of the Bar.” If I was a silkened lawyer, and this was said about me, I wouldn’t even feel competent enough to represent a fowl thief in court.
Last Thursday night, Rowley read from a letter sent to him by Ag President Timothy Hamel-Smith. In the letter Hamel-Smith admits to looking at all of the documents surrounding Section 34 and seeing nothing inconsistent with what then Minister of Justice Volney did. This, from the same man who signed off on Reshmi Ramnarine’s appointment. But are we even surprised that even when functioning as President of the country that Hamel-Smith would put party before country? Yet another principled COP member bites the dust!
This current cabinet doesn’t suffer from a shortage of lawyers. You’ve got Roodal Moonilal, Collin Partap, Chryslyn Moore, Prakash Ramadhar, Herbert Volney, Anand Ramlogan and the Prime Minister herself. And those are who I can remember. Seven lawyers in a Cabinet. Seven lawyers at the helm of our government and it’s either they are ignorant about laws and codes of conduct or, they so tricky they abusing it and hope that we don’t know any better.
Now, had Hudson-Phillips not pulled Jairam SC up, what would have transpired? Do you think he and Toney would have returned the briefs at all? Or would they continue to “eat ah food”? Are lawyers paid so badly in Trinidad that they have to sell their integrity in order to earn a living?
Have we sunk so low in this country that at every turn and action we have to second guess and question the actions of our government? How, in the aftermath of a fiasco like Section 34 could the President of the Law Association think this would pass unnoticed? Was he that convinced that no member of the Association would speak out against his actions? And if that is the case, what does it say about the other members of the Association that Jairam SC would have so little regard for their peer pressure that he would breach his own code of ethics?
We aint gone clear in this place you know, we well past that!
Read it and weep folks. This morning I wake up with tears in my eyes for the foolishness happening in this country that UNC apologists find all kinds of justification for.
De Vice Cyah Done!