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Raffique Shah


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Return of Sheriff Lobo

By Raffique Shah
July 1, 2012

What more must Jack Warner do to prove that he is unfit to be this country’s Minister of National Security? Declare war on Tobago or Venezuela or Barbados? Introduce a death squad to go around executing persons he suspects of being criminals or gangsters? Arrest and detain persons perceived to be opponents of the People’s Partnership Government?

Those who think I may be jesting by posing the above questions, think again. Here’s a man who, before he breached the Constitution by accompanying soldiers in a controversial, and quite possibly illegal, operation last Wednesday, explained the genesis of his misdeed this way: I was lying on my bed and thinking.... He could have paraphrased calypsonian Bomber, "Ah dreamin’ in mih dream, ah bounce up Burroughs...."

You take it upon yourself to summon the Chief of Defence Staff, no less, and ask (or order?) him to provide a contingent of armed soldiers. With pipsqueak Collin Partap in tow, you accompany the troops to Debe to commit what, prima facie, appears to be an unlawful act.

You mad, or what? It did not occur to you that what you were about to do was not clear a blocked drain or debris from a road or meet with some villagers and promise them road repairs? That you were tampering with the army, not with a division of the Ministry of Works? It never dawned on you that there are constitutional provisions that govern relations between the executive arm of the state and the coercive arms, the Defence Force and Protective Services? That there is something called the separation of powers? That the correct procedure was to report the offending, and quite possibly illegal camp to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and ask him to have it removed forthwith?

I guess not. A disturbed mind driven by vengeance, by pettiness, by arrogance, can be a most potent political cocktail. The last time something comparable with this abuse of authority happened was back in 1964 when Patrick Solomon, the PNM Minister of Home Affairs, went into a police station where his stepson had been detained and ordered the police to release the boy.

That created a big stink, but Dr Eric Williams refused to fire Solomon. He did however relieve him of the security portfolio, shifting him to External Affairs. Sparrow immortalised the PM’s dictatorial response in song, "...who doh like it, get to hell outa here...." I need add that PNM supporters stood solidly behind "de Doctah" and his malfeasance.

The Warner incident is a case of "same difference". Jack could not believe his good fortune when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar intimated to him that she would appoint him Minister of National Security. Deep in his heart he remained the SRP he was once upon a time, serge-suit, torchlight, baton et al, and now, abracadabra, the PM had magically transformed him into his old alter ego, the bungling Sheriff Lobo.

Now he could settle some long overdue "scores", get back at persons who disrespected or abused or slighted him. Start with Wayne Kublalsingh, an easy, lightweight target who would herald the return of Lobo. From there, the sky would be the limit. He could lock up the whole Strike Squad. He could silence journalist Lasana Liburd. Hell, he might even muster the Lobo-authority to hit Chuck Blazer and Sepp Blatter some serious "calpets".

Look, Jack is entitled to fulfill his wildest fantasies, however bizarre they may be. But damn it, not at the expense of the image and the reputation of Trinidad and Tobago. When the PM named him to the security portfolio, media reports, many of them carried in reputable international publications, referred to the "disgraced former FIFA vice president" being elevated to head national security in Trinidad and Tobago. They were laughing at us. Ah shame.

And you know what was worse than Lobo’s first faux pas? The sorry spectacle of his Cabinet colleagues, to a spineless man and woman, defending the indefensible. How could the Attorney General, a man supposedly versed in law, see nothing wrong with Jack’s gross violation of fundamental provisions of the Constitution? One might forgive the ignorance of others like new Works Minister Mano George, whom Jack claimed to have consulted before he donned his Lobo-gear fo-day morning to assault the camp. Mano is no lawyer. In fact, I don’t know what he is. Roodal Moonilal, too, swears that by his unconstitutional action, Jack prevented civil war in Debe. AG Anand Ramlogan insists there was no breach of convention or constitution although several learned attorneys have said otherwise. In other words, just as in the "Solomon affair", once you are in power you can do no wrong.

As I stated earlier, the issue here is not the highway or Kublalsingh’s camp. A highway linking deep-South Trinidad to the rest of the country is 50 years overdue. I cannot say if the Re-Route Movement is justified in its claims that building it the way Government proposes would damage sensitive ecology. Or that their alternative is workable and cheaper. Qualified professionals must pronounce on matters like these.

The issue at hand is far bigger than the Point Fortin highway. But it is also far simpler. It is about right and wrong. It is about abuse of authority, this time around in the sensitive area of national security. While Cabinet makes policy decisions that determine the actions of the police and the army, ministers do not participate in or direct the operations of these arms of the state. It’s that simple. I shan’t waste time appealing to the Prime Minister to fire Lobo. The day he shows up, police in tow, with a warrant for her arrest, she may get a rude awakening.

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