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Petrotrin a judicial distraction

Saturday, September 8, 2018

So everything is Petrotrin these days. But just prior to closing down the refinery there was talk of a close down at the judiciary. No toilet paper, no photocopiers, no working toilets etc at the Hall of Justice and some other courts. No Judicial and Legal and Service Commission, no proper and transparent manner of appointing judges or promoting judges to the Court of Appeal. No steps being taken by the Government to invoke section 137 despite the Chief Justice’s embarrassing failure before the Privy Council.

The country was waiting to hear PM Rowley disseminate reasons as to why we still needed to preserve the Great Wall of China around the Chief Justice. Or better yet, more “unscholarly statements” from our movie-star Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. One wonders, what will the Chief Justice talk about in the opening of the new law term mere days away. A Barney Stinson’s “WAIT FOR IT…”

Next Tuesday, the Senate is being convened to debate the WIPAY Bill. This bill will apparently permit some entity (presumably appointed by the Government in consultation with the CJ) to operate and facilitate payments to be made to the courts. Furthermore, the complement of judges will be substantially increased through the appointment of persons outside of Trinidad and Tobago.

I have repeatedly complained that there are not enough Hindu judges in the Judiciary, but now the proposed legislation is not going to permit any room for that. Rather, it will permit foreign judges, who may not know our local culture, to come in here and in time dominate our judicial system.

Where is the Law Association in all of this? Is the association in support of the convening of Parliament to debate such a bill? What is its position on this bill? Why Mr Attorney General? Why Dr Keith Rowley? Why the need to debate such a bill at this time?

According to the former great Ancel Roget, who was once concerned about appointments by the previous PP government to the Industrial Court, is the Government trying to select judges who are sympathetic to its cause?

Mr Roget, and others like him, including trade union leaders perceived as mismanaging, ill-prioritising, conveniently grumbling, thumping bureaucrats, really are not serving the workers’ best interests. The recent spate of events surrounding talk of closing down and selling Petrotrin has sparked a national debate.

The notion of the 15 million dollars allotted to the trade union movement by the PNM Government in 2015-2016 Budget has never really left the minds of the public. I am not saying that any union leader was paid 15 million dollars, whether directly or otherwise by the PNM Government. What I am saying is that there have been serious concerns as to what that 15 million dollars represented. What was the thinking and/or intention behind the allotment of 15 million dollars?

Did the Government expect by allotting this sum of money that union leaders and the labour force would go easy on any of their perceived anti-labour measures? To this day, many have doubts as to whether such monies have in fact been paid over. If so, can there be genuineness in labour leaders’ subsequent actions?

Some have asked the question as to whether Mr Roget has been in the know about plans to sell Petrotrin. If yes, how long and why would a trade union leader assume such a demeanour and disposition?

Why did Nirvan Maharaj (president of ATWTU) not immediately take up the mantle of asking and demanding outstanding settlement monies, land etc to ex-Caroni workers? With the upfront promise/s being made by the Government that Petrotrin workers would be handsomely and simultaneously compensated upon closure, the All Trinidad Workers’ Trade Union president should have questioned why Caroni workers were still not settled. Why the preferential treatment of Petrotrin workers when ex-Caroni worker are still waiting for their compensation?

Then there is also Lynsley Doodhai, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA). Recent events will show that notwithstanding this Government’s failure to pay school-bus drivers, school-feeding suppliers, provide textbooks, teachers who have marked SEA and School-Based Assessments etc… for the past two years, TTUTA has remained consistently quiet. Then comes news of closure of Petrotrin and Mr Doodhai immediately belches to parents to keep their kids at home.

Are union leaders serious about the plight of the country or are they simply going through the motions? Either way, everything just points to a big judicial distraction!


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