21 Dec 2011

Victim of a Lynch mob, or Political correctness gone mad?

Warning! This post is not for headline hungry Rock-huggers. It is a long and in-depth look into a very serious and far reaching issue.
It’s now stale news of course that Nizam Mohammed was  sacked by the President on 2011-04-04 in close approximation to apparently very unsavoury comments  made  at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting on 2011-03-25, tasked with  evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the Police Service Commission. Those comments were said to be of a racist nature. In addition it was asserted that NM did not have the authority to “fix” any ethnic imbalance in the Duncey Police Service – even though he was head of the Police Service Commission. At the outset I must declare that I hold no political affiliations anywhere. My motive for exploring this matter is largely about how human beings – who are supposed to be intelligent - are ruled by primitive forces that confound the application cognitive abilities.

What did Nizam Mohammed actually say? He said
"Out of ten Assistant Commissioners of Police, you don't have a single one of Indian origin. Out of three Deputy Commissioners, none of Indian origin. Well we have one Commissioner of Police. Senior Superintendent, you have 15 all of African origin, none of Indian origin. 
 
Happily when you look at the figures, you see at the Superintendent level, you have 21 of African origin and ten of East Indian origin and since within recent times, we have been emphasising the question of meritocracy as opposed to seniority, and Monday coming, Superintendents should be writing their exams. The better ones may move to Senior Superintendents and you may have a better mixture, and you cannot approach a matter like this in an inflammatory, passionate, emotional kind of way. 
 
Fifty per cent of this country are people of East Indian origin and you are asking them to support the Police Service...They have to provide the Police Service with information…They have to feel protected by the Police Service and when they see the hierarchy of the Police Service is as imbalanced as is reflected in these figures and the chairman of the commission intends to tackle these things you understand why...you understand why the guns are being aimed at me, but I have a job to do and this is what I am going to do. I intend to address this with the help of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Nizam Mohammed outlined the following facts (which have not been disputed to date)
  • •Ten Assistant Commissioners of Police—No East Indians.
  • •Three Deputy Commissioners of Police—No East Indians.
  • •15 Senior Superintendents—No East Indians.
  • •31 Superintendents—21 Africans and ten East Indians.
  

What did the media say?
  1. TT Express 2011-03-25:  “…suggested that it was his intention to balance the ethnic composition of the Police Service.”
  2. TT Guardian 2011-03-26: “..there are too many Africans in the hierarchy of T&T Police Service  and he intends to address the issue with assistance from the Parliament.
  3.  TT Guardian 2011-04-03: “His comments to adjust the ethnic composition in the T&T Police Service have sparked widespread debate..”
What did politicians and political parties say?
  1. COP (as reported in TT Express 2011-04-29
  2. "The National Executive discussed the matter thoroughly. The COP wishes to reiterate the commitment of the COP to fairness, equality, racial harmony and the values of national unity, all of which are enshrined in the preamble to the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
    "To this end, the National Executive of the Congress of the People once again completely distances itself from the irresponsible and divisive statements made by the PSC chairman. Further, it calls upon the Honourable Prime Minister to advise His Excellency the President that the appointment of Mr Mohammed as chairman of the Police Service Commission be revoked with immediate effect."
  3. The Prime Minister’s statement (excerpted from TT Guardian 2011-03-29)
    The five leaders that formed the political grouping that brought this Government to power is the broadest-based representation ever held in this nation and the insularity propagated by Mr Mohammed’s reckless and senseless comments run against the very grain of the philosophy that now governs this country. Mr Mohammed must be held accountable for his inflammatory and unwise remarks which in no way represent the views of the Government.
  4. Statements, such as the one by Mr Mohammed, are divisive and serve no useful purpose other than to undermine the trust that is reposed in him as the chairman of the Police Service Commission. Our mission as a Government is to embrace everyone, to create a meritocracy based on people’s ability to do their jobs, Race must not and will never be a consideration. Whatever our ethnic origins, we are citizens of Trinidad and Tobago first and our Government believes the words of our National Anthem, “here every creed and race finds an equal place,” express a philosophy that determines the way this Government functions today.”
  5. Chandresh Sharma  (TT Express 2011-03-29)
    "I hope, in the process, we do not shoot the messenger. My understanding is that some statistics were provided and presented and perhaps one may be questioning the manner in which it was presented, or the remarks that may have been associated with it, but we must not avoid at any time real information and it was only presented to be addressed.”
  6. Rowley (TT Express 2011-03-29)
    "Nizam Mohammed's behaviour as chairman of the PSC has become even more untenable in the face of his reckless, self-serving comments ... in which he outlined for himself the task of redressing perceived racial discrimination in the Police Service. Mr Mohammed's unfortunate statement does not only attack the integrity of previous Police Service Commissions but also disturbs the morale of the Police Service and threatens the social fabric of stability which has been the hallmark of our existence as a multi-ethnic society.”
The root of a problem?
  1. Anand Ramlogan 2008-10-28 Exposing Discrimination – Amazingly Ramlogan himself said:
    Thus, for example, there may be an equal number of Indian police officers in the lower ranks of the Police Service. There are, however, none on the executive of the Police Service, and few in the hierarchy.
  2. Anand Ramlogan 2009-03-05 Manipulating promotions – and followed up: 
    There is the perception that interviews are being held to correct any imbalances that result from the objectively assessed theoretical promotion examinations.
    I had refused to believe this until recently, when I realized that the Police Commissioner had quietly reversed a policy decision he had made to award marks to officers based on an officer’s grade in CXC or GCE or his marks at the promotion examination for English Language. Officers would receive up to a maximum of 35 points. The pie chart of potential appointees must have caused great alarm because the policy was suddenly changed.
    Instead of awarding a score based on one’s grade or examination marks, Mr Philbert has revered his policy and decided that ALL officers would receive the maximum of 35 points REGARDLESS of their grade or score. So an officer with a distinction or someone who scored 90% would receive the same amount of points as the one that barely scraped through and obtained a grade C or 40 marks! So much for the promised change, Mr Philbert!
    The incongruity in officers scoring high in the examination but being marked down in the interview reinforces this perception. The fact that the authorities refuse to have an ethnically balanced interview panel only adds fuel to the fire. Indo-Trini police officers feel that the odds are stacked against them. Why nothing is done about such an obvious legitimate grouse is a mystery that only the Police Commissioner, the Police Service Commission and the Minister of National Security can answer.”
  3. Anand Ramlogan 2009-11-12 Qualified but rejected  - Statistics:
    “…provide irrefutable evidence about the exclusion of Indo-Trinis from state corporations. The figures are probably no different in the foreign service, security service and public service in general. The reverse is probably true when the UNC was in power. The pendulum swung from one corner to the next.  Can we ever realize that elusive dream of equality and meritocracy? Something for the reformers of our constitution to think about. 
The overspill?A spat between Anand Ramlogan and Keith Rowley led to the latter being referred to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee [TT Newsday 2011-05-15]

