CL Financial Bailout – False Firing?

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets former Clico chairman Gerard Yetming, second left, and former Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith, second right, after they showed up at a UNC “foot soldiers” mobilisation meeting in Debe on Tuesday. Also in photo are Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and UNC campaign manager Rodney Charles, left. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets former Clico chairman Gerard Yetming, second left, and former Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith, second right, after they showed up at a UNC “foot soldiers” mobilisation meeting in Debe on Tuesday. Also in photo are Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and UNC campaign manager Rodney Charles, left. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

I smiled at the page three photo of the Prime Minister holding hands with recently-dismissed CLICO Chairman, Gerald Yetming, at a UNC meeting in Debe on Tuesday 23 June 2015. As serious as the situation is, I just couldn’t help myself.

Yetming was a UNC Minister of Finance during the Panday administration and had been appointed on 28 September 2010 as Chairman of CL Financial Ltd, the parent company of the ‘CLICO group’ being bailed-out by the State.

I declined many requests for comment on this controversial episode, since something about it did not seem quite right. The actual CLICO dismissals were incredible to my mind, not only because there did not seem to be any conflict between the stipulations in the CBTT’s 3 June Press Release and the reported beneficiaries – that is explained in the sidebar. It is even more bizarre when one considers that Yetming, in whom all confidence was apparently lost after allegedly-unauthorised payments to former CLICO Directors, still serves as Chairman of the parent company, CL Financial Ltd.

There is a widely-held view that the CL Financial chiefs should not be recovering any of their money from this huge collapse before the completion of the Colman Commission and the publication of its Report. I share the public concern that no money should be paid to the persons who were in charge of that sinking ship. Not one cent. Nothing should be paid to the CLF chiefs until we have had the proper opportunity to consider the findings of the Colman Commission. Even with its severe limitations, that Colman Report would be our closest opportunity to understand this epic financial crime. To pay out money to those Directors and Officers who were responsible before the Report is published would be reckless in the extreme and jeopardises the public interest.

Our Land – Land for Everybody? Part 2

SIDEBAR: The Minister responds

This is a short video (courtesy of TV6) in which the Minister of Land & Marine Resources, Jairam Seemungal, responds to questions on the occupation of State lands in Couva by SIS Ltd, one of the main financiers of the Peoples Partnership.

The ‘Land for the Landless’ program, which is being implemented by the Land Settlement Agency (LSA), has now been redefined in such stark terms that I have decided to call it by a more appropriate title ‘Land for Everybody’.

The previous article set out the main points of the revised program. That detrimental law was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday 3rd June. Although we have now heard that the new law to amend the State Lands 1998 Act was withdrawn just before the close of our Parliament on Friday 12th June 2015, we are also being told that it will be approved if the Peoples Partnership is returned to office after the national elections in September.

This change to our country squatter regularisation law is therefore now being held out as an expansive election promise to regularise the status of some 60,000 landless people. That proposed program is a severely detrimental one which will likely lead to greater problems in the important question of our country’s human settlement policy. It is therefore necessary to highlight the dangers this new ‘Land for Everybody’ program poses to our collective interests.

The Minister of Land and Marine Resources, Jairam Seemungal, gave several interviews which attempted to rebut my criticisms, so it is important that that these fundamental issues be properly understood. The public interest demands nothing less.

“Couch Discussion” on Making Legislation Work at Trinidad & Tobago Transparency Institute’s Anti-Corruption Conference Friday 20th March 2015 – Ian Chinapoo, Catherine Kumar, Afra Raymond – moderated by Winston Rudder

Afra Raymond’s main remarks are between 19:26 and 32:15

Our Land – Land for Everybody?

A detrimental ‘land grab’ is almost upon our country and we all need to be alert to prevent the destruction of our patrimony and prospects.

Hon. Jairam Seemungal, MP. Minister of Land and Marine Resources

Hon. Jairam Seemungal, MP. Minister of Land and Marine Resources

The State owns most of the land in the country – recent estimates by Minister of Land & Marine Resources, Jairam Seemungal, place the proportion of State-owned land in the 63% range – and as such those lands are critical national assets with which a progressive government could seek to address issues of poverty in a sustainable fashion. Those policies would have to be redistributive in nature if they are to effectively address the serious poverty faced by some of our citizens. That means the State using our resources to provide affordable land and housing to those who are unable to do so in the open market. It is critical to ensure that these redistributive programs operate properly so that the benefits will go to the needy persons for whom they are intended. Those are objectives which I fully support.

I quipped that the ‘Land for the Landless’ program should be re-named ‘Land for Everybody’, but recent developments have turned that quip into a growing reality.

Integrity Inquiry


“…The question really is integrity, and if he or she does not have it he or she should not be a Commissioner in the first place. The simple fact is that try as we might, we cannot legislate for integrity…”

From Press Release of 21 June 2013 by then Integrity Commission Chairman, Ken Gordon, in response to strong criticisms of his meeting privately and alone with opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley.

Once again we are beset by what appears to be yet another fiasco at the Integrity Commission, so Ken Gordon’s fateful words echo in my mind.

Given the current political season, there is every temptation to discuss this crisis as being caused by the impending election, together with either the improper behaviour of the present Peoples Partnership government or the ‘PNM operatives’ who infest the public service. You can take your pick from those prevailing theories, but I think these recent and alarming events were preceded by earlier ones. So much so that when the entire situation is placed in context, we are facing a troubling scenario in terms of the extent to which we can trust high public officials.

The current crisis is serious enough grounds to require a full Commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the Integrity Commission since the 2000 revisions to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).

Land for Everybody?

My letter to the Editor was published in the Trinidad Express on 3 June  2015 as “Protecting our patrimony.”

The Editor,

The government laid the State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2015 in Parliament on Friday 29 May and I am reliably informed that it is due to be approved at today’s sitting (Wednesday 3 June 2015).

Given the continuing absence of the Opposition PNM from our Parliament and the sporadic coverage in the media, it is important that the main points of these new proposals be exposed –

  • Application date – formerly, persons who had illegally occupied State Lands up to January 1998 were entitled to be regularised – the new law would move that date to June 2014. That means that more persons will be regularised;
  • The numbers – There are serious questions arising about the numbers to be regularised in this process – the PM said recently that 30,000 were to be given Certificates of Comfort, Minister Seemungal is now saying that it is really 60,000, while the LSA website gives estimates of 250,000 persons. So, just what are we counting? Do these numbers represent inhabitants or is it the number of lots? We have no real clarity on just how much additional land is to to be allocated in this new process.
  • Where is the land? – The Schedule of the new law is an A to Z list of designated areas in every district of our country, so these are really expansive proposals. All areas will be affected.
  • The rationale – Minister Seemungal stated that there are extensive aerial surveys and other information being used to guide this process, but I think significant caution is necessary. The lack of an open process of policy review and formation in this important matter is proving very expensive for our collective interests. Have other State agencies and stakeholders been consulted?
  • Who benefits? – We do not have any open database on the allocation of public housing, state land or even all property. Which means that the real beneficiaries could remain unknown. Of course that is a recipe for the misallocation of State lands on an epic scale, so it is important to establish some transparent mechanism to examine what is happening.

Just remember that Minister Seemungal was the one who refused to provide details on the terms under which SIS occupied certain State lands at Couva, claiming that those details were private. The PM told the Parliament the next day that the Minister had denied making those televised statements. As I wrote recently in the ‘Our Land’ series, the new rules for the ‘Land for the Landless’ program, make it seem that the real name should be ‘Land for Everybody’.

We need to be alert to protect our patrimony, particularly in relation to property.

Afra Raymond
JCC President

Our Land – The Caroni Case, part 2

The previous article outlined the size of the Caroni lands and some of the intended uses to which that land would be put. I contrasted the positions taken by UWI in 2003 and my own from 2004, with the current situation.

UWI’s July 2003 Position Paper – ‘A Framework for National Development: Caroni Transformation Process‘ – was developed by diverse contributions, mostly made at a special seminar on 27 April 2003. At that time there were strong rumours that the then PNM government, headed by Patrick Manning, intended to close Caroni (1975) Ltd. The expressed fears at the time were that PNM supporters, friends, family and financiers would all benefit from a ‘land grab’. Caroni was a State Enterprise which had made heavy losses in the virtually 30 years since it had been purchased from its British owners, sugar giant Tate & Lyle.

The UWI Seminar was most timely since their Position Paper was issued in July 2003 and presented to the then Minister of Agriculture, Land & Marine Resources, John Rahael, in September 2003. Caroni (1975) Ltd was closed on Emancipation Day 2003.

The UWI study took a long-range view of the Caroni issues and as such it is an important document which set a framework for these Caroni lands. The land area was determined, at Appendix 1, to be 74,780 acres. At page 30, ‘Consultation’ is specified as the first requirement for the development of these lands.

Our Land – The Caroni Case

Caroni (1975) Ltd, the loss-making sugar conglomerate which was also a State Enterprise, was closed on 1 August 2003. The Caroni estate has to be located within the wider context of our national Land Policy, if we are to make sense of what is happening.

“The now-defunct Caroni (1975) Limited includes lands the size of Tobago whose value has been under-stated and which now could fall prey to a land grab……The current Caroni Transformation Process is about converting national assets into private assets. In the main it is serving the interest of those who wish to generate private capital from public wealth stocks; for this reason the current process is exploitative and fraught with inequity.

“The historical model is being excruciatingly exacted on Caroni lands. The current transformation clones the historical model.” The Report criticised areas of the current restructuring process which echoed those of the exploitative historical model. It said: “The enterprise is conceived to control land space. To control land space especially prime property near the port is to control the socio-economic agenda. Land is leased on gratuitous terms, 99 years for example, without publication of the terms of the lease or tenure. This leaves the process open to political and economic opportunism and speculation…”

These extracts are from UWI’s Position Paper – ‘A Framework for National Development: Caroni Transformation Process’ dated July 2003 as reported in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

Our Land – The meaning of the 1992 Land Policy

The Trinidad & Tobago Land Policy of 1992 has not been reviewed, withdrawn or superceded. Those are the facts. The responses of various public officials when queried, and the routine conduct of public bodies in relation to public land, are both in conflict with the existing policy. This article will explore the gap between the official policy and official conduct.

The 1992 Policy contains elements which are substantially beneficial to our nation.

Land is very important, especially because the quantity is very limited, so we need future-looking and properly-enforced Land Policy if we are to have a sustainable future in our country. I am specifically using ‘we’, since the important role of land requires us all to have a stake in these progressive outcomes. I am also specifically using ‘in our country‘, to emphasise the fact that most of us will have to live here.

This week’s column will set out some of the key elements in the 1992 Land Policy, so that we can begin to understand just why it has been effectively dismissed from official consideration.

State ownership

Hon. Jairam Seemungal, MP. Minister of Land and Marine Resources

Hon. Jairam Seemungal, MP. Minister of Land and Marine Resources

An important consideration is the high proportion of public land in our country, at para 1.2 on page 2 of the Land Policy we learn that an estimated 52% of the whole is State land. We also recently heard Land & Marine Resources Minister, Jairam Seemungal, state that the proportion of land belonging to the State is of the order of 58% of the whole. Because so much of the country’s land belongs to the State, it is therefore critical to ensure we have a robust policy in respect of State land.

An estimated 47% of State land is forested and therefore subject to certain controls. The non-forested State lands are about 133,000 hectares, which is about 329,000 acres.

The estimated land area designated as suitable for cultivation is about 35% of the whole, comprising about 179,000 hectares or 442,000 acres.

Our Land



10.1   A small State such as Trinidad & Tobago must accord a very high priority to the judicious management and utilization of its land resources or perish. All elements of land policy must be designed to ensure that these finite resources are efficiently utilized and husbanded in such a manner as to serve the long term interests of the national community.

—Conclusion of “A New Administration and Policy for Land” (19 November, 1992)

Click here to download the 1992 Land Policy

Long-standing public concerns over land allocation have been increased by a number of recent events. Most notably there have been reports of leases of waterfront land at ‘Chagville’ for a waterpark and the Chaguaramas Convention Centre for a hotel project. The other episode to have attracted interest is the alleged occupation of 35 acres of Caroni land by SIS in Couva in contested circumstances.

hdc-logoWhen one considers the recently-announced projections for distribution of 100 new homes per week by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and the huge ‘Land for the Landless‘ proposals, it is clear that land is a hot topic. It is tempting to dismiss these proposals as being mere electioneering, but that would be a grave error, in view of the importance of land in our society. Justifiably so.

Integrity Reflections – the background


“…legislation must be followed or driven by will. Laws are just what they are, convoluted and meaningless blocks of text until they are made alive/and relevant by human effort, human with a reasonable degree of collective/societal rectitude…”

—Quote from one of the several FaceBook convos emerging from last week’s column.

It was alleged, in a 2006 lawsuit (CV 2006-0817), that the Integrity Commission wrote to the Directors of TSTT to exempt them from filing declarations as required under the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA). The existence of that letter was never denied and that litigation ended by compromise at an Appeal Court Hearing on 28 October 2013.

It seems improper for any Public Authority to issue a letter which negates the law. I have on several occasions requested that the Commission publish the 2006 letter, but to no avail. Given the inaction on my complaint in respect of CL Financial’s Directors, these questions arise:

  1. Was that TSTT letter an isolated episode?
  2. Have there been other unspoken compromises in relation to the oversight of the Integrity Commission?

This article gives the detailed background to the Integrity Commission’s inaction in relation to the CL Financial Directors. At the very least, the facts in this matter speak to a severe lack of focus on the critical aspects of the Commission’s role to secure good standards of integrity in Public Life. It is my view that this is a matter of the first importance on which the Commission’s inaction could only have been detrimental to our collective interests.

Integrity Reflections

ic-logoThis column sets out my reasons for seriously questioning the motivation and priorities of the Integrity Commission. Despite my doubts as to the way in which successive Commissions have operated the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA), I have continued to offer suggestions as to how their work could be made more effective.

The continuing Code of Silence on the CL Financial bailout, the sharp attack, from many quarters, on our substantial national institutions and the very doubtful history of the Integrity Commission are clear signs that the Public Interest needs to be safeguarded with utmost vigilance at this time…

Carlton Savannah Swirl

The escalating episode of the apparent conflict between the oversight of Parliament and the Courts in this matter is a real learning experience for us all. I am clear that the Speaker spoke on Friday 23 January 2015 with the intention to convey that the High Court had sent him an official Notice which was decisive in the conduct of the business of Parliament.

