Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dots in the dark

Keith Subero logo42

Mark Fraser

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan last week invited us to connect the dots in the story of the two confidential reports about the covert New Flying Squad Investigations Unit (NFSIU) that were leaked to the Express.

But the AG warned that even then, “one will be left to wonder, how, why when, where”.

I could not resist the AG’s invitation, but first I felt compelled to refer to the bigger picture of political activities in T&T.

With that reference I found myself being taken immediately to the Watergate scandal in US politics in the mid-70s which led to then president Richard Nixon resigning and the jailing of his cohorts, US attorney general John Mitchell and several senior White House staffers for abuses in office.

Why Watergate? To begin connecting the dots in the current political matrix, I have always maintained that one should reference Watergate, because it seems to provide us with a template of the dark side of politics.

The Watergate story involved US government cover-ups; political dirty tricks; campaign-financing and slush funds; blacklists; break-ins; the use of an unauthorised, covert unit, just as the NFSIU; illegal taping (now e-mails), and the eventual paranoia among those in the corridors of power—all of which were revealed through the efforts of hard-working investigative journalists.

The AG even added another dimension. He said the leaks were part of “a conspiratorial approach” to bring down the Government. It involved Express investigative journalist Anika Gumbs and he said it was “tantamount to treason and a subversion of the State”.

Before connecting the dots, I hoped that the AG had been “so advised” that the hysteria in his off-the-cuff ranting and his poorly-crafted reasoning in this matter may have compromised the safety of Ms Gumbs—in fact, all journalists.

I hoped, too, the AG was “further advised” that should Ms Gumbs, let’s say, slip at mid-day on the pavement on Independence Square, he may be held accountable in the court of public opinion.

Also, we need to question the over-anxiety in the AG’s language, his public tantrum and his implicit threat of impending use of the State’s legal machinery.

As an aside, he should have noted the whistle-blower case of Edward Snowden, the US intelligence analyst, who revealed to the media some 1.7 million highly-classified documents on the US government’s world-wide surveillance programme.

Any examination of the motivations of whistle-blowers, generally, would have helped the AG before he staged his public tantrum—but then his party has rolled out its re-election campaign strategy.

Without any fanfare, his Government has launched its 2015 spin campaign, with “good news and performance” strategies in which someone—neither cabal nor Government member—will be fingered for the fall in every mis-step.

So in the NFSIU story, Gillian Lucky, chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, has been fingered by the AG as the person responsible for the leak to the media and the Opposition.

In the First Citizens IPO scandal, Philip Rahaman has been served up already in response to the public call for blood.

The AG gave the bank’s chairman and the board a clean bill of health, but as public criticisms increase there are reports that the Government may sacrifice at least one bank executive.

From now on, the Government will be looking for every available “brownie point”. So last week Calder Hart was back into the news, with the AG stating that, “I have made a plea to the judiciary to treat these matters with the urgency they deserve, because they involve serious allegations of misuse and corruption of public funds”.

We will hear nothing of the $100 million fine that WASA has been ordered by a London tribunal to pay to an Israeli contractor because of the cancellation of a contract when Ganga Singh was WASA’s CEO.

Instead, we will hear more contrived stories such as Jack Warner’s legal troubles at the Centre of Excellence and his blacklisting. But we will hear little of the billion dollar-plus contract awarded to Super Industrial Services, and claims of interlocking directorships in the WASA-NGC Beetham wastewater project.

There will be avoidance of the fact there have been no prosecutions or convictions for any of the suspicious transactions, totalling $1.2 billion, which have been identified by the Financial Intelligence Unit.

In the Government’s shifting agenda, expect further silence on the emailgate investigation and Section 34.

There will be no references to episodes involving former ministers Sharma and Ramadharsingh, and one can anticipate that the days of the Tobago Development Minister Dr Delmon Baker are numbered.

Further efforts will be made to control Petrotrin’s environmental disaster news, and latest report of the death of a near 1,000-pound dolphin.

In the coming months connect the dots but be aware of the dangers of AG’s “treason and subversion” allegations, and his theatrical tantrums—remember they are parts of a re-election campaign.

• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed in

career in communication

and management