6 May 2012

Prematurely independent and profoundly misguided

The Cap and Jumbie continue to follow the baying to remove (or side-step in part) the Privy Council as the Rock’s final highest court of appeal. Frank Solomon has nicely summed it up as far as we are concerned [TT Express 2010-05-06: Wrong Move to leave Privy Council].
“The movement to abolish appeals to the Privy Council is profoundly misguided, and is fuelled largely by political ambitiousness and expediency and a willingness cynically to reignite and exploit obsolete anti-colonial sentiments and latent racism…
The Privy Council is no longer merely the custodian of the last word in antique English law. It has become a window through which the freshness and variety of contemporary European philosophy freely blows in. By removing the Privy Council from our system we are depriving our jurisprudence of vital infusions of nourishment in many aspects of modern legal thinking particularly in the areas of human rights and civil liberties, and we risk thereby, in our sovereign petulance, to encase ourselves in a shell of parochial, inward-looking, neurotic, politically supervised rudderless chaos…"
Rockians made a profound mistake that they are paying for today in every way. It’s called ‘Premature Independence’. How are they paying? You really need us to spell it out? Okay.
  1. Left with a set of antiquated laws still anchored in a time long gone.
  2. A Justice System dumbed down by successive regimes - given a pittance of $43M in 2009 for the year, when Mr Big and company had made deposits on a private jet to the tune of $63M (total cost $300M) - allyuh forget or what.
  3. A health care system that breaking dong to find itself in a modern world - due to all the ills of poor accountability and lack of integrity. Do we need to go into perinatal deaths (for example)?
  4. Murder rate now one of the highest in the world and well above that for the UK (the word was 'rate').
  5. A system of law enforcement - aka the Police service - that would be and probably is the laughing stock of any First World nation.
  6. A fudged Integrity Commission that can't even get off the ground.
  7. The nation's wealth haemorrhaged away by all manner of bobol over the last 50 years.
  8. Three desalination plants in a country with severe flooding every year - largely due to poor planning, lack of foresight and poor development.
  9. ...and the list could go on and on and on.


Independence is not just about whether you can leave your parent’s home. It is about whether you can manage, sustain and develop yourself on an upward trajectory relative to the demands of a modern world. But the extent to which Rockians understand how much they have been left in a time capsule, anchored in the past and stunted in development, is limited by their ability to see the world as it truly is i.e. the lack of a window from which to avail “the freshness and variety of contemporary European philosophy". They therefore, believe what they believe because they remain with what they were left with (largely) from the 1960s. Any fresh air that may have wafted in from window of the Privy Council is now at risk of being cut off in yet another round of poor decision-making. Instead what the natives bay for is another kind of ‘independence’, as far as they see it. The first was premature and left the country trailing behind developments in the First World. And now should the Privy Council be cut off at this crucial time in the development of the Nation - the risk is further isolation from all that is good and First World in its outlook.

No – we’re not talking mainly about ‘content’. If it were merely about content, surely we acknowledge that there have been ‘structural developments’ in the Nation. We’re talking about mind-sets and mentality. That is where they fall down. Dare we massage shameful fiascos at the Integrity Commission - some still ongoing or under ‘review’? Dare we dig up ‘graves’ concerning the Reshmi Ramnarine debacle. Dare we dig up the findings of the Privy Council in relation to Patrick Manning in the Feroza Ramjohn cases?  The Maha Saba radio licence case? No we will not – if you don’t know about these things, go and read about it. Educate yourself – get a sense of being self-driven to seek, find and learn.

[Mind you we are not opposed to the CCJ. We are however deeply concerned about how this matter is being dealt with at this crucial time in our history and the foundations on which arguments for substituting the CCJ in whole or in part have been made.]

With talks of moving to the CCJ rife in the air, away from the Privy Council, the population on Rock is all up in arms, in support of such a move. The newspapers and other media are especially heavily populated with stories and articles, quotations and opinions from all and sundry. Unfortunately, the knowledge that these are based upon is infinitely abysmal. In other words they do not know, and shamefully they do not know that they do not know.