Here is the contentious sentence of Speaker Wade Mark’s statement –

…I received only a few hours ago a notice from the High Court of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago dated January 16, 2015, a matter involving Larry Howai and Azad Ali of the Sunshine Publishing Company Limited…

It seems very clear to me what the Speaker intended to say. Of course we now know that the statement was baseless and misleading. Misleading in the extreme.

AUDIO: 95 Mandate interview on i95.5FM – 6 Feb 2015

Afra Raymond is interviewed on the ‘95 Mandate‘ show on i95.5FM with Ardene Sirjoo and Mariano Browne about the continuing impact of the CL Financial bailout on the economy and the pending Colman Commission report. 6 February 2015. Audio courtesy i95.5FM

  • Programme Date: Sunday, 6 February 2015
  • Programme Length: 1:06:41

Balancing the Scale

This article is to engage the issues of falling national revenues due to price declines for fossil fuels, the ongoing commentary and the PM’s 8 January 2015 statement with its attendant criticisms. I am going to focus on the role of the real estate and construction sectors in this unfolding series of serious challenges.

This is the graph and table from my previous budget commentary ‘A Fistful of Dollars‘ to illustrate the trend in terms of how successive governments have attempted to balance revenues and expenditure.

T&T Budget overview 2005-2015

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Revenue $24,016 $34,129 $35,126 $40,381 $49,465 $36,664 $41,284 $47,000 $50,736 $55,041 $60,351
Expenditure $27,918 $34,119 $38,054 $42,261 $44,206 $36,915 $49,016 $54,600 $58,405 $61,398 $64,664
Surplus/Deficit -$3,902 $10 -$2,928 -$1,880 $5,259 -$252 -$7,732 -$7,600 -$7,669 -$6,357 -$4,313

Public Procurement Priorities

The Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Bill was passed by the Senate on Tuesday 16 December 2014, completing its journey through the legislative process. That is an historic achievement for our country, so it is essential that we take our bearings and properly record the moment.

This important new law to control transactions in Public Money was the objective of a long-term, collective campaign by the Private Sector Civil Society group (PSCS) of which JCC was a member. The JCC met with the leaders of the Peoples Partnership in April 2010, with one of the key promises emerging from that meeting being that new Public Procurement laws would be passed within one year of an election victory. It has taken four and a half years for the government to achieve that.

This achievement was only possible because of our collective efforts. Ours was a diverse group which resolved to campaign together for this critical reform of our country’s laws to ensure effective control over transactions in Public Money….

Integrity Strategy

ic-logoThe Integrity Commission is continuing its efforts to revise the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) to give greater effect to its anti-corruption work. I fully support those efforts.

LifeSport-logoThe key challenge is to discern how Public Officials commit the corrupt acts the Commission is meant to reduce. It is therefore necessary to conduct a scrupulous examination of Commissions of Enquiry and other Inquiry (eg LifeSport) Reports & evidence; Auditor General’s Annual Reports; as well as the leading international learning on these questions.

Once the main methods of corrupt agents are discerned, it will then be necessary to consider how the existing powers of the Commission might be deployed in tackling those and if there are new powers needed…

CL Financial – Bait & Switch

“They’ve got twelve Aces up their sleeve!
So who the Hell can we believe?”
—Rudder, David Michael. “Back to the Same Ole Same.” The Autobiography of The Now. Lypsoland, 2001. Used with permission

The CL Financial bailout seems to be entering its end-game, with repeated claims from the Minister of Finance that the recovery of the $25 Billion of Public Money spent is now on the cards. The consistent failure or refusal to publish any audited accounts and my ongoing research are telling. We are witness to yet another ‘Plot to Pervert Parliament’, this time it is the biggest project to ever hit this country. The CL Financial bailout.

Plots to Pervert Parliament

In January 2013, I identified the first of these, otherwise known as the ‘S.34 Fiasco’, which of course led me to the CLF Bailout Perversion, committed in January 2009 when our country was presented with its largest-ever public expenditure. The original bailout, presented to our Parliament, as a fait accompli, was the original Plot to Pervert Parliament.

I have come to the sobering conclusion, after much research and consideration, that the Colman Commission is not ever going to provide the details we were led to believe it would. I am now of the view that once again we have been misled and bamboozled by our Parliament. Yet another sick trick, a third ‘Plot to Pervert Parliament’.

The rationale stated for the Colman Commission of Enquiry is in serious conflict with the terms of reference for and consequently, the conduct of that Commission. This article will detail those assertions and show how the public interest is once again being subordinated to powerful private interests

Invader’s Bay – Suspicious Motives

invadersbay-bwThe proposed development of Invader’s Bay will be the largest in our Capital City in living memory. The entire process is tainted by fundamental irregularities, any one of which ought to be enough to stop the development.

Some of those irregularities at Invader’s Bay include an improper and voidable tendering process; failure or refusal to hold Public Consultations; breach of the Central Tenders’ Board (CTB) Act and most recently, a wrong-sided policy on legal advice.

The State has appealed the High Court decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on 14 July 2014 to order publication of the legal opinions on which they had been relying thus far.  That hearing is now set for Wednesday 28 January 2015 at the Appeal Court in POS. At the preliminary hearing on Thursday 20 November, the State was represented by a seven-member team of attorneys, led by Russell Martineau SC.

Tender rules

Procurement_NoticMinister Tewarie has repeatedly told the public that the Appraisal rules for the Invader’s Bay development were first announced in his speech to the Annual Dinner of the T&T Contractors’ Association on Saturday 5 November 2011. That is true, I was there and heard the Minister do just as he said.  The issue here is that the closing-date stipulated in the Invader’s Bay Request for Proposals (RFP) was 4 October 2011, which was over one month before the rules were published.  Given that fact, the proposers would not have known the rules of the competition and it is fair to say there was no competition at all.  None.  Just imagine the rules for a Calypso competition being distributed the week after the singers had performed.  The RFP process for Invader’s Bay was therefore improper, voidable and illegal.

The most disturbing aspect of this nonsense, is that it raises disturbing questions as to what is fast becoming a new normal in our society.  To my mind, there are two possibilities.

The first is that the Minister was simply unaware that he was describing improper and unlawful acts.  If that is the case, one has to wonder at the quality of advice available to our Cabinet.  Are we now to accept that this is the proper way to proceed?

The second possibility is that the Minister was properly-briefed that the late publication of those rules was improper and that the entire RFP process was therefore voidable, but chose to act as if the whole process was ‘above-board’.  That Minister continues to insist that there is nothing improper taking place at Invader’s Bay and so on.  I tell you.

Re-Route Reboot

The continued dispute over the Debe-Mon Desir Link of the Point Fortin Highway and the growing public debate over this issue require further attention to certain critical aspects.

The Armstrong Reportcover-tilt was published in March 2013 after a process agreed between parties to the dispute over this highway link. It is a significant achievement in the journey to a more considered and consultative approach to national development. Given the shifting grounds of the dispute and the nature of the various statements, it is necessary to clarify some of the key issues.

The three main issues to be clarified are –

  1. The Armstrong Report

    The State’s position in relation to The Armstrong Report is a critical element of the dispute, so it is important to detail how this has morphed, like so much else in this matter. The Ministry of Works & Infrastructure Press Statement of 3 December 2012welcomed the inputs…from the JCC, FITUN, T&T Transparency Institute and Working Women‘ and went on to note that ‘the discussions had been very fruitful‘. That statement settled a basic framework for a Review of the elements of the link which were in dispute, with the preliminary Report to be provided within 60 days ‘to NIDCO for its consideration and publication thereafter’.Some people have tried to restrict the meaning of NIDCO’s ‘consideration’ of The Armstrong Report to a merely editorial vetting which implied no commitment to any post-publication consideration. The only conceivable reason for a party to this kind of process to have the right to review the preliminary Report would be to address factual errors in a situation in which the completed Report is of some significance.

Re-Route Truth

hrm-proposed-rerouteThe leader of the Highway Reroute Movement, Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, has started another hunger-strike in protest at the actions of the State in relation to the hotly-contested Debe-Mon Desir link of the Point Fortin Highway.  Some of the issues now emerging offer disturbing echoes from Kublalsingh’s first hunger-strike in November 2012, but it seems to me that these are the very reasons we need to think again so as to find a different way to speak about our country’s large-scale development.  This column is to be published on Republic Day, so it an invocation of the ideals of our status as equals, with our disputes on public policy to be settled on the facts.

‘Unconquered’ discussion series

The ‘Unconquered‘ discussion series is hosted by Robert Young’s The Cloth at #24 Erthig Road, Belmont…Attilah Springer – aka Tillah Willah – is one of the livewires driving this initiative…

I was invited by Tillah to speak at the ‘Conscious Citizenship‘ meeting on Wednesday 13th August 2014, along with Dr. Kevin Adonis Browne, author of the searching new work ‘Tropic Tendencies’…the session was both heated and edifying…it was real, even when Browne ramoujayed on rhetoric!

A Fistful of Dollars

The Minister of Finance has just met cynical expectations by announcing Trinidad & Tobago’s largest-ever budget for 2015, with estimated revenue of $60.351 Billion in support of estimated expenditure of $64.664 Billion.  This expenditure is $4.313 Billion more than the expected revenue, with 2015 being the sixth consecutive year of deficit budgets with a nominal total of just under $34 Billion in excess expenditure in that period.

T&T Budget overview 2005-2015

For a Few Dollars More

Sen. Larry Howai, Minister of Finance

Sen. Larry Howai, Minister of Finance

Next Monday, 8 September 2014, is carded for the Finance Minister to deliver his 2015 Budget Statement to the country and of course speculation is great as to whether this will be an ‘election budget’ or if a more restrained approach might be taken.

In preparing to write this column, I took a look at our budgets since 2005 and it was really striking that many of the key issues identified a full decade ago are still at the fore of the more recent budgets. Some of those issues were the imperative to reduce our dependence on the energy sector; the constant push to upgrade our infrastructure; the demand for more resources dedicated to national security and of course, the repeated statements about this or that program to reduce white-collar crime.

These expenditure and revenue figures were drawn from the Budget Statements, so no account has been taken of either actual outcomes or supplemental appropriations – this is the process used by the Government to obtain authorisation from the Parliament to exceed the approved spending limits in the national budget.

fistrful of dollars


Raymond: Housing strategy requires ‘disciplined effort’


HDC housing in central Trinidad. Chaguanas is the fastest growing town in T&T.

HDC housing in central Trinidad. Chaguanas is the fastest growing town in T&T.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian published part 2 of its interview with Afra Raymond in the 1 September 2014 edition of the newspaper.

Recent reports that the HDC housing waiting list has reached 200,000 have thrown up questions about strategies for land usage, housing design and urban planning in T&T. In our series on housing, JOSHUA SURTEES speaks to architects, planners and surveyors to find out if there is enough land available, whether everybody on the list can get a place to live and what kind of accommodation makes best use of space while providing comfortable, functional living that complements people’s lifestyles. Part four features AFRA RAYMOND, president of the Joint Consultative Council, MD of Raymond & Pierre Ltd chartered surveyors and an expert on land usage issues, procurement and housing.

How many ultra-rich, multiple homeowners are there?

How many, I don’t know. But as a practitioner I can tell you it’s a significant part of what takes place. It informs how, when parcels of land become available, what are the forces that compete for it, and this is where the boundaries between public and private become very elastic. If the forces on one side have the capacity to go after that piece of land and get it before the government, that has an effect on what options are available to the government to build affordable housing…

For More, click here.

Raymond: T&T in danger of repeating housing mistakes


© Guardian Media Ltd. Photo by Shirley Bahadur

© Guardian Media Ltd. Photo by Shirley Bahadur

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian published an interview with Afra Raymond in the 25 August 2014 edition of the newspaper.

Recent reports that the HDC housing waiting list has reached 200,000 have thrown up questions about strategies for land usage, housing design and urban planning in T&T. In our series on housing, JOSHUA SURTEES speaks to architects, planners and surveyors to find out if there is enough land available, whether everybody on the list can get a place to live and what kind of accommodation makes best use of space while providing comfortable, functional living that complements people’s lifestyles. Part four features AFRA RAYMOND, president of the Joint Consultative Council, MD of Raymond & Pierre Ltd chartered surveyors and an expert on land usage issues, procurement and housing.

Regarding the state of houses that people are currently living in, what is the extent to which there are people who should be rehoused immediately because their dwellings are unfit to inhabit? 

That sort of housing-condition survey is not something on which we have very accurate or timely information. We ought to have that information and the lack of it, on a national basis, gives rise to sober questions about the 200,000 waiting list…

For More, click here.

People Say

The Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre

The Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre

I call this the Season of Reflection, being the two-month period starting with Emancipation Day on 1 August, centred by our nation’s Independence on 31 August and closing with Republic Day on 24 September.  To me that is a compelling sequence in which those days of national importance are celebrated.  It is a good time for reconsidering the role Conscious Citizens should play in the process of National Development.

Our country is relatively tiny, at 5,128 square kilometres, and its population density is relatively high, at an estimated 239 persons per square kilometre.  I say estimated, since those figures effectively yield a population of 1.225 million and it seems to me that our population is far higher, but that aspect is for another column.  What concerns me here are the implications of our high population density in terms of our physical development.

Given that over 60% of our land is effectively alienated by physical factors such as its being swampy or heavily forested, there are in fact only very limited areas readily available for development.  Place that fact alongside the concentrations of economic activity/population and the growing environmental awareness and there is cause for a pause.

Reality Check

After a flurry of attempted explanations from the Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, as to the real meaning of the High Court’s 14 July ruling on the Invader’s Bay matter, the State has now appealed that ruling and applied for expedited hearing of the matter while having the judgment stayed.

What that means is that the State is asking the Court to agree an extension of the Stay of Execution until the appeal is decided, so that the requested information could be withheld while the case is being heard.  Presumably, the State has asked for a speedy hearing so as to avoid any impression of them encouraging needless delay in this matter of high public concern.

This article will focus on the three critical findings in the judgment.  I will be examining Dr. Tewarie’s statement to Parliament on Friday 18 July, alongside the facts and the actual High Court ruling.

  1. Legal Professional Privilege

    The very first point to be made in relation to this is that the reason given by the State for refusing the JCC’s request for this information was not originally ‘legal professional privilege’.

    That reason for refusal was only advanced after the litigation started, literally arising out of the very briefcase of the State’s attorney, on his feet before Justice Seepersad on 4 December 2012…

Public Secrets?

It seems to me that we are entering a sustained and hard-fought Information War, global in extent, but with local flavour. The main features of this are the attempted redefinition of Privacy as a defunct notion, right alongside the State’s duty to know all about us, but tell us as little as possible of their own operations. That is the name of the game, so these issues are going to be challenged strongly as we go forward.

Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie

Sen. Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development

The High Court ruled on 14 July 2014 that the Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development must provide the legal advice which was said to have justified the development process at Invader’s Bay. This case was brought by the JCC after the Ministry refused to publish the legal advice obtained in response to our challenge that the Invader’s Bay development process was in breach of the Central Tenders’ Board Act. Given the repeated statements that the legal opinions supported the State’s actions in relation to the CTB Act, the obvious question is ‘Why the secrecy and refusal to publish those opinions?

The JCC requested the legal opinions and the letters of instructions under the Freedom of Information Act and the judge applied the ‘Public Interest Test’ in deciding that the public right to that information eclipsed the accepted point as to the existence of ‘legal professional privilege’. There have been many comments on what has been described as a landmark ruling and it appears that the question of just what is an official secret is once again up for discussion.

We are now being told that the right of the client to maintain the confidentiality of legal advice is now under threat, so the State is reportedly considering an appeal of that High Court ruling.

None So Blind

Property ownership is a critical ingredient of the society we are trying to build.  No one can deny that.   The wealthiest people and companies in this society have made a great part of their wealth through property dealings – buying, leasing, sub-dividing, selling, renovating and so on.  We all know that property is critical to amassing and holding wealth.

The single largest owner of all classes of property in the Republic is of course, the State.  Those properties are described as ‘Public Property‘ in the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Bill 2014 which is now being debated in Parliament.  The penultimate paragraph of the Private Sector Civil Society group (PSCS) group statement of 13 June 2014, is clear –

“…Whilst very pleased with the progress to date and while not having sight of the amended bill we note two areas that remain of serious concern; the Role of civil society and the acquisition and disposal of public property…“.

At pg 7 of that Bill – “public property” means real or personal property owned by a public body;

Money is the Problem

One of the big unanswered questions arising out of the recent ‘grand corruption’ cases in relation to the Public Sector remains – ‘How can we lawfully punish those wrongdoers who are looting our country?

Most discussions proceed along the lines of what I call the ‘bag of money‘ idea, in which we are looking for the actual stolen money.  The belief being that the stolen loot can actually be located and linked to the thieves, who will then face a harsh penalty.  My preferred solution is for full disgorgement of all the stolen monies as a starting-point, even if that is a remote goal.

In re-examining the issue practically, one has to ask “Why do we persist in these ‘pipe-dreams’, while ignoring the ‘low-hanging fruit’ all around us?”  So I am considering a new strategy for action on these critical issues.

‘Public Money’ is the term used to describe money due to or payable by the State, including those sums for which the State would be ultimately liable in the event of a default.  Public Money is sometimes called Taxpayers’ Money, it is our Money.

Paying the Price

On Wednesday 11 June 2014, the Senate unanimously approved the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Bill 2014 and that Bill is soon to go to the House of Representatives for their deliberation. I was present to witness the collective efforts made by Senators on Tuesday 10 June and it was a really thought-provoking experience for me.  I started to wonder just how much we could achieve if the banal point-scoring and ritual picong was to become a thing of the past.  The basis of decision-making on public issues would have to shift to a fact-based one, which would be a huge, healthy step away from the sad formula of ‘might is right’.

What a day that would be for us all, just imagine.

But we have to exist in this place, as it is, with all its imperfections.  Which leads me to discuss the constant questions put by people who want to know if ‘this law we are fighting for‘ could prevent this-or-that corrupt practice.  So the two projects which I would use to give worked examples are –

  1. the THA/BOLT office project on which the High Court recently ruled;
  2. Calcutta Settlement/Eden Gardens land purchase by HDC.

What Lies Beneath

The public is being told that the CL Financial bailout is being resolved, while at the same time the Minister of Finance & the Economy is withholding the fundamental information which any prudent person would need to make a decision. So, what is the secret?

Apart from the details I have been asking for, there are other questions which occur to me –

  1. Directors’ Fees – What is the comparative level of Directors’ fees before and after the bailout on 30 January 2009?  In particular, what are the fees & expenses payable to CL Financial Directors?  Have those increased?  If so, to what level and on what rationale?
  2. Related Party dealings – We were told that one of the main causes of the CL Financial collapse was excessive related-party transactions.  Has that pattern of dealings has really changed? What are the contracts between the group and companies in which Directors hold an interest?  Does the group, or the Minister of Finance, keep a record of these connected contracts?  Does the group have a robust procurement procedure which would ensure value for money in all its significant transactions?
  3. Asset disposals – Which of the group’s assets have been disposed-of since the bailout and on what terms?  Were proper valuations obtained before these disposals?

Everything but the Truth

On 1st June 2014, my former colleague and Business Guardian Editor, Anthony Wilson,  made a call for a ‘national debate’ on the proposed disposal of CLICO’s traditional portfolio of insurance business.  This is the first of my responses.

We are now entering the chaotic endgame of this epic CL Financial bailout fiasco. Some of the recent official statements are –

  • CL Financial’s other assets, including majority shareholdings in Republic Bank Limited and Methanol Holdings to be sold;
  • Full repayment of Public Money advanced in this bailout is expected.
  • CLICO’s traditional insurance policy portfolio is being professionally valued prior to its intended disposal;
  • Atrius Ltd., set up in 2013 as an alternative vehicle for CLICO’s continuing business, is to be effectively abandoned;
  • All of CLICO’s sales agents are to be terminated by the end of this month, June 2014;

jwala-howaiThe recent statements of both the Minister of Finance, Larry Howai, and the Governor of the Central Bank, Jwala Rambarran, could give the public an impression that this financial disaster has now been mostly resolved and we are on some kind of smooth track to a complete solution.

I remain sceptical as to the extent to which these problems have been resolved. The complete lack of detailed information, despite many requests by myself and others, leaves one to wonder just what is the basis for these serious decisions.

So, why am I saying this?

Compliance of CL Financial Directors with the Integrity in Public Life Act – a correspondence

From: Afra Raymond <afraraymond@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, May 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: Compliance of CL Financial Directors with the Integrity in Public Life Act
To: “Registrar, Integrity Commission” <Registrar@integritycommission.org.tt>

Hello Mr. Farrell,

I wrote to you on 20th March 2014 seeking an update to my formal report of 10th September 2012 to the Integrity Commission on this matter. You replied the next day indicating that you thought that a reply had already been sent but that in any case a reply would be sent to me.

To date I have had no response to my formal complaint or the request for an update as to its status. In the interim, I have carefully examined the Commission’s 2012 and 2013 Annual Reports and found no mention of my complaint in the sections which provide an outline of the various investigations being undertaken. According to those Reports, the status of those investigations seem to fall into three categories – ‘Closed’ – denoting those matters which have been effectively dismissed, due to lack of evidence or irrelevance; ‘Completed’ – denoting those matters which have been investigated or ‘Continuing’ for those matters which are still under investigation. I am starting to wonder if my formal complaint has been relegated to some new, as yet undisclosed, category.

I am also going to point out that, according to the Integrity Commission’s Public Notice at pg 49 of the Sunday Express of 6th October 2013, the Integrity in Public Life Act applies to State Enterprises. At the fourth para of that Public Notice, which was intended to clarify published concerns as to the implications of the Appeal Court ruling in #30 of 2008, you state that State Enterprises are companies which are controlled by the State, so I would again invite your attention to the particulars of my original complaint in this matter. As you would appreciate from my published analysis, the position taken by the Commission in that Public Notice is one with which I strongly disagree, nonetheless, that position is the Integrity Commission’s formal statement on the matter.

For ease of reference, that Public Notice is here –
https://afraraymond.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/ic-response2013.pdf – since I was unable to locate it on the Commission’s website.

I am closing by pointing out that this is a matter of the gravest possible public concern, since CL Financial has been the recipient of over $25 Billion TTD in Public Money and its affairs remain shrouded in an intentional obscurity which does violence to the modern notions of Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance. That obscurity includes the channelling of those huge sums of Public Money via the Central Bank which is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act; new laws to approve the exemption of the Central Bank from any judicial review of its actions in this matter (that has now been ruled as unconstitutional by the High Court in #4383 of 2012, of course the State has appealed that, so the fight is on); the failure/refusal of CL Financial to publish audited accounts and the failure/refusal of CL Financial’s Directors to comply with the Integrity in Public Life Act.

That is the factual background against which I lodged my formal complaint. The delay and ambiguity with which the Integrity Commission appears to be treating my complaint on this most serious matter is sobering, to say the least.

I trust that you can give this matter your early attention, in the meantime, I will be publishing this as a record of these developments.

Afra Raymond


The Elephant in the Room – part 2

Port of Spain

Port of Spain

The recent announcements as to the upcoming completion of the ‘Government Campus Plaza’ offices in POS and the relocation of significant State agencies to central Trinidad are charged with meaning for the office sector. The previous article on this topic examined the huge quantity of State-owned incomplete office buildings in greater Port-of-Spain, the impact of that on the incomplete private office projects and the role of the ongoing process of decentralisation.  For the purposes of this discussion, greater POS is the area bounded by the sea to the South, the WestShore Clinic to the West, the Queen’s Park Savannah to the North and the Lady Young Road to the East. This is going to be a closer look at those aspects, so that we might discern how this issue is going to be settled. There are interlocking issues which have created the Elephant in the Room –

  1. the incomplete State offices, which will impact on the private office rental market as they are completed;
  2. the existing offices leased by the State, which need to be re-examined;
  3. the trend towards decentralisation, with its own profound implications.

To understand the issue requires the reconciliation of these large, seemingly-conflicting, elements.  The first is of course, the ‘sunk capital’ in terms of the State-owned, incomplete office buildings in POS.  The second is the existing leases the State holds from landlords of office space in POS.  The third element is the ongoing programme to relocate significant Ministries and State Agencies out of POS, generally to Central Trinidad.   I am also of the view that we need to enquire into the progress of the ongoing decentralisation process.  The details we need are – Which Ministries/State Agencies are to be relocated from POS?  What are the preferred locations for these offices?  What progress has been made on those relocations?   Has land been purchased/leased?  Has State land been allocated? Has a building been identified?  If a new building is to be constructed, what progress has been made in terms of project scoping, design, tendering and construction?

TSTT Inquiry

The Trinidad & Tobago Parliament is now conducting an Inquiry into TSTT and this article is an edited version of my submission to that Inquiry.

The Joint Select Committee’s (JSC) ‘Invitation for Written Submissions‘ was published on the TT Parliament website on Wednesday 23 April 2014, with the deadline for submissions set at 4:00 pm on Friday 2 May 2014. Only ten (10) days.

When one considers the far-reaching scope of the Inquiry as specified in its ten (10) objectives; the size and role of TSTT and the recent published reports as to the proposals for the State to relinquish a critical 2% of its share in TSTT, it is clear that these matters are of the utmost, long-term public importance. Placed in that context, the JSC decision to Inquire into these matters is commendable, but the time-frame is so short as to raise serious doubts as to the quantity and quality of submissions which could comply.

The deadline for submissions to this JSC Inquiry should be extended to allow a greater degree of public and stakeholder participation.

This submission is focused on the third of the Inquiry’s ten objectives –

  1. “ To determine the adequacy and effectiveness of the Company’s policies and procedures as it pertains to ensuring accountability, transparency and sound Corporate Governance in its operations and to determine whether these are being adhered to…“

It is my considered view that TSTT has engaged in a series of determined and long-range legal manoeuvres to place itself outside two of our Republic’s principal accountability and transparency laws. Those two laws are the Integrity in Public Life Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Submission to Joint Select Committee Inquiry into the administration and operations of TSTT

In response to an invitation for written submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Ministries, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Group 2) Inquiry into the administration and operations of the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago, I delivered the following:

From: jscgroup2 <jscgroup2@ttparliament.org>
Date: Mon, May 5, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Subject: RE: Public Enquiry into TSTT
To: Afra Raymond <afraraymond@gmail.com>
Cc: Candice Skerrette <cskerrette@ttparliament.org>
Dear Mr. Raymond,
On behalf of the Committee, I extend sincere gratitude for your response to the Committee’s request for submissions regarding its inquiry into the operations of TSTT. The Committee will consider your comments and if necessary, may seek to engage with you further.
In addition, the Committee is expected to convene a Public Hearing with officials of TSTT on Friday May 09, 2014 at 10:00am. This hearing will be aired LIVE on the Parliament Channel.
Best regards,
Julien Ogilvie
Secretary to the Committee

Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
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G2G Policy

The current Government to Government (G2G) arrangements are a direct threat to our country’s fundamental interests.

The key element of the G2G arrangement is that a larger, more advanced, country will assist a smaller, less-advanced country by building or operating complex facilities which are beyond the reach of the smaller state.

One of the features the G2G arrangements have in common with the other large-scale projects is the high degree of secrecy with which the proposals are developed.  That secrecy raises doubts as to whether proper Needs Assessments are undertaken and as to the degree to which the views of citizens and stakeholders are sought, far less considered.  The fundamental issue as to the necessity for these projects is thus routinely sidelined, which is inimical to the public interest.

The main criticisms of the G2G arrangements are –

  • Sidelining of the elementary Tendering Process – the procurement process is effectively outsourced, since the more powerful country has the right to select the contractor;
  • Limited, if any, role for Local Participation in terms of labour, professionals, suppliers, or contractors;
  • Weak or nonexistent contract controls, due to the disparity in power between the parties;
  • Serious drain on Foreign Exchange;
  • Lack of the promised Transfer of Technology.

These arrangements have been heavily criticised in our country for almost 35 years, starting with Winston Riley’s October 1979 paper which identified many of the emerging problems.  As a result of that rising tide of criticism, an official enquiry was established by then PM, George Chambers.  In March 1982, the Ballah Report was published and the G2G programme was brought to a halt as a result of its dire findings…

AUDIO: The Showdown Show Interview, i95.5FM – 6 April 2014

Afra Raymond is interviewed on the ‘Showdown‘ show on i95.5FM about the public procurement legislation recently laid in parliament. 6 April 2014. Audio courtesy i95.5FM

  • Programme Date: Sunday, 6th April 2014
  • Programme Length: 0:38:25 + 0:48:59

Part 1:

Part 2:


The main issue now arising in relation to the Beetham Water Recycling Project (BWRP) is the complete failure of our country’s system of Public Financial Management.

The $1.043 Billion BWRP was omitted from Trinidad & Tobago’s 2014 national budget.  By any standard that is an unpardonable failure to account for that mammoth sum of Public Money.  Although the national budget-making exercise is collective in nature, the ultimate responsibility for that function is held by the Minister of Finance & the Economy.  That Minister is Larry Howai, who is a Certified Management Accountant and was a career Banker, up until his appointment in June 2012.

