The news reports in the two Sunday papers that I browse featured different people from different places emphasizing in different ways the role of the judicial system in any society seeking to lift itself out of the swamp and shadows. They all mean well and should be commended. But I must wonder if these messages are reaching receptive minds. Audiences are listening and hearing (nothing wrong with their ears); the trouble is what is going on in the heads of those same listeners, supposedly learned people all.
The acting Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago, Mr. Stuart Young, is reported to have said that there are currently people who practise in our courts as attorneys, who “have been facilitating gang members and gang activities” (SN May 6). The same can be said here in Guyana and extended to facilitating by boards and banks and barristers and businesses and elsewhere; it is at the kingpin level. There are those who have earned the dubious sobriquet of “drug lawyers” but these are usually for the mules, the small fry. There is a more sinister, behind-the-scenes set of operators who maintain professional (maybe even personal) links with the “big fish” in this country. Efforts are ongoing to keep those mutually rewarding facilitations off-the-radar. They still float in sight. They stink.
Then, the Common-wealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland journeyed from all the way over there to point out to the assembly of judicial officers that “we have to increase the likelihood that the crooks will be caught and secondly, we have to relieve them of the burden of their ill-gotten gains” (KN May 6). Better intentioned words could not have been said. But the well-meaning CSG has to know that those ill-gotten gains are so vast that they wield mighty reach and could tempt even angels. The relievers have to be seriously committed to the work of relieving (and not for themselves). That politely listening choir has to do more than sing and sway; its members all have to resist overtures, partnerships, and numbers, and deliver for the citizenry denied by money laundering.
Do we have people who can deliver constantly and unimpeachably? My short answer is: yes and no. The reasons are: too much money, too much reach, and too much culture. To get an appreciation of how radioactive matters have become in this land, here is a little picture: in any gathering or audience in this country (including places of God), there are those bringing the news, making the news, carrying the news, and reporting the news who are contaminated. For the long answer, I refer those interested to the letter on Saturday titled, “Some should not, cannot, speak out against dirty corruption” (SN May 5).
Finally, former parliamentarian, Mr. Ramson, goes public and “Says weak judiciary represents another drag on economy” (KN May 6). Mr. Ramson should be lauded (and excused) for speaking in sober and retrained tones. What this country is saddled with is more than a weak judiciary only, or relative to oil only, and the economy solely. The grave reality is that there is chronic weakness all over, and not only in skills and talents, but of that million dollar a drop (not barrel) commodity called impeccable character; and while future oil has to be protected, there is gold and rice and fish, as well as policing and taxing and trafficking, and all the countless other ills and areas that demand guarding right now. In addition to a palpably weak judiciary, there is a still sleazy (weak) bureaucracy (Mr. Ramson should have insights from his earlier life), and a still dirty (weak) law enforcement apparatus. There is so much weakness around these parts, that water has overtaken the nation’s knees.
Further, ex-MP Ramson is absolutely correct about the arms of the government being in need of strengthening. There is that well-endowed monument that is well attended by the many well-dressed, some of whom would set off any kind of detector system anywhere. I am not speaking of airports only; but those that probe to detect what a man really represents. Though Mr. Ramson has physically departed that particular hood (the legislature), the fellas are still there and having the usual grand time in and out of it. Here is the question: how to strengthen the unclean? And how to bring religion (anybody’s) to unreconstructed atheists? The captive Israelites were denied straw to make bricks. I beg: where are the raw materials to make strong what is weak in this society? The raw materials of integrity, of values, of ideals, of baseline honesty?
Editor, let the roiling, jarring truth be told: this place is in a bad place with a lot of bad (dirty) people. They pollute every system of endeavor and operation. And by the way, the local criminal justice system (using the most expansive definition) is geared to encouraging, reinforcing, and perpetuating criminality. The bottom line is simple and incontestable: too many incorrigible people through and through. It is this stark. There can be pointing out and preaching. But can there be powering in a different direction through different (personal) priorities? Given what I have seen and come to understand in a very short span, I submit: not now; not yet; not with what we have.