13 Mar 2018

Bad Arguments

I am regularly disappointed to see critical thinking/logic escape citizens when issues are raised in the public domain. In plain language, people tend to argue from emotive viewpoints, whether that emotion comes from tribal affinity for kind, or from ‘feelings’. Many persons have no clue what lies in the backdrop of issues. Worse, they do not understand the implications issues may have politically or legally.

Sometimes, issues go far beyond what citizens allegedly ‘know’ or think they ‘know’. One recent example, ongoing for many months, is the sad saga of a Chief Justice (CJ) with a pattern of breaking rules.

“…with a pattern of breaking rules” … now I expect a lot of people to jump on that phrase like a Rott on a roti. Why? Well, about half will see a black man being persecuted. Another large percentage will get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT et cetera. In both instances those who make the fallacious arguments will not look at the facts… that the CJ did break rules in several different matters (I will not rehash these, they are out in the public domain and this is not about the CJ per se).

The core issue is ONLY about whether the CJ broke rules. Did he? No? We need evidence. Yes? We need evidence. Don’t know? We need evidence. His behaviour in office is suspect and therefore, one way or the other an investigation must be done.

Fallacious arguments are common. You may well ask what a fallacious argument is… or what is a fallacy? It is simply ‘an error in reasoning’ or wrong thinking. It is NOT an error of fact. There are approximately 300 bad arguments made on a daily basis. Examples are: Appeal to Tradition, Appeal to Normality, Reductio ad Absurdum, Fallacy of Composition, Fallacy of Division, Cherry Picking, Sunk-Cost Fallacy, Self-Sealing Argument, and Shoehorning.

Here is another example of bad thinking. An employer ‘disciplines’ an employee using an improper or unfair process. The employer arrives at a decision, but insists the decision is fair. Employee points out that the disciplinary process does not meet the rules of natural justice so is procedurally incorrect. Employer insists that it is not a legal matter, it’s ‘our internal policy’.

This is a classic example why so many disputes end up in court, costing both sides time, expense and goodwill. Ask yourself why… go on.

It is because no internal policy can ignore legal rules. We all must obey the law and any employer attempting to discipline without reference to law will ultimately lose if he ignores the law in favour of some ‘policy’ which breaches the rules. The law should guide your policies.

People who want to contribute to their societies in meaningful ways, should know spotting and refuting a bad argument is essential.

1 Mar 2018

That anti-gang bill

Both the Government, and the Opposition (when they were the government) are touting the Anti-Gang Bill as a panacea for the horrendous crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago. Aside from being a badly drafted piece of legislation, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Anti-Gang legislation worked in the past; therefore, there is little doubt that it will ever work in the future.

As an example, the State is now required to pay compensation to several persons who were detained under the previous Anti-Gang Act as can be seen in the following link to a Guardian newspaper article. (http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2018-03-01/state-settles-soe-lawsuits).

“During the SoE, which lasted from September to December 2011, hundreds of suspected gang leaders and members were rounded up by police and charged under the controversial Anti-Gang Act. All were eventually freed by the DPP’s Office because there was no evidence submitted by the police to support their detention.”

The Anti-Gang Bill, sunset clause or not, suffers from the same ills as every other piece of legislation in Trinidad and Tobago – to be effective, it must be enforced! For enforcement to take place, the Police Service needs to do a better job; a much, much better job. Evidence is required to ascertain proof beyond reasonable doubt, which the Police Service seems to be clueless about. From all appearances, it seems that the entire police force (from Commissioner to Constable) is of the belief that arresting people is sufficient proof that the job is done correctly.

I have often said that the Police Service suffers collectively from an intellectual, and best practice, approach to fighting crime. There may be individual officers at all levels will have the occasional shining moments, but for the most part, the organisation is bereft of motivation and capability. Sadly, this reflects the culture within and without the organisation, built up over decades. Not only is it virtually impossible to stamp out, it will continue to grab new recruits in its tentacles and corrupt them in the same manner – after all, their teachers have already been “institutionalised” to that particular culture. In plain language, it is impossible to teach old dogs new tricks.

