I am writing this article on Friday 13th October 2017, which is the first time T&T has had a national holiday to honour the memory of our First Peoples.

These holidays are important, not only in the literal sense of having a day-off, but also marking certain critical events so that the collective memory could be preserved. That process of intentionally preserving important memories is seminal to the development of a civilisation. This extends to our business and professional life, even being decisive for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Our official record is so often vacant, by design, that one can scarcely assess the real situation or reliably make projections as to the likely outcomes of proposals. The Public Sector is a huge part of the national business, so it is critical how that sector conducts itself and how its ‘lessons learned’ are recorded. Ours is a sorry story of the public sector conducting itself outside the bounds of the law and good sense, not to mention actively suppressing or distorting reality.

SIDEBAR: The Integrity Re-Write

Martin-Farrell
Martin Farrell

Martin Farrell served in the management of the Integrity Commission since its inception in 1988, rising to become its Registrar for the final decade of his service, before his retirement in 2016. He is now the Vice Chairman of the T&T Transparency Institute.

I could scarcely believe my ears during his interview on 107.7FM with Rennie B on Sunday, 8 October 2017. Farrell appeared on that program, as TTTI Vice-Chairman, together with its Secretary, Susan Gordon, to be interviewed on their recent conference ‘Breaking Free of a Culture of Corruption’.

Some of Farrell’s astounding remarks included –

“…and from my experience, working as the Registrar of the Integrity Commission, with all the Commissions, have generally been extremely worthy, worthwhile citizens, of praiseworthy citizens…”

“…The Commission is not political, it is appointed by the President…”

“…So the people who throw stones at the Commission, quite unfairly, in my view…”

“…by law, the Commission is not subject to the control of anyone. That is stated in the Act. The Commission is one of the most…and they guard their independence fiercely, believe me…”

To cite just one example from the extensive record of Integrity Commission failure, consider the 2007 lawsuit brought by our current PM, then MP Dr Keith Rowley. The first point of the High Court’s 2009 ruling against the Integrity Commission (CV 2007-00185) was

“…The Court declares that the Integrity Commission has acted in bad faith in relation to Dr. Rowley and is guilty of the tort of misfeasance in public office…”

At Para 45 (i) of that ruling –

“…The Court does not accept the Integrity Commission’s explanation as to why it wrote to the Honourable Prime Minister on the 19th October, 2004, to ascertain whether an inquiry was to be undertaken and if so, the names of the persons to man the enquiry and their terms of reference. The Court notes that the Integrity Commission is an independent constitutional body which ought to act independently pursuant to its constitutional and statutory powers and duties…”

The entire Integrity Commission resigned immediately after that judgment which awarded Dr Rowley his legal costs and $100,000 in damages. Gordon Deane was the Commission’s Chairman at the time of this abandonment of its Constitutional independence. He is in still alive and active, yet has never given any public explanation for his unacceptable actions.

Farrell’s statements amount to an effort to re-write history which I entirely reject. Those statements were hagiographic and exactly what we must dismantle if we are ever to break free of a culture of corruption. In these days of blatant Alternative Facts, it is imperative that we maintain our vigilance and resolve to fight for what is right.

Read the email exchange between Mr Farrell and I on this topic below.

So many cases have been lost by the State in the Courts, in which senior public officials have been found to have broken good practice and the law, yet no one is ever disciplined or dismissed. Not even to mention charged. What is more, there are sustained efforts to write certain shameful episodes out of history – see the sidebar.

This is what the MBA-people call a ‘wicked problem‘, the elements of which are tragically inter-connected with little ready prospect of solution. In relation to the imperatives of innovation and entrepreneurship, those path-finders need to know what worked and what did not, so that they might identify new possibilities.

