Stacks Image 82615

Subscribe to Thank God It’s Friday

TGIF columns are in order by date from the most recent.

Scroll down to search or read more

​Freeing the Panday Two

ON MONDAY, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the 2005 Piarco Airport construction corruption cases against former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and his wife Oma, former Minister of Something or the Other Carlos John and Still Very Rich Man Ishwar Galbaransingh and, in the slave ship-level overcrowded Remand Yard of the Port of Spain Prison, young men rejoiced as one, although they were crammed 11 to a cell built for one.

Because, if it took only 18 years for a prosecution unlikely to succeed against some of the most powerful individuals in the country to be withdrawn, there emerged this week a slim chance that those Remand Yarders might have their own potentially dodgy prosecutions nullified and, ergo, might get out of jail before they were entitled to claim the state pension.
There’s a page one story waiting to be written about the number of young men accused of crimes who have now spent longer behind bars waiting for their cases to begin than they would have if they’d served the maximum sentence, had they been convicted of the crime with which they’d been charged. (I would write that story myself, because I think we would all be shocked by it, but I still have PTSD from the day, 20 years or so ago, that I rang the Commissioner of Prisons, then Michael Hercules, who was at Hugh Wooding Law School with me in 1983, to find out how many prisoners there were on Death Row, a stat I needed for a single sentence in one of these columns; Hercules was not in the office and the officer I spoke with, on hearing I was writing for a newspaper, flatly refused to tell me, claiming the figure was a matter of national security. “How am I supposed to find out, then?” I asked him. “Come down and count them if you want!” he snarled; and hung up.)
Now DPP Roger Gaspard has always struck me as one of the professionals upon whom TT relies to do a thankless job well, probably at a great personal cost, and I don’t doubt he made the right decision in context; but it could hardly come at a worse time for anyone hoping our judicial system might yet be our saviour.
Because I don’t think we can look to our leadership in any sphere, other than the Arts, to help us extricate ourselves from the mess in which we (and our colonial legacy) have landed ourselves. The other two branches are not the strong legs of the tripod of government. Our politicians will cheerfully lead us into temptation and deliver us into evil and our House of Representatives fails us by definition, since it does not represent fully half of us at any given time in any given Parliament.
So all hope rests with the last branch of government.
But the withdrawal of charges by the DPP this week is likely to be seen by many as yet another nail in the coffin of legal accountability.
And yet it is precisely decisions like this, whose main hallmark is independence, that may matter most.
If you found yourself sneering on Monday when you heard that the Big Four of Piarco were to walk away scot-free, try to see if you can turn it into a grin. Because it could have been worse.
And we don’t have to look very far back into our legal history to realise that.
If the DPP had not withdrawn those prosecutions on Monday, they may have proceeded, and at the rate at which they had been proceeding for the last 18 years.
And if the cases had indeed collapsed years from now, as the DPP envisaged well enough to encourage him to withdraw them this week, we may well have found out that, unbeknownst to anyone, especially the AG’s office, these same accused had taken some legal step towards having their names cleared by the courts, but the file had disappeared and they’d taken up judgement against the state by default, we would have had to pay them substantial damages to boot!
So look on the bright side: the Panday Two, the Carlos John One and one Ish have not so much walked away from an almost decades long prosecution as missed out on a future payday, underwritten by us.
And the sufferers of the Remand Yard have a glimmer of hope that, like the economics we practice, justice may yet trickle down to them.

BC Pires is fully aware that Laugh and Cry live in the same yard

Navigational Links