I have little hope the crime situation, currently rising to intolerable levels, will actually be reined in over the next 20 years. Partly because the local police are incapable, partly because they refuse to learn modern and effective policing methods, partly because they do not want external and qualified leaders, partly because those on a managerial level are probably even more ineffective than appears to be – one very senior police officer even boasted about how high he rose in rank with only a school leaving certificate. With that attitude, one can only despair. There is a vast difference between rising up the ranks on merit and qualifications, versus rising through mediocrity and seniority.

All in all, citizens ought to be prepared for was to come. I have said it before, and I will say it again – plainly and boldly – that is only when senior politicians and their relatives are affected by violent crime, will their anger and distaste turn towards effective legislation and the political willpower to manage the Police Service better.

20 Feb 2018

When tongue runs before brain

Fix hanging law to deal with killers

FORTY-TWO condemned prisoners on Death Row and 12 of them cannot be hanged because of Pratt and Morgan rulings, and those numbers will increase surely as night follows day so long as we continue to rely on external decisions to do what our laws already sanction.

What are the rudiments of a Pratt and Morgan ruling?

Tell us again, average citizens, Mr Attorney General, especially the relatives and friends of murder victims, what is the logic behind this no-hanging- after-five-years ruling?

Do we (T& T laws) request/ permit the foreign architects of this decree to make every microscopic assessment the minute we place matters in their hands?

After the police and the prosecution have gone through the rigours of investigation, evidence gathering and then in court face the legal intricacies and ambiguousness of defence attorneys and still persist to find those charged with this evil offence, guilty, are the guilty now 'less-guilty', not because new evidence has come to the fore, but purely by 'legal impediments' brought on by those who have the resources to 'buy time' by proficiently stretching our legal solidity to the limit?

And tell us, Mr AG, after the first appellant's

success in this foreign appeal process, does it now mean all condemned persons who arrive at this point of the process are guaranteed success?

Are our foreign decision- makers aware of the distressing continuation of our yearly murder toll over the last 20 years relative to our small population?

Have they themselves ever had to deal with a comparable murderous situation in their land?

If no, is it because their justice system is efficient and effective more so when it comes to dealing with crimes of this nature?

And if at some point in time such a daunting state of affairs did come upon them, would they remain bonded to this outrageous Pratt and Morgan decree or would they amend their laws to deal with the situation?

Are criminals particularly conscious of the present state of our criminal justice system and therefore carry out their nefarious acts with a laid-back mind-set?

Our Attorney General is quoted as saying the only mechanism the State could be involved in is to make sure the appellate process is quickened from the State's end.

And since the ruling political party is in charge of State affairs and the

Opposition is to monitor the ruling party's handling of the same and to agree or disagree to major changes, are the welfare of citizens at the mercy of two groups of perpetual nonconformists?

Since both leaders are forever whining (more so when they are in Opposition) that something needs to be done about the murder rate, tell us Mr Prime Minister and Madam Opposition Leader, exactly what is hindering collaboration between your two parties?

Don't your two bodies at any point in time agree to a practical course in favour of law-abiding citizens?

Is it then a fact that political parties don't give a damn about the vulnerability of the lives of citizens but their chief objective is about staying in power or replacing those who are already there?

Does that explain the hypocrisy of politicians when they attend the funerals of murder victims and display glum faces?

Or is the hypocrisy worth it? Who or what is creating hurdles/ delays in our appellate process?

Lloyd Ragoo Chaguanas

In response to a letter by Lloyd Ragoo published today (20/02/2018) in the Daily Express, I will attempt to answer some of the questions he asked.

“What are the rudiments of a Pratt and Morgan ruling? … What is the logic behind this no hanging after five years ruling?”

Well Lloyd, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC) in its wisdom and following the law, ruled that keeping a man on death row with a death sentence hanging over his head – and repeatedly reading out that final notice to him – would amount to cruel and unusual punishment (CUP). Since the Constitution forbids CUP, which is also forbidden under the most fundamental human rights and embedded in treaties which Trinidad and Tobago has signed up to, it means that it is now the law of the country that no hanging can take place after five years on death row.