So even when a process is started to officially examine the history and options, the apparent hostility to the truth manifests, like an echo from the bad old days.

terrencefarrell
Dr. Terrence Farrell

As Terrence Farrell recounts, in ‘The Underachieving Society‘ (2012), in relation to the Vision 2020 exercise –

“…certain key persons involved in the implementation of policy initiatives elected not to participate. Calder Hart, chairman of UDECOTT,…did not participate. Ken Julien, president of the University of Trinidad & Tobago, and Noel Garcia, head of the Housing Development Corporation, key agencies in the implementation of government policy, also were not part of the Vision 2020 exercise…” (pg 203)

His further note, on the same page, is sobering –

“…the subcommittees were plagued by the inadequacy of data. Over the decades since the abandonment of planning, the Central Statistical Office has steadily declined in terms of the quantity and quality of its statistical output so much so that there are now serious questions about the integrity and reliability of certain data produced…”

This is an account of our attitude to the truth and the consequences of that attitude. If we do not want to know, we will not enquire, other than as a sterile process, to quip at Minister Imbert. Even when we enquire and we report, we suppress before going on to ignore the actual reports we commissioned and paid for at great public expense.

Even when we regard certain historic episodes as being utterly shameful and seriously criminal, the sobering truth is that the attitude of even those oppressive regimes towards their records and achievements is exemplary. The records of the Atlantic Slave Trade are preserved and available, in all their distressing detail, whatever we think of that abusive epoch.

Similarly, the Nazi era, in which a dominant group of Europeans slaughtered other Europeans by the millions, has had a greater part of its records preserved and available.

Why is the activity and consciousness of our society and its leadership seemingly oblivious to the necessity to preserve records to in order to understand, so that we might progress? Why do we continue to suppress the many expensive and valuable findings of the many Commissions of Enquiry in our country?

Again, let us juxtapose our wretched attitude to learning the lessons from our large-scale errors with that of the USA, of which so many criticisms could be made. I have before me the ‘Authorised Editions’ of The 9/11 Commission Report‘ and ‘The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report‘. Both of those are available free online as downloadable PDFs and at any bookstore at US$14.95. No leader in the USA or UK would consider withholding or delaying publication of the results of a Public Enquiry. I can think of only one UK example, in a truly unique situation steeped in Middle East war and so on. What is the mindset of our leadership to continue to sit as gatekeepers of what is fit for the public to consume.

The attitudes of the Godfather are incompatible with the burning need for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.


From: Afra Raymond <afraraymond@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 9:21 PM
To: Martin
Cc: Dion Abdool; Susan Gordon ; TTTi; Murray Derick; Jason Stedman; Reginald Dumas; Victor Hart; Boyd Reid
Subject: Your views on the Integrity Commission

Hello Martin,

I could scarcely believe my ears during your interview on 107.7FM with Rennie B on Sunday 8th October 2017. You appeared on that program, as our Vice-Chairman, together with our Secretary, Susan Gordon, to be interviewed on our recent conference ‘Breaking Free of a Culture of Corruption‘.

Out of an abundance of caution, I carefully listened again to the relevant portion of the interview, which begins at 6mins 5secs and is available at the link above. For ease of reference, the text of the exchange between Rennie B and yourself is transcribed and embedded into this email, with the necessary highlighting.

You made statements on that radio interview to the effect that the members of the Integrity Commission had been extremely worthy, worthwhile and praiseworthy citizens. You then went on to emphasise that the Commission is independent, not subject to the control of anyone and that their independence is something they guard fiercely.

I disagree entirely with your remarks and it is ironic that they should have been made on that program, by our Vice-Chairman, given what we know from the record of Integrity Commission collapses and resignations. To cite just one example from that extensive record, consider the 2007 lawsuit brought against the Integrity Commission by our current PM, then MP Dr Keith Rowley. A few extracts from that judgment are included here.