First of all, the largest misconception is that the Privy Council is a barrier to hanging. This is the uppermost concern in the minds of Rock Crawlers. They see the Privy Council as a stumbling block, or at least an insurmountable wall, placed in the way of hanging selected murderers/psychopaths. And  as a result, Rock Crawlers have been brainwashed into a delusion that they are being ‘ruled’ by England through the Privy Council.

Patrick Manning (former PM) is to be held responsible for promoting ideas that the Privy Council is not ‘our own’. He said in 2007 "It is high time we have our own appellant court…" to a Public Consultation On Crime at the Signal Hill Secondary Comprehensive School. He added,

...we believe that capital punishment is an essential element in crime fighting.

An essential element of that package has to be the return of capital punishment. I am a strong supporter of capital punishment...'

Manning’s words were made in the context of the intended removal of the Privy Council. The TT Express reported and paraphrased Manning as stating, “The Privy Council, sitting thousands of miles away in London, had from time to time put impediments in the way of hangings being carried out here.” – fully consistent with his actual words above. Manning was factually wrong but a large section of the population ‘thirsty for blood’ believed him – and they cannot to this day unbelieve him.

While it is understandable that with the high crime rate the population is baying for blood, it should be pointed out that the Privy Council has never said that hanging is unconstitutional. Nor has it implied same. No matter how many times we shout this out aloud - as a matter of fact - it seems to bounce off the overly thick skulls of a section of Rock-crawlers. In fact, judgments handed down have supported the constitutionality of hanging is the correct and proper sentence for murder. The crazies on the other hand seem to think that the Privy Council is the sole stumbling block to hangings.

Another completely erroneous misconception is that at the Privy Council matters can be separated into “criminal” and “civil” issues. It is an incontrovertible fact that the Privy Council adjudicates on matters of law (points of law), namely the constitutionality of points of law in any given case. What this means is that even in an appeal from a “criminal” legal case, there will be constitutional points of law that need to be clarified. Therefore it is impossible at the Privy Council to separate these matters, since they are one and the same.

Yet another glaring misconception is the view that retaining the Privy Council is a 'colonial' thing.

[Colonial ~ "Of or relating to or characteristic of or inhabiting a colony"]

Trinidad and Tobago can thus be referred to as a 'colony', or 'colonial' in nature. So what exactly do they mean by 'colonial' when referring to the Privy Council? We are lost... do they refer to the time when the Queen was the head of State? Or that laws were derived from English statutes and common law? {Many still are... the  Offences Against the Person Act is from 1925!}

The confusion of this statement is palpable, but should one challenge it, the response would be... a lack of appreciation of the truth. We guess they 'know' what they mean, even if we don't.

We regard this tangible lack of appreciation as grossly unacceptable, given that one of the supporters of this completely incorrect appraisal is a former champion of Human Rights/Constitutional issues (with the proud boast that he completed over 40 matters at the Privy Council). We refer to the current attorney general, Mr Anand Ramlogan. If anyone should know better, it should be a man who has possibly the greatest experience at the Privy Council in the country. This is beyond woefully shameful that in his utterances to the media recently there is such apparent lack of depth to his assessment of the situation. It may be considered to be the greatest embarrassment internationally that this country has ever experienced.

The Facts (findable independently of our say so)

What the Privy Council has said (in Pratt and Morgan) is that hanging a criminal who has remained on death row for longer than five years, is unconstitutional:
“...the conclusion that in any case in which execution is to take place more than five years after sentence there will be strong grounds for believing that the delay is such as to constitute "inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment”.
The real impediment – if any – is to do with the glacial speed of the system of justice in Trinidad. That is nothing to do with the Privy Council [Read: Constitutional lawyer Anand Beharrylal in TT Express (2012-04-29): Don't blame UK court for delays. There are several other judgments by the Privy Council which relate to hanging, and which further clarify conditions in which it can take place.


It appears to us that there remains a deeply ingrained obsession with remaining blind to the seriousness of this most important matter affecting, not just the Constitution of the country but the future prospects of Trinidad & Tobago becoming eligible for First World maturity. As The Cap has often said in different ways, “In the land of the blind those gifted with sight risk being burned at the stake for appearing to be mad.” Frank Solomon and the likes of him could expect to be so treated.