20 Jul 2008

Death of a Constitution II

I have to laugh - Dana Seetahal is a lawyer down to her sullied drawers. No comment from her unless she gets paid to write it in her Guardian column. By then the issues are several days old, have been replaced by newer issues and hardly noticeable.

I wrote this on 5th July. And once again, I see I am right. It's been quite a while since Pa-trick revealed the new constitution to be unveiled in Parliament; yet only today Dana chooses to comment upon it. In her Guardian article, for which she is paid handsomely, no doubt.

Lennox Grant writes (in part):

...Hazel Ann Marie Manning, she who has quietly made T&T constitutional history as The Cabinet Wife.

In December 2001, the appointment of a spouse, who is otherwise a political nobody, was initially received as breath-taking prime ministerial presumption.

The Manning exercise of appointive power looked glaringly abusive. The Constitution, not having explicitly forbidden it, had hardly contemplated implicit sanction of elevating mousy spouse into Cabinet lioness.

As the Robinson whistle remained unblown, the Integrity Commission remained unmoved, and high men in the PNM—Keith Rowley, Ken Valley, Cuthbert Joseph—averted their eyes from this precedent with its now-haunting potential.

The new gold standard of constitutional behaviour had been set. It’s now self-defined as strictest adherence to the letter of the law, and full speed ahead with whatever you could get away with.

Progressively from that point, the constitution has been been reformed in the practice of power. For the most part, and at least for now, the results have been unquestioningly received.

The propaganda “meta-framing” of Mr Manning as a “dictator” overlooks what he has achieved without even touching constitutional paper.

Over three purposeful but finally fruitless years till late 2007, he and Attorney General John Jeremie destroyed the chancellery of Chief Justice Sat Sharma.

Mr Sharma stayed out of jail, preserved his pension, and may receive compensatory lawyers’ fees.

The Manning-Jeremie project also unleashed warning shots across the bow of a judiciary from whose rulings the administration has repeatedly suffered rebuffs and repudiations.

Hardball is the only game played. All the instincts are illiberal ones, aimed at restricting freedoms and, in advance if possible, cancelling openness, and ignoring Parliamentary questions by the score.

The Manning lawyer women in Attorney General Bridgid Annisette George and Marlene McDonald contrive cynical legal recipes, citing privacy concerns, in refusing to say, how much Douglas Mendes earned in Senior Counsel State briefs, and who received which scholarships.

Colm Imbert promoted himself to Senior Counsel to confound the pesky Police Service Commission and reject its Police Commissioner nominee.

Without a leader, the Police Service is left sorely in want of human and other resources, as tenders go out for 450 computers and 10,000 meters of blue serge pants cloth.

Meanwhile, the Special Anti Crime Unit, Sautt, raised by the Manning administration as a sort of secret service with no legal standing, likely outside the reach of Freedom of Information inquiry, flaunts its well-funded capacities and advertises for computer literate graduates as special agents.

So, not only is the Constitution dead, it appears to have been buried too.