The JCC have been long-time campaigners for Public Procurement Reform, together with our Kindred Associations – T&T Chamber of Commerce; T&T Manufacturers’ Association; T&T Transparency Institute; American Chamber of Commerce; Federation of Independent Trades Unions & NGOs and the Local Content Chamber.  In the preamble to our 2012 draft Bill we identified Public Procurement Reform as heralding the “stated intention to strengthen the quality of governance by promoting these principles of good governance by systemic re-engineering of the public financial management system. This Bill is thus one of a raft of relevant Bills for the re-engineering of the public financial management system…

Crystal Clear

The title for this column is borrowed from the ongoing, expensive advertising campaign being mounted by WASA & NGC to promote the attributes of the Beetham Water Recycling Project. (Click thumbnails at right to magnify)

The Project is in two stages – to Design and Build a water recycling plant at Beetham and to Operate & Maintain that plant for a period of five years.  The recycled water is to be piped to Point Lisas for the cooling requirements of industrial customers, which we are told will ‘free-up’ about 10 million gallons per day of drinking water.  This Design & Build contract for $1.043 Billion was awarded to SIS Ltd and its sub-contractors on 10 March 2014.

Despite the attributes presented by this project, there are grounds for serious concern as to the process adopted and the actions of the various public officials involved.

The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley, first raised this matter in the budget debate of September 2013, following that with a formal complaint, on 10 March 2014, to President Carmona.  In addition, Dr. Rowley’s Private Motion was to be debated in Parliament on Friday 28 March calling for the Prime Minister to stop the project and investigate the matter.

Having considered the available facts, the JCC issued a Press Release on 20 March 2014 calling for the project to be immediately halted. The JCC is also calling for an independent public investigation into this entire matter.

The JCC’s preliminary concerns are –

  1. The Budget?

    The project is not mentioned at all in the 2014 national budget.  It is not in the Budget Statement or any of the supplementary documents which record the figures for State Enterprises (such as NGC), Statutory Corporations (such as WASA) or the overall national accounts.That omission itself is grave enough to warrant a complete halt to this dubious operation, but that is not the worse of it.  Not at all.When one carefully considers the 2014 budget, two even more serious issues become apparent.

    1. The first is the timeline.  The NGC published the Request for Proposals (RFP) for this huge project on Monday 2 September 2013.  The 2014 budget statement was delivered by Minister of Finance & the Economy, Larry Howai, on 9 September 2013.
    2. The second is that the 2014 budget actually has a section dedicated to ‘Water Resources’ at pgs 31-32.  That section of the budget states that “In fact, Trinidad is making significant progress towards achieving water for all” and “Tobago is well within achieving water for all”.   Details of upcoming projects were also provided – “We are expanding and improving wastewater treatment, collection and disposal systems in Malabar, San Fernando, Maloney, Cunupia and Scarborough, Tobago.

    So, the Minister of Finance & the Economy assured the nation that we are well on the way to ‘Water for All‘, only one week after NGC published that RFP.  That sequence of events raise fundamental questions as to just what reliance we can place on our national budgeting process.  Reports which are silent on large-scale proposals are unreliable.  For our national budget to slide into that category of unreliable document is unacceptable.

    What is more, Minister Howai’s statement as to the nation’s water supply and WASA’s intended projects really give us cause for a pause.  If the Minister’s statements are reliable, why do we need this project?  If those statements cannot be relied upon, we are really at a sobering moment.

    The State Enterprises Investment Programme (SEIP) is an integral document in the national budget, which shows all capital infrastructure projects financed by State Enterprises and Statutory Authorities.  NGC’s projects are detailed at pgs 8-12 of the 2014 SEIP, but there is no mention of this Billion-dollar Water Recycling Project.

    The silence in the budget as to the Beetham Water Recycling Project is unacceptable.  It raises the direct question as to the reasons for the actions of these public officials.  It is unacceptable that a project of this size and consequence could be conceived and implemented as a ‘phantom project‘.  This is a mammoth ‘off-budget‘ expenditure to be funded by Public Money, via the NGC…

VIDEO: Morning Edition Monday 24 March 2014

Afra Raymond sits with host, Fazeer Mohammed on the Morning Edition television show to discuss the JCC’s position on the recent Beetham Water Recycling Project. Video courtesy TV6

  • Programme Air Date: Monday 24th March 2014
  • Programme Length: 0:22:23

Guarding the Guards

Our country continues its perpetual grappling with the question of conduct in public office, but at this time we are faced with particular threats and opportunities in respect of the Public Interest.

Before getting to the present particulars, some critical facts and concepts must be stated. Trinidad & Tobago is a leading nation in the Caribbean region, so progress made here will be to the wider benefit of the region. That said, the particular shape of our economy is such that the State is easily the dominant player in the country’s commercial affairs. Given that reality, the question of illegal or improper conduct by the State and its Agencies, goes far beyond principled assertions. The State must be exemplary in its conduct, not just because that is a principled position, but because its regular misconduct and illegality will continue to distort the behaviour of non-State players.comics-elephantthere-big

The size and wealth of the State makes its control and oversight a continuing and seemingly-insurmountable task. Like the old proverb – ”…Where does an Elephant sit? Wherever it wants to…” It is essential that the State be subject to ongoing and timely oversight, so as to preserve the society’s stability and progressive development.

The State’s power emanates from its unique legal powers and the fact that it has more money than any other element of the society.

These two streams of power work together in a special relationship to which we must be most alert. We rely on the State to seek our collective interests, so we have a special duty to be most vigilant as to its operations.

That is the background against which the current threats and challenges must be viewed.

The main element driving the episodes of State misconduct and illegality is the ability to transact in Public Money, which is money due to or payable by the State, to include any money for which the State will be ultimately liable in the event of a default. Public Officials transact in Public Money, on our behalf. Those Officials are defined in the Schedule to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) – that list includes politicians, Permanent Secretaries and Board members of State Enterprises, Statutory Bodies performing a public function and bodies in which the State has a controlling interest…


g2gGovernment to Government arrangements (G2G) are made between two states, so that the less developed one can benefit from the technology and methods of the more advanced one. Given the scale of projects now being undertaken via these arrangements; the current high-level State mission to China, with its key objective of deepening the strategic ties; the long-promised and impending Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property law and our recent G2G experience, this a critical issue to delve into.

These G2G arrangements have been controversial since their introduction to Trinidad & Tobago in the 1970s, during the ‘petro-dollar boom‘. The Central Tenders Board Act was amended in 1979 to exclude both State Enterprises and G2G arrangements from what was seen as the heavy hand of bureaucracy. In that period, the most memorable projects done via G2G were the Mount Hope Medical Complex, the Twin Towers and the Hall of Justice. There were other projects, often shrouded in allegations of corruption and improper practice. After strong protests, the then PM George Chambers appointed the late Lennox Ballah to enquire into the entire series of G2G arrangements. The Ballah Report was published in March 1982 and it should be required reading for those who are committed to national development. Chambers accounted for the petro-dollar by reporting to a shocked nation that two out of every three dollars had been stolen or wasted. Most of the G2G arrangements were stopped after that publication.

Yet these damaging arrangements have now re-emerged and what is more, there does not appear to have been any fundamental improvement in our terms within the new agreements. Once again, despite the clarity of the Ballah Report and its publication, we do not appear to have the capacity to learn from our history. That is a fatal blind-spot in our society.

It is clear to me that G2G arrangements, as presently configured, are severely detrimental to our national interest. Supporters of G2G would say that those arrangements allow a more rapid pace of development at costs which can appear to be competitive.

The main criticisms of the existing arrangements are –

  • Sidelining of the elementary Tendering Process – the procurement process is effectively outsourced, since the more powerful country has the right to select the contractor;
  • Limited, if any, role for Local Participation in terms of labour, professionals or contractors;
  • Weak or nonexistent contract controls, due to the disparity in power between the parties;
  • Serious drain on Foreign Exchange;
  • Lack of the promised Transfer of Technology.

The Elephant in the Room

The huge potential supply of State-built, unfinished office buildings in our capital is the ‘Elephant in the Room‘. There are potent elements at play here in terms of the viability of the long-term and large-scale investments which have been made in Port-of-Spain by private and public capital.

At this point, taking account of offices over 25,000 sf in size, there are over 1,500,000 sf of incomplete offices in our capital. This article will examine the likely outcomes for our capital and those investors as the various projects are completed.

Incomplete Port of Spain offices at February 2014 (Over 25,000sf)

Incomplete Port of Spain offices at February 2014 (Over 25,000sf)

The State has 1,329,000 sf of incomplete offices in POS and the private sector has 224,800 sf. The State has virtually seven times more incomplete offices than the private sector and that is the ‘Elephant in the Room’. This chart portrays the reality – the details are set out in the table below.

The legacy of the POS offices built during the previous administration is a matter which deserves serious consideration. The sheer volume of offices built by the State during the previous administration is sobering – 2.3M sf. Given that Nicholas Tower – that elliptical, blue tower on Independence Square – contains 100,000 sf, it means that the State built the equivalent of ‘23 Nicholas Towers‘ in our capital in that period of rapid development.

We also know that there was no attempt at public consultation or feasibility studies by the State or its agent, UDECOTT. At the Uff Enquiry, the Executive Chairman of UDECOTT, Calder Hart, admitted that a feasibility study had been done for only one of those projects. That project is the International Waterfront Centre (IWC), which comprises the two office towers of 890,000 sf, the Hyatt Hotel, New Breakfast Shed and carparking/outdoor facilities. Hart also admitted, under oath, that the value of the land had been omitted from the viability study for the IWC, so it was a bogus exercise. The break-even rent is the amount which must be earned by a project to repay the cost of land, construction, professional fees and finance. The IWC, repeatedly boasted-of as UDECOTT’s flagship project, is not a viable project, since its break-even rent exceeds the highest rents now earned by A-class offices in POS.

CL Financial bailout – Paying the Devil

paying the devilToday is the 30th of January 2014: five years since the State bailout of CL Financial was announced to a shocked nation and region. It is necessary to mark this moment in time with solid facts and stern meditation.

The Carnival season is upon us, so J’ouvert is near the front of my thoughts. J’ouvert is simple, yet tremendous, because of the experience of passing from night into daylight and of course those around you becoming clearer as the light overcomes the darkness. For me, the defining feature of Jouvert is the terrifying portrayals of ‘Devil mas‘ in its various forms – ugly and dirty, covered with mud, oil or paint; real noisy, beating pitch-oil tins and such; forceful, in demanding payment from you before you could pass. You have to pay the Devil to go away. Pay the Devil, so he could leave without dirtying you up.

The vast amount of detail which has emerged in the last five years, means that I can only focus on one key aspect of the CL Financial bailout scandal.

My main theme is that vast amounts of Public Money have been committed to repay the debts of CL Financial, while the chiefs who directed and controlled that conglomerate seem free to come and go as they please. Or, in the case of Duprey, who refused to testify at the Colman Commission, to go and refuse to come. Once again, Trinis in the running for some awards for innovation and so on, with Duprey being the world’s first ‘Penniless Philanthropist‘.

Public procurement pressure

The complete overhaul of our country’s public procurement system is urgently required, given the daily reports of large-scale theft and waste of public money.

The last administration lost public confidence due largely to the high levels of corruption, as revealed in the Uff Enquiry into the Public Sector Construction Industry.

The JCC met in April 2010 with the leadership of the People’s Partnership at its request and with the media in attendance.

At that meeting, the People’s Partnership made three significant promises:

  1. Implementation of the recommendations of the Uff Report – This was the first item at the first post-Cabinet press briefing on July 1, 2010, with the Justice Ministry being tasked to implement those critical recommendations. That promise has been broken.
  2. Tabling of legislative proposals for public procurement within one month of an electoral victory. Then Finance Minister Winston Dookeran did lay two draft bills — a 1997 draft to repeal the Central Tenders Board Act and a 2006 draft Public Procurement Bill — so that promise was fulfilled.
  3. Creation of new laws for Public Procurement & the Disposal of Public Property within one year of an electoral victory.  Despite the statements at pg 18 of the People’s Partnership Manifesto, the appointment of a Joint Select Committee (JSC) and many public pronouncements, that has not happened.

The Uff Bluff

Jearlean John. Photo courtesy Trinidad Guardian

Jearlean John, Chairman UDeCOTT

On December 11, I wrote ‘Invader’s Bay Review‘ in this space, calling for an immediate public review of that improper large-scale development being proposed on reclaimed State lands in west POS.  I also took the opportunity to make the point that there had been no consultation on that proposed development and that UDECOTT’s repeated public statements that its operations are now compliant with the Uff Report recommendations are false.

UDECOTT’s response was to place full-page advertisements in the three daily newspapers, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 December, in an expensive attempt to refute my criticisms.  My letter to the editor, carried in this newspaper on the Sunday, put UDECOTT’s misleading advertisement in context and reaffirmed the continuing falsehood of their claimed compliance with the Uff Report.  The episode is recounted here.

There are several lessons one can draw from this exchange – the sheer hostility to the truth which is now becoming a disturbing ‘new normal‘ in our society; the invisible hand of the bureaucracy in devising large-scale developments, stated to be for the benefit of citizens, without citizen inputs; the inescapable reality that these obstructive forces operate across and within all our political administrations.

Sunity Maharaj wrote a fine overview of these burning issues in ‘Amandla!  Now listen to the people‘ in the 15 December Sunday Express.  In that article, Sunity detailed the development of a perverse consultation industry “Its specialty is in designing events that look like consultation, sound like consultation but do not actually involve consultation…”.

Raymond & Pierre and Afra Raymond v Harry Harnarine

Harry Harnarine, former HCU president. Photo © newsday.co.tt

Harry Harnarine, former HCU president. Photo © newsday.co.tt

The High Court decision of Wednesday 18 December 2013 now formally bankrupts Harry Harnarine, of Hindu Credit Union infamy, with the debt owed to our firm, Raymond & Pierre, and myself – the Chief State Solicitor was appointed as the Official Receiver.

The actual debt is some $868,000 with 12% simple interest since July 2008, plus costs fit for Senior & Junior Counsel. This effectively debars Mr Harnarine from any further participation in our financial system. The original action arose out of libellous statements uttered by Harnarine on HCU’s Radio Shakti in October 2005 and our side was well represented by a strong legal team, headed by Seenath Jairam SC.

Congratulations are due to those hard-working advocates and advisers.

