Monday, May 27, 2013

A hand so badly played - Guest commentary

by Michael Harris - Reproduced unedited from the Trinidad Express
I HAVE no idea as to whether the e-mails produced by Dr Rowley during his contribution in Parliament on the motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister last week are authentic or not, but I find myself in complete agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard on the implications of the matter.

DPP Gaspard stated in an interview published last Saturday that the e-mails, “disclose acts and intentions, which if true, have the likely potential to undermine public confidence in the holders of high offices, especially since the alleged e-mail messages reveal conduct that is serious, far-reaching and criminal. 

Alternatively, if false, the effects are unlikely to be any less deleterious’’.What DPP Gaspard did not say, but which must be made absolutely clear from the position he has taken, is that so serious are the implications of the e-mails that, should they be demonstrated to be authentic, then there can be no question that the entire Government should resign.

These e-mails raise frightening allegations and no government implicated by authenticated evidence of such crimes should be allowed to remain in office. And this has nothing to do with any charges which may be brought in the criminal or civil courts.

By the same token however, if the e-mails are demonstrated to be fabrications then there can be no question that Dr Rowley should immediately resign as Leader of the Opposition, as political leader of the PNM and indeed from Parliament itself. 

For it would have been an act of colossal irresponsibility and contempt of Parliament and of country to have brought such allegations into the public domain without demonstrating that he had sought to conduct the requisite due diligence with regard to the verification of their authenticity.

I fully support, therefore, those voices which have been raised demanding that the investigation into the authenticity of the e-mails be placed in the hands of an independent computer forensics expert of international repute to work in conjunction with the police investigation.

I do not however hold out much hope that such an investigation would prove to be conclusive one way or the other. Too much time has elapsed allowing too much opportunity to tamper with too much of the evidence. 

I sincerely hope that this is not the case but if it turns out to be so then we shall be left with a nasty stain on both the Government and Opposition of this country and the primary responsibility for this must be placed squarely on the shoulders of Dr Rowley.

Simply put, Dr Rowley must have been aware of the fissionable material which those e-mails represented and should have understood that it was his absolute responsibility to make every effort to substantiate the veracity and authenticity of those documents as far as possible before throwing them into the public domain.

We have been told by PNM PRO, Faris Al-Rawi, that Dr Rowley apparently knew the whistleblower who assured him that the substance of the e-mails was true. But it would be appalling to believe that this alone would satisfy Dr Rowley as to the veracity of the e-mails. Mr Al-Rawi has also indicated that he himself pointed out to Dr Rowley that there were some discrepancies in the e-mails and that Dr Rowley did not “seem surprised”. This would indicate that Dr Rowley knew about the discrepancies.

So, if Dr Rowley knew about the discrepancies, if he understood the frighteningly serious nature of the contents of the e-mails and if, as we now know, he had the documents in his possession some six months ago, how in God’s name could he come to the Parliament to read into the public record the contents of those e-mails without the results of a strenuous and scrupulous investigation attesting to their authenticity?

Such an investigation should have been conducted even before passing those documents to the President. What Dr does Rowley expect the President to do with them? The President has no resources of investigation and the President acted correctly in passing them on to the Integrity Commission.

If Dr Rowley’s intention in passing them on to the President was to get rid of the bomb and absolve himself from any responsibility for action then he should have left the matter there. But he himself has stated that he considered it his responsibility, once nothing was forthcoming from the Integrity Commission, not to let the matter rest.

If that was his opinion then he should have ensured that a forensic investigation was conducted. And Dr Rowley does not dare say to the population that he had no resources for that.

If the Political Leader of the PNM, the main opposition in the country, an institution that boasts about being in existence for 50 years, that is seeking to return as the government of the country, cannot find within its ranks, or know where to find outside of itself, the resources and expertise to conduct at least a preliminary investigation, then it might as well fold its tents and slink away.

As it was Dr Rowley came to the Parliament and allowed the Government, in its several responses, to point to numerous technical discrepancies—which he should have been able to dispense with in his opening address—and thus create a cloud of obfuscation which leaves the entire population full of anxieties but without any clarity.

Dr Rowley has done himself, his party and the country a great disservice. For if the allegations contained in those e-mails are true, but cannot now be substantiated, then he has contrived to save a government which should be hounded out of office.

Dr Rowley has sought to defend himself from charges that he acted irresponsibly and recklessly. In this matter, however, I consider those charges to be true. It would have been far better, if Dr Rowley felt that he had no resources to conduct a proper preliminary investigation, for him to do nothing at all.

Dr Rowley was dealt a difficult but potentially game-changing hand which he has played very badly. But politics is not a game of all-fours. It is serious business and it is incumbent upon those who aspire to lead this nation to act with responsibility and honour even when, particularly when, you consider that those who oppose you have none.

• Michael Harris has been for many years a writer and 
commentator on politics and society in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai