9 Dec 2018

A question of integrity

What, pray tell, is integrity? For most of us, it is the idea of having a strong moral position, a conscious choice to be honest, upright, and most importantly, the ability to resist temptation to use positions of influence and power for personal gain, or the gain of friends and family.

Sadly, my observations – which I have documented in case proof was needed – for the past 10 years or so indicates that integrity is sadly lacking within the PNM fold. Let me step aside here for a moment: that statement, particularly the acronym ‘PNM’ will certainly raise the hackles of people on two fronts – racism, and political division between ‘Indians’ and ‘Afros’ – but that is the nature of the beast. Hopefully, some will settle down to read further where explain my position. And note this sentence carefully: this does not mean that I approve of or that I have not observed the same with other political parties!

My introduction to integrity within the PNM started with the Rowley saga of Landate. From all accounts in the public domain – which I will not rehash – there appeared to be a prima facie case of loss (or lack) of integrity on the part of Rowley with regard to materials to be used for a hospital project ending up at a private building project.

Still sticking with the team of integrity, the then Integrity Commission rejected the idea of procedural integrity and did not give the then minister an opportunity to be heard. This is a breach of the natural rules of justice, and so, the matter was dropped, and the entire Integrity Commission was forced to resign.

Another incident involved Stone Capital, and Andre Monteil and the Home Mortgage Bank. Don’t forget:

  • Monteil was treasurer of the PNM
  • Monteil was the group financial director of CL Financial, the parent company of Clico and the chairman of Clico Investment Bank.
  • The shares were initially Clico's.
  • The sale was facilitated by a 2007 amendment to the Home Mortgage Bank Act (coincidently passed by a PNM administration).
  • Clico provided the funds to Monteil to purchase its shares for himself.

    Joan Yuille-Williams gave out some $46 million over a period of four years, in secret scholarships (non-advertised). Lest readers forget, I point out the following:

    • A beneficiary to the tune of $500,000 worth was Laurel Lezama, daughter-in-law of Louis lee Sing, PNM financier and politician.
    • No record is available on whether that “scholarship” was ever repaid.

      In the Express of April 15, 2010 there was a picture of Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald giving away cheques to her constituents. Whose money was that?

      Don’t forget, in questions on integrity arose when it was revealed that Marlene McDonald’s common-law ‘husband’ Michael Carew was granted an HDC house by Marlene using her influence. Mr Carew and his brother were also beneficiaries of grants from the ministry headed by Marlene McDonald. Integrity it seems fell to the wayside.

      And today’s Newsday once again has Marlene McDonald proving once more that she does not know what integrity means (09/12/2018 – https://newsday.co.tt/2018/12/09/i-protect-my-friends/).

      “The man has worked under three ministries led by McDonald since she entered politics in 2007. He began in the ministry of community development, culture and gender affairs. From 2007-2010, McDonald was the minister in charge of that ministry. Following the 2015 general election, McDonald was appointed housing minister and it was then the “nice man” was hired at the People’s Issues Resolution Co-ordinating Unit (PIRCU) at the housing ministry.”

      As always, what I have written above can be easily found in the public domain; I am a scribe collecting and collating.

      Readers may wonder why I pay so much attention to integrity, honesty, ethics et cetera. After all, aren’t lawyers supposed to be bereft of these qualities? Perhaps it is my own personal make up that keeps me alive to these issues. Perhaps it is because within legal training there is a lot of philosophy, ethics and integrity. I would like to think that I will not lose this perspective. Whenever I feel myself falling short, I hope I am reminded to revisit my online postings and realign my moral compass.