I am attaching/linking these other important items –

  • Ernst & Young Report to Colman Commission on HCU, evidencing at pg 30 in the Statement of Affairs for Hindu Credit Union a shortfall of $486.5M as at 31 May 2008.
  • Final Straw to Kill me‘ Express article of 6 May 2013 detailing Harnarine’s final defeat at the Appeal Court to his challenge to the Bankruptcy Order we obtained.
  • 19 December 2013 – Newsday and Guardian articles on the High Court ruling making a Receiving Order against Harry Harnarine
  • 20 December 2013 – Newsday reports Harnarine to be baffled by the High Court ruling.

Letter to the Editor – UDECOTT’s failure to consult response

In response to a full page UDECOTT advert (embedded below) in response to my article “Invader’s Bay Review” (excerpted above), also published in the Business Express.

From: Afra Raymond <afraraymond@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Dec 14, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Subject: Letter to the Editor – UDECOTT’s failure to consult
To: Editors of daily newspapers. Email addresses withheld

The 17th recommendation of the Uff Report is –

User groups and other interest groups should be properly consulted on decisions regarding public building projects, to ensure that relevant views can be expressed at the appropriate time and taken into account before decisions are made.

The decisive part is ‘before decisions are made.‘..

Invader’s Bay Review

There now needs to be a complete and open review of the Invader’s Bay matter. That is imperative if the public interest is to be safeguarded.

The catalogue of irregular dealings and improper procurement practice at Invader’s Bay has now grown so that we are facing an important moment of decision. At this point there has been no announcement as to an award of contract or grant of any lease, so the threshold of binding legal agreement has not been crossed. In investment language, we are at the ‘inflection point’, which is where the prudent investor has to make a decision to continue or abandon a course of action.

This is the exact moment we should be calling for an open review of this major public project, before any binding commitments are made.

The Commission of Enquiry is an often-used device to probe into matters of serious public concern. In relation to construction and property development, we have had recent CoEs into the Piarco Airport Project, UDECOTT, Land-Date and the Biche School Project, to name a few.

The public has a sceptical attitude to these Commissions, since they never seem bring the desired results in terms of arrests of prominent public officials or disgorgement of stolen monies. Many people dismiss CoEs as ‘talk shops’ set up to enrich lawyers, but I do not dismiss them as effective ways to serve the public interest. Despite the imperfections of the Enquiry process, including the fact that key witnesses can refuse to appear without incurring any serious penalties, there are real benefits. The main one, in my view is that a CoE allows us in the public to learn about major matters of public concern which would likely have remained hidden…

AUDIO: Heritage Radio Interview: JCC update 4th December 2013

JCC President Afra Raymond interviewed on Heritage Radio 101.7FM by Hans Hanoomansingh to discuss JCC matters such as Public Procurement, Invader’s Bay and G2G Arrangements. 04 December 2013. Audio courtesy Heritage Radio 101.7 FM

  • Programme Date: Wednesday, 04 December 2013
  • Programme Length: 1:23:27

Secret Society

foiaThe State is the dominant agent in our national economy, which is the most vibrant in the Caribbean. It is therefore essential for us to understand how the State works so that we can better understand, or even plan, our interaction with that dominant party. Given the role T&T plays in the wider Caribbean, those concerns extend beyond our country to our region.

In order for us to understand how the State works, we must get quality information in the required quantities. We must also have the right to request further information from public bodies so that we can examine particular matters more closely – see Sidebar below.

This country’s Integrity Framework comprises elements such as –

  • The Integrity Commission (IC), which is responsible for monitoring the integrity of Public Officials;
  • The Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), which gives the right to ask for unpublished information;
  • The Auditor General, the Independent body monitoring the financial reporting of Public Bodies;
  • The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance, monitoring the operations of State Enterprises;
  • The two Parliamentary Accounts Enterprises Committees, providing Parliamentary oversight of Public Bodies

This sustained examination of our country’s Integrity Framework is directed towards an enhanced level of information on how our nation’s Public Bodies are functioning.

Integrity Omission?

kengordonThe sheer pace of events surrounding the Integrity Commission and the startling series of revelations demand our attention, given the critical role of the Commission as the State’s principal anti-corruption agency.

The rising tide of corruption in our public affairs has been a constant, whichever political administration is in office, seemingly increasing since the IC was established in 1987.  Two general observations emerge from that – we certainly need a respected, effective agency to tackle corruption in our public affairs, so we therefore need to look soberly at how the IC can be improved.  I repeat that the Commission’s 2012 Annual Report contains serious proposals to improve its effectiveness.

My reading of these recent events is that there are two fundamental issues arising.

CL Financial bailout – Really learning from the past

CB-gov - TTCSII am responding to the points made by Central Bank Governor, Jwala Rambarran, in his 6 November speech to the T&T Coalition of Service Industries.

This speech attempted to both re-affirm the Central Bank’s important role in our economy –

…as the country‟s prime financial regulator, the Central Bank has an almost fifty year record of maintaining the safety and soundness of the financial system…

and to distinguish Rambarran’s tenure as Governor since July 2012 –

…These are just a few of the initiatives the Central Bank has been working on over the last fifteen months to rebuild confidence, strengthen financial stability and to help create our future financial system…

Rambarran’s focus was “…First, “How did it all happen?” and, second…“What is being done to prevent a similar event from happening again?…”

The Integrity Account

icttHaving completed my four-part series [1, 2 & 3, 4] on what I termed ‘The Integrity Threat‘, I was intrigued by two recent public notices on the meaning of the Appeal Court’s recent activity on these matters.

  1. 6 October  – The Integrity Commission issued a Public Notice which was a clear statement by the Commission that State Enterprises were within its lawful remit, according to the Appeal Court ruling on 27 June.  My reading of that ruling was that it effectively narrowed the 9th part of the Schedule to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) so that it only applies to Directors of Statutory Bodies performing public functions.  I maintain that view.  Even if one accepts the Commission’s reading of events, as set out in the exchange of emails in the sidebar, this ruling was a seriously retrograde step in the operation of our nation’s Integrity Framework, as I will illustrate;
  2. 5 November – the Judiciary issued a Media Release on the recent reports in other newspapers on a 28 October Appeal Court hearing on a 2006 Freedom of Information request made to TSTT.  I want to read the actual ruling/findings of the Appeal Court at that hearing before writing in detail on this.  Two things are clear – firstly, the Judiciary is able to set the record straight if there is a danger of the media misunderstanding important rulings.  That is the behaviour of a healthy Public Institution.  I am also noting here that the Judiciary has made no such efforts in respect of #30 of 2008, despite the several pointed criticisms in the media.  The second point is about the subject-matter of this lawsuit, which is the 2006 letter the Commission wrote to TSTT’s Directors confirming that they did not have to submit declarations.  That letter and the official efforts to conceal it, were the subject of this 7-year lawsuit.  I had raised this arrangement with senior officials of the Commission in earlier discussions, since it seemed incredible to me that TSTT could have gained such a concession.  I was told that the Commission had agreed to ‘hold its hand‘ since the issue was subject to the Court’s ruling – this is my paraphrasing of conversations, so of course I am subject to correction.  On the one hand I was recently told by the Commission that this arrangement was ‘in order‘ and on the other, it is now emerging that TSTT expended considerable time & money to conceal those details.  I am calling on the Commission to publish those details…

Invader’s Bay part 3: MORE Invaders Bay Ingredients

Invaders' Bay

Invaders’ Bay

I closed last week’s article by restating my view that all the ingredients for corruption were present at Invader’s Bay.

What are those ingredients?

Here is my list –

  • Extensive public assets coming onto the market, in turbid circumstances. Those assets can include property, concessions, contracts and jobs;
  • Questions of access to the gatekeepers – in these scenarios, some people will have unbelievable access to the decision-makers;
  • Conflicting and confusing versions of the project or proposal. The confusion is as persistent as it is deliberate, a part of the tangled web.
  • Blatant double-standards and lying is the norm in these situations;
  • Apart from ceremonial fluff, such as sod-turnings and ribbon-cuttings, there is no intention whatsoever to give any proper public account or statement of intentions. True transparency is evaded like taxes;
  • Professional Civil Servants who are unable or unwilling to insist on the maintenance of minimum standards…

Pre-action letter to the minister of Finance and the Economy

This is the Pre-Action Protocol letter to the Minister of Finance challenging his failure to reply to my Freedom of Information Act request of 18 March 2013, seeking details of the beneficiaries of the CL Financial bailout, particularly the EFPA holders.

Invader’s Bay part 2: All the Ingredients for Bobol…

Since my previous article on this controversial proposal, we have seen that certain legal advice reportedly considered by the government has been featured in another newspaper.  If that is the advice the State is relying upon in advancing their Invader’s Bay proposals, we are seeing a large-scale act of intentional illegality and a worrying return to the ‘bad-old-days.

My main concerns are –


Compare the lack of consultation at Invader’s Bay with what happens elsewhere.  In particular, the large waterfront lands near the city centre of San Fernando at  King’s Wharf, which has been the subject of ongoing public consultations over the years.  The press reports that various design and redevelopment concepts were presented to and discussed with a widely-based audience.

Whatever the criticisms one might make of the King’s Wharf proposals, it is undeniable that views have been sought from the public/stakeholders and various proposals have been made for consideration.

The JCC and its Kindred Associations in Civil Society met with Ministers Tewarie and Cadiz on 26 September 2011 to express our serious concerns.  Yet, when Minister Tewarie was challenged by the JCC and others as to the complete failure to consult with the public, the only example of consultation he could cite was the very meeting we had insisted on, which took place after publication of the Ministry’s Request for Proposals (RFP) and just about one week before the closing-date for proposals.

AUDIO: Forward Thinkers Interview – 24 October 2013

Radio More FM 104.7
Afra Raymond chats on the show ’Forward Thinkers‘ with David Walker on 104.7FM, dealing with the CL Financial bailout and my lawsuit against the Minister of Finance to get at the detailed information as to how the $24B in Public Money was spent. 24 October 2013.  Audio courtesy More 104.7 FM

  • Programme Date: Thursday 24th October 2013
  • Programme Length: 0:45:41

CL Financial bailout – Lawsuit against Minister of Finance

This is my reply to the Ministry’s affidavit of 12 July which seemed to rely on the fact that CL Financial is a private company to refuse publication of the requested information.

Of course that line of reasoning is yet another emerging threat to our country’s Integrity Framework, so our reply challenges the validity of this assertion.

At our hearing on 1 October, Justice Boodoosingh ordered me to formally notify CL Financial and we have done that, so at our hearing earlier today, CL Financial were represented by a team led by Stephen Singh and various dates were set, with our next hearing on 27 February 2014. Of course that is the very Carnival week, so stay tuned. I expect there will be significant other developments well before that.

Integrity Commission Public Notice

ic-response2013Having written four critical articles consequent on the Appeal Court’s 27th June ruling and having been preceded by two leading commentators— Andre Bagoo & Anthony Wilson — I was intrigued by this Public Notice published at p. 49 of the Sunday Express of 6 October 2013.

It does not mention any particular articles and purports to clarify the ruling. I will be continuing this examination in my reply.

Invader’s Bay payday?

invadersbay-smlInvader’s Bay has re-emerged from the shadows via PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi’s budget contribution on Monday 23 September 2013 (pp. 168-175).  The twists and turns in this controversial proposed scheme are detailed at JCC’s webpage.

Invader’s Bay is a 70-acre parcel of reclaimed State land off the Audrey Jeffers Highway – just south of PriceSmart & MovieTowne – in the western part of Port-of-Spain.  Its value was estimated by the State in 2011 to be in excess of $1.2Bn, so these are prime development lands, possessing these attributes –

  • Water, Electricity and all urban services are readily available;
  • Flat/gently-sloping terrain;
  • Direct access to Audrey Jeffers Highway;
  • Waterfront location.

Before proceeding to the latest revelations, it is important to restate the main objections raised by the JCC and others with respect to this proposed development –

  • The Request for Proposals (RFP) was published by the Ministry of Planning in August 2011 seeking Design-Build proposals for the development of these lands and specifying an entirely inadequate 6 weeks for submissions;
  • There has been no public consultation at all, so the public has not been involved in this, the largest proposed development in our capital in living memory;
  • The RFP was silent as to the other three, extant strategic plans for the POS area, all paid for with Public Money.  Given that the RFP was published by the Ministry of Planning, that is a tragic irony, to say the least;
  • EIA – The RFP is silent as to the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment in a development of this scale;
  • The proposals were to be evaluated against the “Invader’s Bay Development Matrix and Criteria Description”, which was only published after the closing-date for submissions.  That is a clear breach of proper tender procedure, which renders the entire process voidable and therefore illegal.

Property Tax Facts

Property Tax is back and the controversy has naturally returned since the ‘Axe the Tax‘ movement was a signal moment of unity in the anti-PNM campaigns of 2009/2010.

In my opinion, the anti-Property Tax movement was an important measure of the extent to which our national discourse is now irrational and baseless.  The disenchantment with the Manning administration and the thirst to have them removed seemed to occupy more time than any substantial discussion as to the merits of the proposed Property Tax.

Now, as then, I hold the view that our nation’s Property Tax regime is long-overdue for reform and updating.  I support the proposals to do so and we will have to wait for more detail to analyse these proposals further.

Here are a few of the basic facts on Property Tax.

The size of the Property Tax Take – Proportionally

The Estimates of Revenue disclose that in 1995 property tax was 2% of tax revenue and in 2009 it was expected to be a mere .18%.  Property tax, when last collected, contributed a small fraction of the amount it did 15 years ago.  The official projections for the Property Taxes proposed by the PNM were for that revenue to increase to $325M in 2010 – even at that level, the contribution would have barely exceeded 1% of the national tax revenue.

The Draft Estimates of Revenue (2014) published in the recently-approved budget are unclear and I have requested an official clarification before making any detailed comments on those.  As an example the Total Tax Revenue 2014 is estimated (at p. vii) to be $46.8Bn, with ‘Taxes on Property’ comprising $3.914M, which is a tiny proportion of the total, about 100,000th of 1%.  The accompanying chart, on that very page, shows Property Tax at 1% of the total.  There is more to say, but I am awaiting the requested information, hopefully before next week’s deadline.

The key point here is that property is a vibrant engine of wealth in our country and has been so for many decades, every successful person knows that.  Given that fundamental, it is obvious that property has to be properly taxed if any kind of economic justice is to emerge. The historically paltry percentage of revenues raised via Property Taxes is solid justification for a comprehensive mapping of who owns what and the where.  This is a flourishing sector of the economy, so proper taxes are long-overdue…

Integrity Threat: Part 4

I am fully in support of a vigorous and conscientious Integrity Commission (IC).  I do not want to see the IC abolished or sidelined.  The IC must realign its limited resources to ensure a decisive impact on the conduct of Public Officials.  The proposals contained in its 2012 Annual Report show clearly that the Gordon Commission has started to seriously grapple with that challenge.