This does not mean that hanging cannot take place – it merely means that the judicial process needs to take place and be completed within five years. So, it is rather disingenuous of Mr Ragoo to blame the “foreign architects” (PC judges) for the incompetence demonstrated by successive governments. It is incumbent upon the government to put into place a working system to speed up and streamline this judicial process. Therefore, the Attorney General is correct – the only mechanism the state could be involved in is to make sure the appellate process is quickened.

The rest of the questions in the article are meaningless, as they are mere rhetoric without substance. What would be more meaningful to ask is when the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) will raise the level of performance to international standards, when the detection rate for murders will rise above 6%, and the police will gather sufficient irrefutable evidence and process it to permit convictions above 1% (of the detection rate, mind you). What would be more meaningful to ask is when would legislation be passed to speed up the judicial process, so that final appeal will be completed before the five-year limitation.

What would serve Mr Ragoo well would be to read the Pratt and Morgan judgment, analyse what the judges said, look behind what is said for the reasons, and to learn to separate the chaff (rhetoric and emotive diatribes) from the wheat (substance). I suspect that this will never happen. Far often, it is easier to jump on the bandwagon and regurgitate meaningless rubbish.

10 Feb 2018

Police shortage limboing along

The Express of 8 January 2018 quoted DCP Dulalchan as saying the police service needs approximately 1,100 officers. It’s a rather astounding statistic, much in similarity with Imbert’s announcement that the country was short of approximately 1,500 doctors.

The astonishment isn’t that the figures are high. The astonishment is that the ‘authorities’ seem to have awoken from some deep slumber to realise the deficiency. What is not a surprise is that the shortage didn’t happen overnight, although the ‘powers-that-be’ appear to be caught with their pants down. No, this situation was some time in the making.

Where does the problem lie? Well to start with, it’s the President who is responsible for appointing persons to the various Commissions, which in turn are responsible for appointments. Since the ‘lame duck’ in office had neglected to appoint a full Police Services Commission (PSC) in the past year, we can now see the effects of his negligence, especially in the doubtful state of whether the current PSC is even legal without a full complement of bodies, as revealed by the search for a Police Commissioner

My concern is not so much finding bodies to place in office, any person with 5 ‘O’ levels will qualify - and grade 3 at that. The real problem is that by starting with the bar so low, the bar scarcely raises during their careers. The bar, as I noted before, is very much like a limbo bar, where the police believe success is to keep lowering it and not falling flat on their collective behinds. The question is whether any Government has the political willpower to effect the necessary changes to make an efficient police service.

7 Feb 2018

straight answers, please

This is an open letter, with some questions addressed to the following persons:

The Commissioner of Police,

The Minister of National Security,

The Prime Minister,

The Leader of the Opposition,

The President,

                                of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

I read today, in the TT Express of 6th February 2017, that the ‘murder toll’ has reached 67. This means that if the current rate of about 2 per day is sustained on average, that by the end of the year we can expect there will be some 700 homicides (aka murders). Anything approaching that sort of figure is plainly ridiculous, and (not to mention) outrageous for a country with only 1.3 Million people.

The efficacy of the police service to carry out an investigation to the point of achieving a complete prosecution by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and deter homicides, has been called into question for the past decade or so. With no clear signs of abatement regarding the current status quo, I ask the following questions which require very straight and full answers:

  1. What percentage of all the homicides in the last 5 years have been successfully prosecuted?
  2. Does the police service have sufficient manpower and resources to effectively investigate all cases on record and those to come?
  3. In its current configuration to date, is the police service effective in controlling or deterring serious crime? [A straight yes or no would do].
  4. If ‘yes’ to the above, what percentage reduction in the homicide rate can the public expect to see - per annum - averaged over the next 5 years? [Using the average annual rate over the preceding 5 years].
  5. Is the country being held to ransom by criminals?

A prompt answer (within 14 consecutive days of the date of this letter) is required.