Current & former British High Commissioners speak out on crime in T&T and rule of law

Britain's High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago Tim Stew and former High Commissioner Arthur Snell have both spoken on the rule of law and crime in this country over the last couple days.

Stew has issued a statement in the form of a Letter to the Editor on recent developments in Trinidad and Tobago.

While he did not refer to the case involving former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan by name, his comments suggest that was his focal point.

He says that all, whatever their position, should be held accountable in a timely way or else the cancer of corruption spreads. 

However, he pointed to the fact that citizens should feel confident of a fair trial, one in which they are considered innocent before being proved guilty.

Meanwhile, Stew's predecessor Arthur Snell's comments referred to the murder of former curator Dr Claire Broadbridge in St Ann's on Saturday.

Snell posted a comment on the Facebook page of former journalist Ira Mathur, who had written a post following the murder.

He said support offered by the UK Government was met with little enthusiasm and even deliberate obstruction.

The following are the two statements by the current and former British High Commissioners.

TIM STEW,  BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER

"The rule of law, its practice and implementation, is the bedrock of any democracy. I thought about this as I joined and enjoyed Trinidad & Tobago’s Independence Day celebrations last week.

Not least given the other issue which dominated much of the news at the end of the week.

As British High Commissioner it’s not for me to get involved in domestic politics. But I do see room for an international perspective on the issues raised, from two angles.

First, your country’s democracy is derived from that of mine. So, how your democracy develops is inevitably part of our bilateral partnership and why I keep a supportive and watchful eye.

While enjoying the well-organised celebration of 55 years of independence from Britain, I also thought again how interdependent our lives are, nonetheless, in this globalised world.

Simply put, this means what happens here matters in Britain, the Commonwealth and wider.

Democracy means society has a right to expect that no-one is above the law.

That all, whatever their position, should be held accountable in a timely way. Or else the cancer of corruption spreads.

At the same time, in our democracies any citizen should feel confident of a fair trial, innocent until proved guilty, with a judgement based on the facts and the application of the rule of law.

In this interdependent world a determined effort to hold all to account and to implement the rule of law raises the international standing of a country.

That means more trust and agreements, more trade and investment, more prosperity for all. Successful attempts to distract or derail the due legal process with claims of bias do the opposite.

Some may accuse me of naivety, that I simply don’t understand how things work here. I return to my first point. Trinidad and Tobago has worked to sustain its democracy over the last 55 years.

The rule of law, its practice and implementation, is the bedrock of any democracy. It’s only right - particularly as this country once again celebrates its independence - that the citizens of this country demand, foster and treasure this essential democratic principle."

ARTHUR SNELL, FORMER BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER

"Here's the thing Ira, which I said when I was in TT and which I still believe (of course I was summoned for a dressing down at the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and accused of "colonialism"): if around 5% of murders result in criminal convictions, murders will occur with horrific banality. Bandits robbing Claire killed her because they knew they'd never be caught and why take chances? 

Every little piece of support, capacity building and training the British government offered to help tackle this problem was met (in my time) with at best limited enthusiasm, at worst deliberate obstruction (section 34). 

The second thing is that society has to recognise its responsibilities at all levels: in a country where the wealthy pay very little tax and can ensure their children have a cosseted future whilst the poor face constant humiliation and belittling, where Sea Lots can exist only hundreds of metres away from the Hyatt Hotel, anger and cynicism flourish like a malignant cancer. We have these inequality problems too in Britain, no doubt, but not at such damaging extremes. 

Such a horrible crime and my heart goes out to Stephen Broadbridge and Catherine Broadbridge and all their wider family that I never had the privilege of knowing. But the causes aren't complex. They are banal, but tackling them requires sacrifices that T&T's society does not appear to be prepared to make."

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