The derailment of the IC between 2004 and 2009 is a clear example of what can happen to an Independent Commission if we do not maintain vigilant oversight.

This matter is of the greatest interest for those of us campaigning for Public Procurement reform so as to get effective control over all transactions in Public Money.  The arrangements we are proposing include new Independent Commissions/Officeholders.  It is therefore critical that we learn the lessons from this debacle so as to safeguard the bodies we are proposing.  The stakes are very high for our nation’s Integrity Framework, which must be strengthened, with swifter resolution of allegations.

To continue in the current manner is to drag the system into further disrepute, encourage even more bold-faced thieves, more reckless public officials and we can expect complete loss of the residual respect for the post-independence civilization we have tried to grow.  That would be an ugly and violent future for our society, so this episode requires stern and conscientious examination.

One of the emergent issues is how to reconcile the competing need for an effective anti-corruption agency independent of external instructions or directions, while remaining sensitive to the views of its stakeholders.

In this case, the Commission’s formal reporting device – its Annual Reports – was silent at the time of its momentous decision to seek to omit State Enterprises and bodies under State control from its remit.  That failure to publish its 2008 & 2009 Annual Reports might be understood as a natural consequence of the virtual collapse of the Commission – the February 2009 resignations of the John Martin-led Commission were less than two months before the scheduled release of the 2008 Annual Report.  The May 2009 resignations of the Fr. Henry Charles-led Commission dealt a further blow to this beleaguered Institution.

Integrity Threat: Part 2 & 3

The previous column discussed the Appeal Court judgment in #30 of 2008, in which both TSTT and the Integrity Commission sought to challenge the High Court ruling in #1735 of 2005.  That High Court ruling found that the phrase contained at para 9 of the Schedule to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) was to be taken ‘as read’ to define those people who are subject to its provisions –

  1.  “Members of the Boards of all Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises including those bodies in which the State has a controlling interest.”

The Appeal Court – comprising CJ Archie, together with Mendonca JA and Smith JA – ruled that –


  1. TSTT is not a State Enterprise. The members of its Board are not subject to the Integrity Provisions.
  2. It is only the members of the Boards of those Statutory Bodies which exercise public functions that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.“

No appeals were filed against that ruling, so the law at this time is that Directors of State Enterprises are now exempt from the provisions of the IPLA.  The Appeal Court has now removed all 59 State Enterprises from the scrutiny of the Integrity Commission…

AUDIO: Heritage Radio Interview: Treasury Scandal – 27 August 2013

Afra Raymond chats with Joseph Berment-McDowall on Heritage Radio 101.7 FM about the Treasury Scandal article. 27 August 2013. Audio courtesy Heritage Radio 101.7 FM

  • Programme Date: Tuesday, 27 August 2013
  • Programme Length: 1:21:45

Integrity threat from the Appeal Court

ictt-vs-tsttOn 27th June the Appeal Court ruled that –

  • TSTT is not a State Enterprise. The members of its Board are not subject to the Integrity Provisions.
  • It is only the members of the Boards of those Statutory Bodies which exercise public functions that are subject to the jurisdiction of the (Integrity) Commission.

Telecommunications Company of Trinidad & Tobago (TSTT) is a company established between the T&T State and the British-based multinational, Cable & Wireless. C&W holds 49% of the shares in TSTT, while the State holds about 42% of the shares together with the right to nominate 5 of its 9 Directors.

That unanimous ruling has serious consequences for the viability of our nation’s integrity framework.

The intended purpose of that framework is to ensure a satisfactory level of transparency and accountability in the way Public Money is transacted and Public Functions are discharged.  There is still a strong case for this Integrity Framework as a necessary ingredient in the Good Governance of our nation. The Integrity Framework includes the Auditor General; the Integrity Commission; the Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance and the two Parliamentary Accounts Enterprises Committees.  Ours is the most vibrant Caribbean economy and the State is clearly the largest player, so the proper management of that sector is critical. Given the continuing rise in the waste and theft of Public Money, there will always be a need for an improved, more effective Integrity Framework to oversee these huge, controversial operations.

The Appeal arose from the 2005 case, in which TSTT sought an interpretation from the Court as to the meaning of the phrase in the Schedule to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA), defining persons in public life –

(9) Members of the Boards of all Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises including those bodies in which the State has a controlling interest…

The Treasury Scandal

I wonder if is Bobol?
What dey doing with Taxpayer’s Money at all!?
I wonder if is Bobol?
What dey doing with Taxpayer’s Money at all!?
—Opening stanza of ‘The Treasury Scandal’ by Atilla the Hun (1937)

I took this title from the late 1930’s kaiso by the great Atilla the Hun (Raymond Quevado) on the scandal of some $200,000 missing from T&T’s Treasury.  His outrage was rooted in the fact that the story came-out in bits and pieces and of course, none of the ‘Big-Boys’ was ever jailed, or even charged for that theft.  That was a massive amount of money in the 1930s – at that time a good Woodbrook house cost about $6,000 – so that could give you an idea. Atilla was lamenting the lack of accountability and transparency in how Public Money was being managed.  The ‘Treasury Scandal’ was a true episode from the bad-old-colonial-days of the 1930s, but of course we have progressed a great deal since then, having achieved Independence, Republican status and universal education.


Winston Dookeran, MP

The problem is that despite the obvious movement forward, we are witness to yet another ‘Treasury Scandal’. I am referring to the CL Financial bailout, announced in January 2009 and still ongoing at an anticipated cost of $24Bn – according to paras 21 and 22 of the 3 April 2012 affidavit of then Finance Minister, Winston Dookeran.

AUDIO: Forward Thinkers Interview – 15 August 2013

Radio More FM 104.7

Afra Raymond chats on the show  ’Forward Thinkers‘ with David Walker on More 104.7 FM about State Enterprises. 15 August 2013. Audio courtesy More 104.7 FM

  • Programme Date: Thursday 15th August 2013
  • Programme Length: 0:54:33

Ministry of Finance Dance

minFaffidavitThis is the 12th July affidavit filed by the Ministry of Finance in reply to my claim under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) filed against them in this matter.

This is a most interesting document for several reasons –

  • Attorneys – The legal team is led by Russell Martineau SC, former AG and former President of the Law Association. Martineau was lead attorney for CL Financial’s auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, during the recently-concluded Colman Commission and he strongly opposed my submissions as you can see in this revealing clip. His Junior in this case is Gerald Ramdeen, who was Junior Counsel to the said Colman Commission.
  • My recent supplemental application – On 18th March, I made a further application under the FoIA for the details of the creditors of CL Financial, particularly the EFPA holders, in relation to the amounts repaid and claimed. It is interesting that the Ministry of Finance chose to treat with this in the their affidavit.
  • The objection – Despite several readings of this 5-page affidavit, I am not clearly able to see just what is the Ministry’s real reason for objecting to the release of the requested info.
  • State-controlled Enterprises – The recent Appeal Court ruling in #30 of 2008 on the meaning of State-controlled Enterprises is a real threat to the public interest in relation to the governance arrangements in situations like this. The final sentence of para #14 is “In any event, CL Financial Ltd. is a private company and is not a public authority under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.” Well I tell you.
  • The fundamental position – At the Court hearing on 23rd May, the lead attorney for Finance, Russell Martineau SC, was emphatic in stating to Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh that there was no intention of compromising or considering the release of even some of the requested information. It is going to be a fight for every item of information.
  • Public Secret – We are now being told that the bailout process for CL Financial is nearing its end with a procedure having been agreed for the recovery of the Public Money which has been spent. Serious and justified concerns are being voiced at this time since there is no way to be sure how much money has been spent or the terms of the final settlement. I will be writing more on this shortly. We are being told that the agreed terms of the settlement are solid in protecting the public interest, yet this very Ministry, Finance, is using a highly-paid legal team to oppose the publication of fundamental information.

The burning question remains…

What is the big secret?

 VIDEO: Time to Face the Facts – 26 May 2013

video-picThis is the interview on Caribbean Corruption for ‘Time to Face the Facts‘ which was broadcast out of Barbados-based Caribbean Media Corporation on Sunday 26th May 2013.

The audience was regional via cable and global via their Facebook page. The interviewer is Jerry George and the format was a live call-in. Video courtesy Jerry George

  • Programme Air Date: 26 May 2013
  • Programme Length: 2:00:00

Time to Face the Facts Show

Charting our losses: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’

The last four articles in this series have focused on what I call ‘two sides of the same coin’ – the coin being the large-scale and improper use of Public Money.

I examined the THA/BOLT office project called MILSHIRV being undertaken with the Rahael group and the Calcutta Settlement land scheme in which the HDC acquired developed lands at several times the proper price the State could have paid.

Throughout this type of critique one has to strive for effective balance and fundamental integrity. The extent of the waste and/or theft is never easy to pinpoint when one is working from outside and relying solely on published documents, but my best efforts to establish those facts is what is presented. Of course it is impossible to say for sure that any amount of money was stolen in a particular project, hence the phrase ‘wasted or stolen’.

Objectively, it does not matter whether the money is wasted or stolen, if it is ultimately unavailable for the benefit of the Public. Once spent, that Public Money is gone forever, which is why Value for Money is of such importance in any proper Public Procurement system.

Subjectively, however, the errors of inexperience or poor process must be differentiated from an active conspiracy to defraud. Although the objective measure of loss might be identical in terms of the dollar-amount, there are different long-term consequences. Innocent errors and miscalculations can be rectified over time by ongoing review processes. Deliberate conspiracies to defraud require concerted and well-grounded attacks in order to be eliminated. What is worse about the deliberate conspiracies is that they affect the very atmosphere in which public business is conducted.

Order granting leave to file judicial review in Afra Raymond vs Ministry of Finance and the Economy

order-tiltThis is the Order by Justice Boodoosingh to grant me the right to have the Judicial Review heard in Court…our first hearing is set for 1 May 2013

Application for judicial review in Afra Raymond vs Ministry of Finance and the Economy

appl-tiltThis is my filing for the Judicial Review of the continuing refusal of the Ministry of Finance to reply to my Freedom of Information request of 11 May 2012 along with my sworn affidavit.

The case is a critical challenge to the detrimental notion that $24Bn of Public Money can be spent without Accountability or Transparency.  That notion does violence to any healthy conception of the Public Interest, so I expect this contest to be a sharp one.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand…”

Frederick Douglass…Freedom Fighter and esteemed ancestor…

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant!”

Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis…

Calcutta Settlement review

The simple, inescapable fact is that the State could have lawfully acquired the ‘Eden Gardens’ property for less than $40M.  The HDC paid $175M in November 2012 to Point Lisas Park Ltd (PLP) for that property, which is the reason I am calling this an improper use of Public Money.

Despite having available the advice of the Commissioner of State Lands, the Commissioner of Valuations and various attorneys at HDC and so on, the Cabinet approved this transaction.  This Cabinet, with two Senior Counsel at its head and several other seasoned legal advisers, appears to have been unaware of, or intentionally ignoring, the legal safeguards.

Some readers may be surprised at those assertions, so here are my reasons for making such.

The last two articles examined the steps leading to the HDC’s purchase of land at ‘Eden Gardens’ in Calcutta Settlement.  In my opinion that transaction, as well as the one which preceded it, are both highly improper and very probably unlawful.  The HDC purchase must be reversed and the responsible parties investigated/prosecuted as required by our laws.

Pre-Action Protocol letter to Ministry of Finance pursuant to FoI Application of 11 May 2012

preactionWhat is being pursued here is our right as citizens of a modern republic to the details of these huge expenditures of Public Money – the CL Financial bailout is costing some $24Bn, about $3.5Bn USD! – and the background to how critical legislative support is obtained.  It is my view that S.34 was not the first time and that the spectre of ‘regulatory capture’, which underlines much of the discourse around the Great Depression 2, is in fact founded on a sinister degree of ‘legislative capture’.

Having had a series of ‘cat and mouse’ exchanges with the Ministry of Finance since my Freedom of Information Act application made on 11 May 2012, this is my pre-action protocol letter sent to them by my attorney on Thursday 7 March, seeking their proper reply in 7 days…that time expires at midnight today, Wednesday 13 March, so stay tuned, because we are going to the High Court after that…

Calcutta Settlement again

163940In light of the many questions raised by readers after the last article on the HDC’s purchase of land at ‘Eden Gardens‘ in Calcutta Settlement, I am continuing there.

The previous article discussed the Calcutta Settlement scheme and its relation to implementation of national housing policy.  There is little, if any, connection between the provision of affordable housing and the acquisition of those ‘Eden Gardens‘ lands, at what is surely the highest price in Central Trinidad.  How we create and implement a progressive housing policy is a critical part of this discourse, but there is more.

Another important aspect of this episode is the fact that sound land administration policy appears to have been abandoned for expediency.  Expediency should never eclipse proper policy, especially when neither the process nor end-result advance the ultimate objective of serving our citizens.

The sidelining of sound land administration policy was essential in order to get the Calcutta Settlement scheme approved.  National Land Administration policy is important so that we can be strategic in using the country’s property assets for proper national development, as opposed to the enrichment of a select few.

The State is a unique player in our country’s land arena, so we need to place this Calcutta Settlement episode into proper context from a land administration viewpoint.

Afra joins the top 1%TEDxTalks featured on the TED.com website

teddotcom-afraAfra Raymond’s talk at TEDxPortofSpain 2012 is part of the 1% of TEDxTalks that get featured on the TED.com website. Congratulations to Afra. So far there have been 5,900 events held in 1,683 cities producing 25,500 talks worldwide. Only 247 TEDxTalks have feature on the TED.com website and now Afra is one of them.

From THA/BOLT to Calcutta – tangled webs: Part 2

163940Last week I set out my main concerns in relation to poor procurement processes with the THA/BOLT project.  A large amount of Public Money was being committed to a project with little apparent regard to Value for Money concerns in an arrangement which seems to expose the THA to the principal risks at a time of limited financial resources.

This article is a critical examination of the controversial proposed purchase of 50.6 acres of land at Calcutta Settlement by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

Today TED featured Afra Raymonds TEDxPortofSpain talk as a talk of the week.

ted-talkEach week TED selects four of their favourite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Afra’s talk was chosen. Congratulations to Afra and the TEDxPortofSpain Community.