The first point of the High Court’s 2009 ruling against the Integrity Commission and in favour of then MP, Dr Keith Rowley (CV 2007-00185) was

“…The Court declares that the Integrity Commission has acted in bad faith in relation to Dr. Rowley and is guilty of the tort of misfeasance in public office…”

At Para 45 (i) of that ruling –

“…The Court does not accept the Integrity Commission’s explanation as to why it wrote to the Honourable Prime Minister on the 19th October, 2004, to ascertain whether an inquiry was to be undertaken and if so, the names of the persons to man the enquiry and their terms of reference. The Court notes that the Integrity Commission is an independent constitutional body which ought to act independently pursuant to its constitutional and statutory powers and duties…”

At para 12 of that ruling, the lead attorney for the Integrity Commission conceded the case at the first hearing –

“..According to Mr. Hamel-Smith S.C., ninety per cent (90%) of Dr. Rowley’s claim was conceded and he was prepared to attend a trial of the matter to say that the Integrity Commission was not filing evidence in opposition to that part of the claim…”

It is my considered view, Martin, that this episode evidences mis-behaviours in public office which can in no way be considered praiseworthy. As we all know, the entire Integrity Commission resigned immediately after that judgment which awarded Dr Rowley his legal costs and $100,000 in damages.

In my view your statements amount to an effort to re-write history which I entirely reject. Your statements are baseless and misleading, so much so that you took this opportunity to revise the history of our benighted Integrity Commission.

I consider those statements of yours to be hagiographic and exactly what we must dismantle if we are ever to break free of a culture of corruption. In these days of blatant Alternative Facts, it is imperative that we maintain our vigilance and resolve to fight for what is right. I will continue to agitate against alternate facts and falsehoods wheresoever those may appear, which is just about anywhere these days!

In the interests of clarity and in keeping with our shared purpose of Transparency, I will be publishing on this issue shortly so I am inviting your comments/response by 6pm tomorrow, Thursday 12th October 2017, so that those might be included.

Thank you.

Afra Raymond

afraraymond.net


Partial transcript of Martin Farrell’s (MF) interview with Rennie B (RB) on Sunday 8th October 2017 on 107.7FM

…6:05
RB – Mr Farrell has served on all the Integrity Commissions which were appointed since 1988, so specifically in that area, Public Confidence in that crucial Institution has waned amidst charges of political invasion in the process…I think it would be useful to delineate, albeit with the limitation of time, ‘What is the function of the Integrity Commission, Sir?’

MF – The function of the Integrity Commission, in a nutshell, is to make provisions for the prevention of corruption of Persons in Public Life, by providing for public disclosure; to, as I had said earlier, regulate the conduct of those persons exercising public functions; and to preserve and promote the integrity of Public Officials and Institutions…those are very noble goals, very, very noble goals…and from my experience, working as the Registrar of the Integrity Commission, with all the Commissions, have generally been extremely worthy, worthwhile citizens, of praiseworthy citizens…I have never, ever, been in a Commission where you did not…and that is from 1988 coming forward, I would say all of the Commissions, if 90% of the decisions, arrived (sic) by one Commission would have been reached by other Commissions…when you look at 5 wise men and women sitting in a room, generally, the decisions arrived at would have been the same…

RB – What, you know, because you have been there from the beginning and you have been there through all, the perception of the public vis-a-vis the Integrity Commission has been ventilated often, it’s all the way out there…my question to you is, in the area of confidence, the public confidence, in this Institution…how do we go about fixing, the primary question that folks ask ‘Are they political and why are they not functioning as we expect? Which is with more haste and more disclosure’

MF – The Commission is not political, it is appointed by the President. The Commission reflects us, me and you. They come from Trinidad & Tobago, they do not come from Mars. They are our kith and kin. So they are as impartial and as fair as we would be, the average citizen. In Trinidad, we tend to point fingers and say ‘Why isn’t John and Jane behaving X, Y and Z?’ When we behave X, Y and Z, John and Jane, they mirror us. In Trinidad & Tobago, we get, the people who percolate, they come from us, they do not come from Mars. So the people who throw stones at the Commission, quite unfairly, in my view. Because, if you, as I told you, my experience with the Commission and I can speak because I have worked with several Commissions, from Justice Collymore, the first one, to Justice des Isles, coming all the way down to Justice Hosein, generally 90% of the decisions made by one Commission, would have been made by all the others, from my experience seeing them deliberate on issues.