Other learned comment following the sacking of Mr Mohammed?
In a letter authored by Israel Khan to Dwayne Gibbs and Nizam Mohammed, Khan [TT Express 2011-04-03] stated that, "hundreds of thousands of citizens that the Police Service ought to reflect cosmopolitan Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure that if you take a head count of the Police Service you will see that it is lopsided in that more than 90 per cent of its members are of African origin.. every effort should be made to include citizens of East Indian origin into the Police Service in order to reflect that in this country every creed and race finds an equal place". East Indians do not usually apply to become members of the Police Service?; Or are they being discriminated against in favour of African applicants?; Or maybe, they do not meet the criteria for selection.” Khan suggest that it be investigated, “.. why the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is lopsided in favour of African membership". Correspondence containing further statistics were exchanged on this issue.

Dr Kwame Nantambu at Trinicenter has given a reasonable and indepth analysis of the situation. It is worthwhile reading and evaluating this too. Dr Nantambu concluded, “Mr. Mohammed committed no sin; he committed no crime; he did absolutely nothing wrong and since President George Richards has revoked his appointmernt as chairman of the PSC, then, it is incumbent upon Mr. Nizam Mohammed "to do the right thing" and sue the State for wrongful dismissal from office. This is the principled thing for him to do.
The bottom-line is that Mr. Mohammed's public comment to the JSC brought to the fore the stark reality that contrary to the lyrics/spirit/sentiment of our constitution, as of April 2011, T&T is a place "where every creed and race (do not find) an equal place."

Conclusions
  1. It is clear that Nizam Mohammed referred to an imbalance of the ethnic distribution of Police officers in various ranks in the service.
  2. The statistics he provided were well known to many people, and based on hard facts. Even Anand Ramlogan knew what they were like in 2009 and what the skew was.
  3. There is no evidence that it was not his business not to comment on the statistics.
  4. He thought it was an issue that was to be addressed and he said so.
  5. There is nothing  - no reason or reference to facts – that suggest that it was not within his remit to make these observations or seek to address the imbalance.
  6. He had stated that he would seek to address the imbalance with the assistance of Parliament. That clearly indicated that he did not intend to champion an issue without consultation or proper support.
  7. There is no factual evidence that NM had embarked or was intending to embark on a single-handed process that would fix or correct the imbalance. He had never uttered a form of words that indicated that his actions would be of that nature.
  8. There is evidence (above) that the media did use a form of words that interpreted for the public what NM had said. However, such interpretations were disconnected from anything that NM had said.
  9. Nizam Mohammed never said that there were too many black (or Afro-Trinidadian officers) in any rank of the Police Service.
  10. “Address” was taken to mean “fix” by certain persons. However, no one in authority or power sought to clarify directly with NM what exactly he meant.
  11. Instead the authorities concluded that his utterances of the facts – as were widely known from at least 2009 – were senseless, reckless and insular.
  12. I address what was said above and what was reported – I certainly do not attempt to fix anything. If by an exposure to the facts people adjust their attitudes and opinions that is fine. If they don’t that is also fine.
Declaration: I do not know Nizam Mohammed personally or otherwise. I have never met the man or anyone known to be his friend or relative. I have never had dealings with Nizam Mohammed or anyone knowingly associated with him. I have no allegiance to any political party anywhere. The above exposure of what I have found is not intent on exonerating Nizam Mohammed of anything he is accused of, or any negative findings made about him.

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