From THA/BOLT to Calcutta – tangled webs: Part 1


Artist Impression of THA Admin building courtesy Amera Caribbean Development Ltd.

With the THA elections having become a kind of national contest, the issues of governance and integrity loom large.  The two relevant controversial issues, both of which emerged late last year, were the THA/BOLT office project and the HDC’s proposed purchase of land at Calcutta No. 2 Settlement.

Both those projects have given me serious cause for concern in terms of proper public procurement practice, so much so that I see them as being two sides of the same coin.  Both these cases are models of inadvisable dealings in Public Money of a type which no prudent or reputable company would undertake.  I am choosing my words carefully since recent reports are that litigation has already started on the THA/BOLT project and there may well be further legal action on both projects as we go forward…

 VIDEO: The three sides of corruption: Afra Raymond at TEDxPortofSpain – 12.12.12

Replying to the Ministry of Finance on our Freedom of Information application of 8th May 2012…

letter-tiltI was trying to find out these four things –

  1. CL Financial accounts and if those are not available, the figures on which the Minister of Finance has been relying
  2. The presentation made to Members of Parliament in September 2011 to brief them prior to the debate on the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill and the Purchase of Certain Rights and Validation Bill 2011
  3. Details on the composition of the creditors of the CL Financial group, in particular EFPA holders.  I was asking who was owed money and who got paid.  That is at the centre of this issue
  4. Declarations filed by Directors and Officers of the CL Financial group under the IPLA – I have since established that those declarations are not being filed, so this pursuit is about the first three questions.  

A fuller background on all this can be read here.

This is my reply to the letter sent by the Ministry of Finance on 14th August 2012.

Stay tuned, because this is going to be a real battle to get at the truth.

The Plot to Pervert Parliament

We have witnessed two grievous Constitutional outrages.  We have to keep our eyes on the ball in this season of mass distractions. For the government, there is every reason for us to ‘move on’ and forget about these deliberate violations of our constitution.

  1. The first was the State of Emergency – declared on August 21 2011 – with no proper reason ever being given for the suspension of our Constitutional rights.  All the persons arrested were poor people.  All of whom had to be released for lack of evidence, in a situation where the Police had the complete freedom to search for evidence.  But what is worse, the suspension of our Constitutional rights was not used to gather evidence against the White-Collar bandits who have this nation by the throat.  That State of Emergency would have been an ideal opportunity to gather evidence against this most evasive, well-advised and malodorous class of criminal.
  2. The second was the S.34 scandal – on August 31 2012 – which I have called the Plot to Pervert Parliament.  This abuse of our legislative process allowed high-profile White-Collar Criminals to escape justice.

An abusive double-attack, so how do we speak the Truth to Power?

According to Abraham Lincoln “…Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power…

These scandals continue to echo in the mind of so many people that it is only a matter of time before we have a thorough Public Enquiry.  We must record who abused their office.  Also, we need to remember clearly, who are these apologists who are now insisting that nothing big happened and in any case, it is all over.

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  1. #1 by Winston Padmore on August 9, 2009 - 6:12 pm

    Afra, Once more, well done.

  2. #2 by shakey hadeed on August 9, 2009 - 8:18 pm

    Congratulations………do you know that you have written some winners!
    Love your by-line:”A Thinking Man’s weblog.”

    Good Job.

  3. #3 by Gerard G. Darlington on August 9, 2009 - 10:34 pm

    Hello Afra ,
    Good to see you have taken the conviction to the next level .
    Best wishes

  4. #4 by Jacquie on August 10, 2009 - 2:21 am

    Congrats Afra, had a quick glance, will return when I’m more alert. Best, J

  5. #5 by Rubadiri Victor on August 10, 2009 - 7:15 am

    Great stuff Afra. Web presence is a must. Should also light a fire under me to get mine and my book done…

  6. #6 by Bliss Seepersad on August 10, 2009 - 8:10 am

    Well done Afra – (timely too) – will be checking for further updates.

  7. #7 by Wayne Kublalsingh on August 10, 2009 - 9:42 am

    At this juncture in our history, there is very little more important than a critical mind attentive to our national finances and economy; a nun to get up like clockwork at four every morning, to scrub and scrub and clean out the Saturday night rumshop. Best wishes.

  8. #8 by Russell King on August 10, 2009 - 2:41 pm

    Excellent idea Afra,
    Great stuff. Getting a broader scope on the thinking of the reading public.

    Will be visiting very often.
    Thanks for this.


  9. #9 by Sammy on August 10, 2009 - 4:17 pm

    Wow you do inspire me….

    Thanks for doing this and putting it all online.


  10. #10 by Sherly on August 11, 2009 - 9:26 am

    WOW, I like the picture how it blends in with the colours. Thanks for giving freely. You are a miracle, a genius !!!

  11. #11 by Lara QT on August 11, 2009 - 9:56 am

    Great job Afra !! Thank goodness for the internet – free speech is alive and well..

  12. #12 by Jameela on August 11, 2009 - 1:43 pm

    Now I can finally read your articles whenever I please! Brilliant. If I ever want to know what you think about things – I now know where to look.

    Love from your darling daughter

    P.S… Why am I not surprised that the website’s colour scheme is blue? Ha.

    • #13 by Afra Raymond on August 14, 2009 - 12:11 am

      Hi Jameela,

      Your comments are welcome and of course this is just to say that my Business Guardian series ‘Property Matters’ is available at our firm’s website http://www.raymondandpierre.com/articles. That series covers real estate, land use planning and property investment/financing issues.

      Take care, Love


  13. #14 by LBIWI Sem for Professionals on August 12, 2009 - 8:58 am

    On behalf of LBIWI Seminar for Professionals, thank you and congratulations on this step. Look forward to collaborating and sharing the messages.

  14. #15 by Stacy Christopher on August 12, 2009 - 9:45 am

    As per usual you have risen to the occasion. Keep fighting the good fight.

  15. #16 by Norman Girvan on August 12, 2009 - 9:47 am

    Dear Afra,

    thanks for the notification. I did catch one of your articles in the Business Guardian and was much informed by it and by liked your willingness to ask the tough questions and tackle the issues that might “mash the corns” of powerful and influential people. I had no idea that you had done so many articles and stayed with this issue over an extended period of time.

    Congratulations! Its all the more important given the media’s propensity to trivialise and sensationalise these matters. In the case of the CL Financial affair, after the initial burst of publicity, what became a media event was the Finance Minister’s role in the matter and whether she should/will resign or not. Though this is not unimportant, the almost exclusive focus on this aspect of the affair diverted attention from the more basic issues, which in my view have to do with regulation, governance, campaign financing and the influence of powerful groups on policy making; issues which I am sure you have tackled, judging by the article headings.

    The same issues have surfaced in a trillion dollar context in the U.S. — I am sure you have read Simon Johnson’s article in the Atlantic Monthly on the take over of countries all over the world, including the U.S itself– of financial oligarchies.

    Continue to analyse and speak out fearlessly, Afra, it is our only hope. I will certainly read this series with interest, and link it to my blog and draw readers attention to it.


  16. #17 by Roxanne Forde on August 12, 2009 - 4:14 pm

    congrats fra, dey cyah keep a good man down!

  17. #18 by Naadia Porter on August 13, 2009 - 1:50 am

    Afra, I loved Jameela’s comments and yes it’ll also give me the opportunity to read what you’ve written.

    So is blue your colour after all?

  18. #19 by Thecla on August 16, 2009 - 10:03 pm


    Great look, Excellent content!


  19. #20 by Christopher McMaster on August 17, 2009 - 11:01 pm


    Literature resonates with the illegitimacy of social finance. Thomas More heads the list and he fits this bill, Gandhi preached against it in vain, colonialism propagated it so that silence was golden as King Midas should have heard.
    The solutions exist but the guns of wealth oppose all intelligent movements to the social freedom the world needs to fallow the fields for tomorrow. Cubism resounds as commerce. Castro’s “The Rich Do Not Know Hunger,” like the silenced voice of Lloyd Best, sought sane responses to the myriad sad fleecings of our economic gains. The condonation is intelligent. Unless we concoct a region-wide political miracle we must wait. Nothing happens before its time.

  20. #21 by Kwasi Mutema on August 18, 2009 - 12:29 pm

    Hi Afra,
    Congratulations. Your information and thoughts can now reach a wider population of readers. This is a good strategic and intelligent decision. You are now further onto the world stage.

    Stay focussed,

    • #22 by Afra Raymond on August 18, 2009 - 6:21 pm

      Hi Kwasi,

      I would be very interested in your reaction to the ‘Emancipation’ piece.

      Thanks for the support


  21. #23 by Lisa James on August 19, 2009 - 6:10 pm


    Indeed…! What can I say!

    As a regular recipient of your ‘thinking’, I’m delighted to know that this ‘Thinking Man’s Weblog’ will now provide a platform for you to share your thoughts with thinking people across the globe.

    As I’ve often said, what seems to be missing in today’s world is ‘cerebration’, in favour of action (or inaction, as the case may be). But you, my dear friend are one of the few, who can be counted on for subjecting the issues of the day to your scrupulously thinking mind, and…for having the courage of your convictions to not let up, in spite of popular sentiment or opinion.

    Through this website, you have positioned yourself for even further greatness, and I pray that you will continue to be blessed by your effort and hard work, as you continue to bless us all with your pure, unadulterated thinking.

    Yuh sistren,


  22. #24 by Christopher McMaster on August 20, 2009 - 8:25 am

    “CLICO opens new agency to take up slack” by
    Curtis Rampersad Business Editor.


    Express, Thursday, August 20th 2009

    This is just another delaying tactic.

  23. #25 by Ingenium on August 21, 2009 - 9:48 pm

    Sir, you are on the button in so many aspects of this matter, I must applaud your work and add there is one more (known) conglomerate fitting the CL Financial ‘profile’ and it is important that something is done before it reaches the current state as CL. That Company is the GHL Group, with an almost identical model to CL re its political strings i.e. Duprey/Panday- Naz (now Lok Jack)/Manning etc. and CBTT equally directly under its influence currently attempting to cover-up more than four investigations into this group on Pension fraud, Insurance fraud and cooking books literally to the value of TT$Billions!

    • #26 by Afra Raymond on August 23, 2009 - 7:26 pm


      I am always wary when replying to these nicknames – it seems that that is a part of our culture which has moved into the virtual world along with much else…The question of other regulatory shortfalls and the ongoing issues of ‘different strokes for different folks’ continue to bedevil us here.

      I have a personal interest in the health of the Guardian Holdings group since most of our retirement investments were moved there a few years ago when we withdrew from CLICO, so I will certainly be looking closely at that situation.

  24. #27 by Rae on August 23, 2009 - 12:16 pm

    Keep up the good work Afra. Too many of us keep silent on matters that we should have an opinion. I will be reading all the back items and have shared this blog with others. hope you can get some good discourse going!
    all the best.

    • #28 by Afra Raymond on August 23, 2009 - 7:27 pm

      Many thanks for your support and passing on the word, Rae.

      I would be interested in your take on the events as reported in this blog, or any Bajan perspectives you might be able to share.

      All best wishes

  25. #29 by Ashvin Akal on August 24, 2009 - 6:50 pm

    Dear Afra,

    Both the Financial Institutions Act and the Company’s Act have been breached.
    The Regulatory authorities have failed to prosecute anyone….a travesty of Justice.

    Who turned a blind eye to CL Financial’s wrongdoings? How did Audited Financial Statements fail to significantly sound loud Alarm bells?
    Trinidad sadly remains an old boys club. For the love of Money the Country continues its rampant decline. Money is more important than human life, Money over integrity, Money over the issues so fundamental to a well run country.
    I feel lost as a Trinidadian not knowing where to turn…unable to support any Political Party. The bicameral method of Governance a dismal and resounding failure.
    I applaud you for your patriotism and bravery.
    But I fear Afra…it is far too late….as a people, as a Society and as a Nation…we reward ourselves for being clever, for not getting caught as we continue to sell “Snake Oil solutions” to a very gullible public.

    When 85 plus employees of CIB lost their jobs in January, no one asked any of the numerous multi-millionaires to pay these peoples salaries for 6 months…so that they could live with dignity, have time to find new jobs, pay their mortgages and look after their children.
    The day before, $160 Million in bonuses were paid out to senior Executives.
    What a caring, compassionate and responsible people we have become.

    Publicus Defutatus Est.

  26. #30 by Stephanie on August 24, 2009 - 7:16 pm

    Very interesting.
    Continue the good work

  27. #31 by Orson Noel on August 26, 2009 - 9:48 am

    Keep the fires blazing, on the CL. issue, great write up.Thank for the blog. Keep up the good works.

  28. #32 by Deryck on August 30, 2009 - 5:39 pm

    Very nice job, Afra. Hope that all is well…from one of the other Raymonds.

  29. #33 by Christopher McMaster on October 17, 2009 - 10:22 pm


    On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 8:29 PM, Christopher Mc Master wrote:

    Afra, (With ref. to the data on the link below)

    This is serious. Where does truth lie? How can we teach morals when the leaders of finance in a capitalistic world practice immorally. It is unconscionable, impractical and almost wasteful because they will be slaughtered. Who rights these wrongs? You remember that Building 7 that was demolished on Sep. 11, 2001 housed the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Many documents must have conveniently disappeared as a consequence. We need a Third World Order, separate and apart from all first world intervention. They may only interact on our terms. We have the money, skill, resources and time. We need the will.

    Christopher McMaster
    48 Erthig Road
    Port of Spain
    West Indies
    Home, 868-624-5451
    Cell, 868-682-0678
    e-mail: cmcmaster@tstt.net.tt
    e-mail: mc.masterchris@hotmail.com
    Alternate: c.a.l.mcmaster@gmail.com

    Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009 20:45:41 -0800
    Subject: Re: CLICO
    From: afra@tstt.net.tt
    To: cmcmaster@tstt.net.tt


    I had read those reports before…will be resuming coverage of this issue soon

    Check this one out…http://www.kycbs.net/PriceWaterhouse.htm

  30. #34 by REGINALD FRANK on October 19, 2009 - 12:24 pm

    Informatively and immensely interesting. Please keep up that torch that enlightens and educates.
    Kind regards,

    • #35 by AfraRaymond on October 19, 2009 - 12:28 pm


      Thanks for your support on this. I am shortly going to be posting some new material on the CL Financial bailout and the first 2 parts of my ‘Property Matters’ series on the government’s property tax proposals.

      Please spread the word.


