Manufactured Dissent

Ambiguity and silence is the enemy of #ethics and #integrity.‘

Richard Bistrong @Richardbistrong

Manufactured consent is supported by “…effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion…“.

Noam Chomsky

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act (PPDPPA or The Act) was approved by Parliament in 2015 and amended three times by this administration. The Regulations to The Act were approved by Parliament in January 2022, so the stage was set for implementation of this important law. This series deals with the intentional series of delays now emerging from our AG and the Judiciary.

Our Judiciary made formal objections to The Act, which was already approved by Parliament. It is a piercing irony that those submissions were unsupported by any citations or research, none whatsoever.

Professional Responsibility is one of the important lenses to examine the new Public Procurement law and the implementation challenges.

Grand Corruption is impossible without the active assistance, advice and scheming of Professionals — Lawyers, Bankers, Accountants, Engineers, Surveyors. The Thieves cannot function without the Professionals, after all, as the old saying goes: “The Upholder is worse than the Thief!” That old saying speaks to the particular responsibilities which are vested in the Professional Class.

In the struggle to write and lobby for this crucial law, we were never able to get any interest from the Law Association, including the present LATT Board. No comments from the Institute of Chartered Accountants or the Bankers’ Association. Members of those professions play a pivotal role in looting our country and undermining our attempts to create a decent civilisation. For that matter, I cannot recall The UWI ever making any statement of support for the new Procurement law.

The pipeline is simple, from the lawyers who prepare the agreements/contracts to facilitate the nonsense, to the accountants who need those contracts to approve the payments, to the bankers who will not make any payments without proper documentation. That is how Grand Corruption works. It is all done in comfortable air-conditioned offices in the good part of town with polite, well-qualified professionals. That is the scene.

The three Professional Bodies which should be clearest on their roles and responsibilities in this grievous matter, have all maintained eloquent silences. In anticipation of those who will cry ‘not all‘ Bankers/Lawyers/Accountants, we all know high-quality members of those professions, but the inescapable fact is that those Professional Bodies have chosen to be silent, by taking the side of the Upholder, that is where we are.

The December 2020 suite of exemptions to the Public Procurement law effectively sealed the deal since legal fees, auditing & accounting fees and government financing were removed from OPR oversight. No group receiving that type of huge concession from the State is likely to raise any concerns on that same law, especially if they were seemingly oblivious before!

More to the point, there is a potent question at play here, how do we self-regulate? Can we identify and discipline wrongdoers in our own Professions? Sharp criticisms are easy when the wrongdoers can be ‘Othered’ – that other race; those wicked people from South or North; those PNM or UNC people. But what is our behaviour when the wrongdoer is actually one of our people, to the point where it is impossible to ‘Other’ that person or firm? That is the real challenge.

If we can only be clear and decisive when it is one of the ‘Others’, we have a long, bitter road ahead, because that is exactly what our rulers do when they show willful blindness to wrongdoers. We can’t really blame them, after all those are their long-time Colleagues and Party Members – you see?

When Anansi bounce up with Brer Rabbit…when All the King’s horses and all the King’s men becomes more than a long-time Nursery Rhyme, that is when we seeing utter Intellectual Bankruptcy. Intellectual Bankruptcy is the inability to defend, far less advance, one’s position, in this episode made all the piercing due to the abundance of resources available to the Judiciary and the AG.

Without any supporting facts, or law for that matter, we are witness to an unpardonable Appeal to Authority. I could remember a barrister pardner of mine telling me how sometimes he would end-up with a wretched case – the law and the evidence against you, the hasty client signed what they should not have, so all one can do is to “hold-on for dear life and try to dance-them-out by the sheer effluxion of time!

I am directly challenging the Judiciary, or the AG for that matter, to produce the evidence or citations to support its position on this important new law. That is a reasonable request. In fact it is ‘trite law’ that submissions which are not supported by precedents or proper citations are rightfully rejected by the Court. Sometimes, to assist an inexperienced advocate, the Court may invite submissions on a point – i.e for the evidence to be compiled and submitted in support of the point/s being advanced. I would be interested to see what citations are gathered in support of those erroneous concerns.

Any person or organisation can make errors, which is why we have a Judiciary to set us right when we go adrift. It would be exemplary and refreshing, not to mention honest, if the Judiciary were to reflect on this episode and withdraw its 29-page submission in toto.

So, in yet another feat of political gymnastics, we in Trinidad and Tobago have now ‘Manufactured Dissent’ (not Consent!) and reversed the analysis of the esteemed Noam Chomsky. Well I tell you.

SIDEBAR: DIARY of a DISTRACTION

  • 12 April 2022 – AG asked CJ for implementation comments;

  • 25 May 2022 – Judiciary responds with erroneous 29-pager, with no supporting citations whatsoever;

  • 22 June 2022 – AG delays implementation, supposedly to consider the unsupported submission;

  • 25 August 2022 – OPR responds with comprehensive rebuttal of every one of the Judiciary’s misguided points, fully supported by sound citations;

  • 5 October 2022 – Judiciary publishes its 29-page submission to the AG, under cover of its contrary Press Release;

  • 1 November 2022 – High Court grants ex parte Leave to my judicial review case to seek disclosure of the AG’s letter of 12 April 2022 and the Judiciary’s reply of 25 May 2022;

  • 18 November 2022 – JSC meeting with MPs Keith Scotland and Terrence Deyalsingh quizzing the OPR on its research, which is all a part of this ‘Manufactured Dissent’, no such query having been made of the Judiciary. Even monkeys know what tree to climb, it seems.

  • 13 January 2023 – Case Management Conference for my judicial Review case to seek disclosure of the AG’s letter of 12 April 2022 and the Judiciary’s reply of 25 May 2022. Why are those letters being concealed?

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4 thoughts on “Manufactured Dissent

  1. Hi Afra, Just a comment on the article. It’s only now you see how deep corruption is in our society. The same professionals are thieves themselves not only by protecting the status quo. They are also part of it. This has been so for decades. Just a sample of history, how many widows lost their property to corrupt lawyers….. It gives a sense of hopelessness, it has only gotten worse, or we can see it since we are more educated, the internet, social media etc.. It is now in plain sight. So what the perpetrators do, they justify it as “this is how business is done”. ” I have to make a profit” and many others. And we buy into it not realizing the true consequence of building a corrupt society.

  2. Quite a thought-provoking article and as usual laying the cards on the table. If we are serious about nation-building and moving towards achieving developed nation status, a lot of tough decisions have to be addressed in the area of accountability and significant transformational changes are indeed required. Everyone has a role to play and our watchdog organizations must act on behalf of the people.

  3. Afra Thanks for making so clear for us.

    Please consider adding a copy link option so that readers can easily paste link to articles into WhatsApp

    Be well.

    Peter Anthony Gales 868-290-8584

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