RB – But even though the dissent that was about two years ago ventilated in the public arena, caused a lot of fracture in the confidence level of the citizenry and the organisation, but when I made the point about the political invasion of it, incursion is what I should have said because it is not that they are politically-appointed, we understand the independence which you clarified for us, but folks are feeling that because partisanship has been showing itself in the Integrity Commission and some of the works they have been asked to follow though on…You have not found that?

MF – No. The Commission, by law, the Commission is not subject to the control of anyone. That is stated in the Act. The Commission is one of the most…and they guard their independence fiercely, believe me.


From: Martin
Date: Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 12:07 AM
Subject: Re: Your views on the Integrity Commission
To: Afra Raymond <afraraymond@gmail.com>
Cc: Dion Abdool , “Susan Gordon” , TTTi <admin@transparency.org.tt>, Murray Derick , Jason Stedman , Reginald Dumas , Victor Hart , Boyd Reid

Dear Afra

Thank you for your valuable comments.

My mother always told me to “wink at small faults, remember you have great ones”. Maybe that caveat from my mother influenced some of my excessive praise for the Integrity Commissions. Nevertheless, I have worked as Registrar/Secretary with every Integrity Commission ever appointed in Trinidad & Tobago and I believe that we should careful not to use the missteps or bad decisions of one or two Commissions to paint a brush and tarnish all Commissions. It may then appear as if we are displaying false airs of moral superiority. Of course there has been drama with the Integrity Commissions. This is Trinidad & Tobago. Not Sweden or France. Drama is in our DNA. However, as an organization promoting transparency and good governance, TTTI has two main obligations when it involves the Integrity Commission: call out the wrong doing whenever it occurs; but also support, encourage and assist them to do the right thing. I am persuaded that we need the Integrity Commission to be a strong institution. As I said, Integrity Commissions are made up of men like you and me. Not foreigners. Indeed, for the most part, (90% of the time) every Commission would have come up with the same decision, ceteris paribus. And I really do believe that.

Early in my Public Service career I was fortunate to work closely with the very top managers in the Public Service (including John Andrews and Reggie Dumas who influenced my leadership style considerably). You become your boss, so to speak. Permit me to share the attachment with you as I always believed that the biggest threat to the Integrity Commission was a disgruntled Staff Member. And disgruntlement would set in if a Staff Member perceived the decisions of the Commission or the Registrar to be biased and/or unfair. I can truthfully say, Afra, the occasions are very rare when I witnessed a Commissioner (not the whole Commission, mind you) only a Member, display any bias. The Commissions also guarded their independence jealously, as I am sure you would if you were appointed a Member of the Integrity Commission.

One last point, in association with the Integrity Commission and the National Parent/Teacher Association, TTTI is about to embark on an initiative to introduce Integrity Clubs in Secondary schools. This project has the ability to change the ethical landscape in Trinidad & Tobago. Naturally, it is creating a great deal of excitement as some people unrealistically think that Integrity Clubs in Secondary schools will solve many problems. However, we hope it doesn’t create undue expectations.

Cheers!

Martin


© 2017, Afra Raymond. All Rights Reserved.

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4 thoughts on “The Importance of Memory

  1. Ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and the Sumériens also kept records that give us a clear picture of what they valued in their societies. Your article makes me wonder what 22nd century anthropologists and archaeologists would learn about our beautiful twin island when they unearth records and other data storing devices from this time period.

    Alicia Carew

  2. Got it right sir-in addition to ‘fight for what is RIGHT’ as quoted in that Integrity “RE Write”-we MUST fight and stand for the “TRUTH” at all times.

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