Op-Ed: Treason in Trinidad?

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By David P Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

Trinidad has once again discovered a major conspiracy aimed at the overthrow of the constitutionally-elected Government. The twin island nation seems engulfed with the suppression of a major anti-government conspiracy.

This stunning announcement was made yesterday by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Prime Minister also identified the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and herself as targets for assassination, among other members of the government. On Aug. 21, a State of Emergency was declared in Trinidad to combat narcotics-related urban violence.

Trinidad had a Westminster model constitution which was amended by Act 4 of 1976, the Republican constitutional form which replaced the 1962 form. These changes have come under fire by scholars and political commentators. The new constitution is neither fish nor fowl, with both a President and a Prime Minister.

Lord Diplock, in Moses Hinds v The Queen, described the Westminster model as a constitutional structure which embraces the Separation of Powers and certain constitutional conventions that are inherent in British Common Law. The Separation of Powers nourishes the Rule of Law if these conventions are complied with.

Has Trinidad ‘s tinkering with the Westminster model led to instability and the possibility of urban chaos?

Jamaica has retained the Westminster model and suffered no serious constitutional crises. There has been violence but no attempts to overthrow the Jamaican Government. Is this why the Cayman Islands does not wish to become independent? Do Cayman Islanders fear the instabilities associated with Trinidad’s treason? Many associate the Westminster model with stability.

Trinidad is essentially a biracial nation. Does the two party system cater appropriately to the two races? The Black-Indian mix is further complicated by a religious divide between Muslim and Hindu segments among the East Indian population. Even this been has complicated by a sectarian split between the radical Muslim and mainstream Muslim interpretation of the role of the civilian Government — an interpretation generally not consistent with the tenets of the Westminster model.

It should be noted that in the recent treason conspiracy both the Prime Minister and the Attorney General were identified by the plotters for elimination.

International investors may well ask whether or not it is time to get out of town before the Trinidad situation meanders out of control.

The Prime Minister needs to enforce the Rule of Law and seek to preserve stability in what is a relatively young and small Republic. We wait for Persad-Bissessar’s reaction. So do Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.