Trinidad & Tobago: Down the Rabbit Hole?

Further to the outrage expressed by political bloggers in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week, the country's Parliament convened to debate the controversial Section 34, which resulted in it being repealed – but citizens, both on and offline, seem to be taking limited comfort in the law's recall.

The blogger behind The Eternal Pantomime practically live blogged the Parliamentary proceedings on Facebook, then summarized her impressions in a post called “34Gate”:

In the aftermath of the Barnum and Bailey Circus Show that passed for a debate…the crucial questions still remain unanswered.

No member of the Cabinet has yet satisfied the public’s concern about why they decided to pluck Section 34, along with 4 other minor clauses, out of the Indictable Offences Act and proclaim it on the evening of August 30th while most of the nation was busy with Independence celebrations…and there was I simply thinking is because Kamla love to fete! Nope, all the fetes were weapons of mass distraction.

The Opposition asked the same questions in each of its presentations: Why were the provisions agreed to by Senator Volney ignored, and parts of the Bill proclaimed; and why was that particular clause pulled out for proclamation when it was proclaimed in the manner it was proclaimed. However they did all manage to agree on repealing the Law retroactively. the Bill now moves on to the Upper House.

In a section of the post sub-titled “How It went Down”, the blogger continued:

What we also learned is that our silkened luminaries, after hustling to proclaim Section 34 on August 30th, realised that the Bill was flawed and hustled just as quickly to repeal it, all on their own….no public pressure from the Opposition and the US…they did this for us, the nation, because they always listening to us. Doh mind Kamla could never answer any of our questions directly.

She also detailed how Section 34 had “a different wording before it was passed in the Lower House and went to the Senate” and how, “when the Bill got to the Senate, under Justice Volney’s stewardship the wording changed”:

The Opposition asked why was there a change in the wording of the Bill between both Houses…this question was never answered.

At no point in time in the course of the debate did any member of the Cabinet read or quote from the Hansard…which has on record Volney agreeing to undertaking certain provisions before proclaiming the Bill. It was only the Opposition quoting from the Hansard.

The Eternal Pantomime concluded:

The biggest blow to the government’s case though is DPP Roger Gaspard’s claim that he was not consulted on the Bill, and further, after giving the time line of the Bill’s passage and proclamation, arriving at the conclusion that it appears to be a conspiracy.

The Opposition has now laid a careful case for why they cannot trust the Government and why the public cannot trust them either.

Plain Talk, meanwhile, thought that the Section 34 “fiasco” had “the potential for damaging the sanctity of some of this country's highest Offices and bringing into question the credibility of their holders”:

If one were to put God out of one's thoughts for a minute and ponder the implications of the issue based solely on the evidence already in the public domain it could appear as if there was a massive conspiracy to utilize the Parliament to create an escape for (at least) two party financiers of the government and if that is what occurred in reality then surely we need to stop the conversation right here and begin whatever passes for impeachment proceedings in this country.

The blogger then posed a few critical questions “to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes” and concluded:

Surely everyone concerned on all sides of the political and national divide must be aware that we have crossed the Rubicon here, that we cannot simply pick up our marbles and move on.

This matter has to be taken to a conclusion that restores public confidence in the institutions of governance and ought not to be considered resolved until all those who were involved in any way are, at the very least, removed from public office and investigated for any wrongdoing or misbehavior.

Against this backdrop, diaspora blogger Jumbie's Watch noted that a “certain minister” had “been seen in Tobago sipping champagne with the owner of a resort where his ministry held a retreat” and commented:

Said resort is owned by one of the two men currently taken advantage of the proclaimed section 34 of Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.

Given that this minister was allegedly in with the legal adviser to the government to set up this particular act of Parliament, specifically for the benefit of the two men, it seems to me that the haste in celebrating is a little presumptuous.

aka_lol, tongue firmly in cheek, summed up the entire affair this way:

It is rumored that self-proclaimed law experts, Anand and Hubert, will not be getting their complimentary iPads from Parliament as punishment for sneakily making a hole in a brand new law through which two of the country’s most popular accused criminals, Ish and Steve, had planned to escape. It is also rumored that Hubert has already protested this latest atrocity saying he will get a medical certificate stating his heart was set on an iPad 2 while Anand bawled out how he needed not one, but two tablets for his latest headache. If these rumors are true then the legal duo will have to continue to tote millions of dollars worth of paper in an out of Parliament while their colleagues pretend their tablets are on.

When the news to this latest Government-approved law hole was highlighted by the press, the public and Government officials feigned surprise and horror with some true supporters wondering what was taking the Government so long to pay their pipers.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Rabbit Hole Stock”, is by rubyblossom., used under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) Creative Commons license. Visit rubyblossom.'s flickr photostream.

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