Lessons of US way with T&T murder
With the sentencing on Friday, in Washington, of the 12th Trinidadian accused in the Balram “Balo” Maharaj murder, a clear-cut US demonstration of how-it’s-done remains for the instruction of T&T authorities. It is, thus, heartening that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan looked so approvingly on the just-concluded process as to express willingness to follow the American lead.
Having pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy to commit hostage -taking, Trinidadian Doreen Alexander, was sentenced to 20 years. Her sentencing concludes what will go down as an epic investigation and prosecution of those who took part in the kidnapping from an El Socorro bar, and subsequent dismemberment, of Mr Maharaj between 2005 and 2006.
The satisfactory wrap-up of this case (pursued, prosecuted and concluded Stateside because the T&T-born victim was a US citizen), stands in vivid contrast to any number of readily cited local matters. The American process entailed investigation in T&T; identification and arrest of culprits; and their extradition to US courts for successful prosecution.
A laborious and complicated process was effectively brought to a close. A horrific murder was avenged, and plotters and killers were impressively made to pay for their crimes.
That US investigators, prosecutors and relevant judicial enablers know something their T&T counterparts do not is glaringly obvious. The determination and know-how to make it happen, to communicate that wrongdoers will not escape retribution, defeating tactics of delay and obstruction, are foreign to present-day T&T experience.
“The Government is committed to working with the US and implementing some of its measures to ensure quick justice in this country,” attorney general Anand Ramlogan said on Friday. Such commitment long predates the present incumbent at the AG’s chambers.
But the best that has been achieved will amount to showing T&T authorities in a junior partnership at best with the Americans. Like PNM Attorney General John Jeremie before, when the idea was apparently entertained of outsourcing T&T prosecutions to the US, current authorities can take pride only in helping to advance American law enforcement enterprise.
It is for Mr Ramlogan to identify and advertise which of its “measures” are worthy and amenable of adoption from the US system. He will then need, with the support of public opinion, to persuade the judiciary, from higher to lower levels, not only to focus their rulings on suitably targeted activism, but also, more crucially, to deliver judgments without scandalous delay.
The T&T public has doubtless long been persuaded that the practices and principles associated with law enforcement do more to contribute to hopelessness in the face of rampant murderous crime than to help T&T out of its predicament. For T&T authorities, then, let the Balo Maharaj case be upheld as an object lesson.