Taking due pride at T&T Independence
In the capital city of the old colonial "mother country", with Queen Elizabeth II herself presiding, the 2012 Olympic Games seem set to open a heady season of celebration and achievement. For Trinidad and Tobago, which is itself proudly represented at the Games, the season extends beyond the two or more Olympic weeks.
Win or lose over there, T&T, to an extent suitably lavish, will nevertheless be marking its 50th anniversary as an independent country. As happened before, hopefully successful performances by T&T athletes will handsomely gild the lily of national self-esteem and ambition.
From earliest days of Independence, T&T has managed to project capacity and to earn distinction in the universally highest levels of athletic competition. Should such history repeat itself over coming weeks, added glory will accrue to T&T's self-recognition as a little land of brilliant possibility.
All of this is of course background to this country's 50th Independence anniversary. Of which the commemoration should drive the imagination and the planning both of State officials and of simply ordinary people. It's in this respect that evaluation is drawn to the ambitious official plan to pardon convicted criminals.
That 27 years after, the father of a victim whose murder culprits have been imprisoned could still be demanding his "pound of flesh" in $2 million compensation illustrates the potential for backfiring of the grand plan to pardon and release 50 prisoners for the 50th Independence anniversary.
This far from 1985, when his son was found naked and dead with 14 stab wounds, the father, so far from attaining closure, is reliving the pain inflicted on himself and his family, pain that hasn't apparently been assuaged. Such agony will not have been dispelled by counselling, if such were made available, nor by other attention from the State.
The case reported on in the Express last week likely concerns not the only one in this position. The message so far appears to be that the large-scale pardon, if not handled with scrupulously careful selection of beneficiaries, could produce bitter recriminations from victims and survivors, responses capable of undermining the forgiving spirit animating the pardons.
While also seeking to free up space in the overcrowded jailhouses, the authorities must establish that such criminals as are being pardoned credibly deserve release on the basis of having demonstrated in actions and attitudes the reform of their criminal ways.
Further, some arrangements must be made to monitor the progress of pardoned prisoners and to ensure, as far as possible, against their return to the pathways of crime. For once, then, T&T can make itself proud by devising and implementing a model for penal reform in which, at its Independence anniversary, it could take measured pride.