  31. #36 by ingenium on October 26, 2009 - 3:14 pm

    I need some help with this one, it is personal but I hope ‘instructive’.
    Is there such a scenario in (Trinidad) law where in my case a very Powerful Corporate entity (former Employer) upon realizing the strength of my case against theirs’ filed a ‘tangential’ action against my lawsuit of “Wrongful Dismissal and Blackballing” for over Eight (8) years, on the (frivolous) grounds that as a consequence of the pre-action dialogue between being ‘slow’ i.e. the parties’ lawyers in some instances taking months to get back to each other for reasons beyond my control that it (the pace of the lawyers’ dialogue) in itself shows the Plaintiff (me) is not interested in the matter and ‘petition’ the judge to throw the case out on this ground, and that such ‘secondary’ action when brought by the Billion Dollar conglomerate (Defense) whether successful or not could result in the Plaintiff (unemployed with family) having to pay the cost of all counsels?!!!! Think carefully before answering as this could mean that any corporate giant can file such action against the “little man” and pile expensive counsels in the matter as he would have to pay their cost anyway thus negating the value of any settlement he would have gotten if he wins the substantive case frustrating him to death, is this a fair and just law according to natural justice?!!!! Do Unions know of this law in our law books most grievously against the average citizen???
    Any feedback would be appreciated as the judge rules on Friday 30th October 2009 and note this is (according to advice given) ‘Trinidad law’ so it could happen to you or your family in future as long as it remains!!!
    (NB: The Statutory period is not a factor, the case has been successfully filed and its pro bono hence I felt further ‘limited’ in my ability to impact the process, this is happening after the filing.)

  32. #37 by allan on November 13, 2009 - 5:01 pm

    I “ve read your piece on12/11/09 and I”m as disgusted as you are by the whole CFH bailout. What really gets me is madam minesters happy and cheerful attitude,asif the gov.was the one getting the bailout. Also Mr central banker saying he could”ve stomp the feet of the centipede that is clico but stomping the feet could n”t turn the head. Now in the absence of proof opperant conditioning is befall us all, we cant demand that proof.Sad ,for all we know gov and CFH may be splitting invesrers profits as CFH was paying 10% and fcb ?3% a spred of 7%. It”s strange that oil & gas at that time was $40. & $4 and gov would do bailout, then trintoc forced? to float a bond six month thereafter. good luck in finding truth. allan/

  33. #38 by sean ifill on December 10, 2009 - 9:33 pm

    the biggest conspiracy is that of silence. keep pressing for more information. there should be a legal obligation for information concerning the public use of funds to be made available.

    Another issue which seems to be seditious and often overlooked is the fact that companies particularly private ones are not sufficiently regulated because the accounting rules are at best feeble. Public companies themselves should be obligated to disclose more information on their balance sheets and that should be given foremost concern; even more than the income statement.
    As well strengthening of the rules governing auditors and the roles they play in a small society needs to be examined. Who guarding de guards, eh?

    keep on trucking, ‘fra.

    • #39 by Afra Raymond on December 12, 2009 - 12:13 am

      Hi Sean,

      Many thanks for your supportive comments, it is good to know that some people at least are not dumbstruck by this cascade of events. Many of the good people we formerly held in esteem have now joined the conspiracy of silence and the open looting of our treasury continues at an increasing pace. I have to say that these days have acquired a strange and unsavoury flavour, much like the whining just before the last crash here.

      I am very interested in your points on the relative value of the Balance Sheet as against the Cash Flow Statement…can you please let us have some more of your thoughts in this forum?

      In my reply to that, I am also going to share some of my views on the CL Financial 2007 accounts. Next Friday is 18th December and that is the legal deadline for the Ministry of Finance to reply to my application (under the Freedom of Information Act) for the second MoU. I await that reply with interest.

      Yuh done know that it go be a next fight to get a hold of the 2008 audit for CL Financial, since that is likely to be as revealing as the Jouvert Sunrise, eh? But I will keep you posted. This piece by Norman Girvan is a good review of the ECCU restructuring of the insolvent British-American Insurance – http://www.normangirvan.info/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/clico-again.htm. You should check his website and Barbados Free Press.

      Til later, my brother


    • #40 by sean ifill on June 13, 2010 - 7:17 am

      u must comment on the Marlon Holder issue since this is another case of slight of hand.

      • #41 by AfraRaymond on June 13, 2010 - 9:27 am


        I wrote about the Home Construction Ltd. borrowings from First Citizens’ bank on Thursday 10th – ‘Testing the Terms’.

        As I said then, that facility appears to have been an over-concentration of risk, at a preferred interest rate, to a troubled company. All capped by the fact that its essence is that of an ‘excessive related-party transaction’, to cite Ewart Williams’ prime cause for the collapse of the group.

        As to the allegations over Directors’ Fees and the special price on the apartment, I do not have any ‘inside info’, beyond what is in the Express, and have commented as far as it seemed necessary. Let me explain that the Directors’ fees seem reasonable for an exercise of this nature – and I see that today’s Express has once again focussed on that aspect – if anything, they are on the low side. As to the apartment sale, the group is in distress and is well-known to be offering significant discounts to un-connected purchasers on their units, so there seems little merit in the idea that Holder’s deal is something decisive in all this.

        Is there another aspect to the story you are seeing?

        Many thanks for re-appearing.


      • #42 by Simpleton on September 14, 2010 - 8:23 am

        I hear yah bro…do some investigation into Holder – lies and cover u fuh so – yet another duprey or worse??? check it out…never see someone with little or no scrupls in every area of life. truth will come out bro..keep diggin…

  34. #43 by C. McMaster on January 23, 2010 - 12:48 pm

    Two quick points, one local and one regional

    On Thursday 21st January 2010, Afra Raymond made a most interesting observation about our political and economic consciousness on CTV. With reference to the mismanagement of taxpayers money by Colonial Life (CLICO) or CL Financing that it has matured into, he ably demonstrated how Trinbagonians who know finance have generally remained silent on this issue. In particular he cited the PNM, UNC and the COP that all have certified economists at their disposal, who collectively have the moral, social and ethical responsibility to guide public opinion have been very silent on the disappearance of 76 billion dollars of invested dollars in just over two months, Dec and Jan of 2008/9. The media can only report what is offered and we are fortunate to have access to this level of public debate on state issues but our lack of specific data-balance sheets and audit reports- can only lead to rumour spreading and speculation.
    Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka says in his 1972 prison notes: “The man dies in all who remain silent in the face of tyranny” and we are doomed to persistent domination (poverty) until we face ourselves in a Caribbean Court of Justice and have the perpetrators repay these monies. Our integrity is at stake and we are taught that these issues are too big to be challenged by us. Is that so? See this link: http://www.afraraymond.com

    If the world is as determined to “restore Haiti” as so many tear-filled reports claim, can we not design a “Venus Project” type of city there as a prototype of our collective will to advance the world since a chain is as strong as its weakest link and Haiti has been branded “weakest” by every text published on it?
    See: http://www.thevenusproject.com

    Please comment freely.

    Christopher McMaster

  35. #44 by Orson Noel on February 2, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    Orson Noel :Afra,Keep the fires blazing, on the CL. issue, great write up.Thank for the blog. Keep up the good works.Orson.

  36. #45 by Orson Noel on February 2, 2010 - 4:18 pm

    Hey Afra, let’s hook up, long time nuh see. Give I a call man. 398-5647.
    I am back home, bro.

  37. #46 by MICHEAL ESPINET on February 19, 2010 - 9:58 am


  38. #47 by L. E. Edwards on March 16, 2010 - 11:44 am

    This company must have been in trouble before January 5, 2009. All their prospectuses looked good. So, as a good citizen, and wanting to diversify, I move Money from my US go nowhere accounts, and THE UNIT TRUST Corporation, to put a six figure sum into CLICO Investments. Six day later, they go bankrupt. Did they use my Unit Trust Check for one final fling for somebody? They will pay! Now, I want to shoot somebody, but since I am non-violent, and have publicly professed this over and over, I will send a plague of disease on all those who deprived and continue to deprive my child of his inheritance. May cancer eat them all up.

  39. #48 by ASHVIN AKAL on March 18, 2010 - 9:39 am

    March 18th 2010 at 9:25AM

    Hey Afra,
    Great to see the comments that keep rolling in. You have been speaking with a great deal of clarity on another Financial Disaster…the almighty UDeCOTT…
    How could CH Development, incorporated 10 days before a Tender upon which they bid ever have been a valid entrant?…and then when they won the bid, change their name to Sunway Corporation? Please look into the career profile of the two key members of Sunway..you will be flabbergasted to learn their real occupations in Malayasia prior to winning Trinidad’s newest Lotto! run by the Untouchables…
    our new breed of Super Zeroes!

  40. #49 by Paulie C on March 29, 2010 - 3:04 pm

    From the Tribune (Bahamas) of today’s date – 29 March 2010. Despite her “hold strain” rhetoric, events outside of Trinidad will probably force the sale of CLF assets, if there are in fact any unencumbered ones to sell.

    Mr Gomez, in his Supreme Court report, said he has consulted his attorneys, Callender’s & Co, about “the enforceability” of CL Financial’s guarantee, given his concerns on the issue and the fact it represented a key potential source of recovery for CLICO (Bahamas) creditors.

    “I was advised that a statutory demand had to be first made before a debt recovery action could commence in Trinidad,” Mr Gomez said. “I have instructed the attorneys in Trinidad to proceed with the statutory demand.”

    The guarantee, executed by CL Financial and its chairman Lawrence Duprey, the man many hold most responsible for CLICO (Bahamas) collapse, pledged that the Trinidadian parent would reimburse its Bahamian subsidiary if CLICO Enterprises failed to repay the collective $58 million advanced, plus interest at 12 per cent. CLICO Enterprises, Mr Gomez concluded, was established as the holding company for CLICO (Bahamas) non-insurance investment activities.

  41. #50 by tamana on May 4, 2010 - 10:21 pm

    And another thing.


    Slide 17.

    Yes we KNEW.
    And would write CYA.

    But I will also say…
    never did I think… it would come to this.

    But … as I said… who cares.

  42. #51 by David J. Comma on May 18, 2010 - 9:00 am

    Excellent interview (18/5/10). Well done!

  43. #52 by sean ifill on June 30, 2010 - 5:40 pm

    Afra, I don’t know if u spoke to this issue raised last year by Republic Bank:

    Approximately $200 million was set aside by Republic for bad loans, of which $134 million was needed to cover CL Financial, he said in an interview later. In its report for the six months ending March 31, Republic recorded profit after tax of $819.5 million, 31 percent less than recorded one year ago. See the June 2009 issue of the Newsday.

    Have u and what has the government done to increase regulatory compliance on related party txs?

    What has Republic Bank done to remove the effects of Clico?

  44. #53 by sean ifill on June 30, 2010 - 5:49 pm

    ‘Fra, the underlying issue that I was raising with the Holder issue was the need for holder (no pun intended) of government positions or even positions in institutions where government has majority interests/influence to disclose any transaction to which they have beneficial interest. The optics make this perhaps genuine transaction seem fishy given the situation. Was there equal knowledge apparent to all and available to all? Therein lies the seat of my own frustration ethics are about information being readily available and accessible for there not to be an arbitrage opportunity. Information that is not free is not fair.

    nuff said

  45. #54 by dennis ramdeen on July 4, 2010 - 5:27 pm

    Afra, you should add a “share” option to your blog (unless you have it and I could not find it)…i would share your stuff with the world; it’s exceptional, dr

    • #55 by AfraRaymond on July 5, 2010 - 8:34 am

      Hello Dennis,

      Yes, there is an option to share the site – just go to the right-side panel, the fourth item down contains the sharing options.

      Please spread the word and thanks for your support.

      Afra Raymond

  46. #56 by sean ifill on July 8, 2010 - 4:23 pm

    I hope EY wasn’t the auditors for Clico because Soo Pin Chow would have to recuse himself from that committee (Bideshi, Mottley, & Soo Pin Chow) because if the audit had be compromised initially. The role of the auditor is not to detect fraud but to make sure that if it exists that it be detected. The role of the auditor is not to detect misstatements but to detect material misstatements. It seems that Clico needs a forensic audit to be conducted by an independent body/person before any money can be entrusted to the body coporate.

  47. #57 by AfraRaymond on July 9, 2010 - 8:38 pm


    The CLF auditors for the past decade or so have been PWC and yes, they do have serious questions to answer.

    As I wrote in the published version of ‘Finding the Assets’ (BG of 19th November 2009) – see http://guardian.co.tt/business/business-guardian/2009/11/19/finding-assets – the issue is the production of the $23.9Bn Asset Value for the 13th January 2009 CLF letter – who calculated that, hm?

    Talk soon.


  48. #58 by sean ifill on July 10, 2010 - 8:41 pm

    The thing is PwC had made a qualified opinion then indicating that something was amiss although to my mind the reason for the qualification seemed to indicate a significant departure from GAAP to warrant a Denial of opinion. In fact there seems to be a failure by PwC to use more rigorous stds in the FS evaluation.

    There seems to be a need for application of Sabanes-Oxley regulations where the directors are held responsible for the contents of the FS; they must sign a commitment that the company employed good internal controls; and that no deliberate error or fraud was commited in the compilation of the information.

  49. #59 by sean ifill on July 15, 2010 - 11:04 pm

    I can’t believe that Dennis is dead. Wow! This is cataclysmic to say the least. He was a friend and some kinda family thru my sister and Raoul.
    I wish his family all the condolences in this moment of grief. He taught me at one point and then we shared some thoughts on a pragmatic evolution of the West Indies to a Caribbean embrace. That was then; this is now.
    He, like some others before, Best, Thomas, Girvan, Polyani, Demas advocated a unifying theme: Political and economic convergence for the Caribbean English, Dutch, French and Spanish. Now we have lost another voice………

  50. #60 by Simpleton on September 14, 2010 - 8:19 am

    Afra – take a hard look closer you will find more than you know…there are people around the company who will be willing to speak to you…u not gettin the 2008 budget bro too much incompetence and friends in wrong places covering up that cl report – it not comin….take a look at not just what is going on with former directors like monteil, carballo, duprey, patel, etc who should be jailed for looting the company of mucha dinero – and operating ponzi schemes – when the irs catch them it will be serious jail for all – and the united states is on their trails – but why not take a look at what is happenng today at the company – there are schemes and friends taking advantage and deals being cut at side – these pnm ppl doh play nice – company filled with only pnm ppl doh let them fool yuh….what they doing at clico and cl put tings in place to make it difficult for ppp people to get any proper job done. do ur homework.

    • #61 by AfraRaymond on September 14, 2010 - 8:40 am

      Simpleton, whoever you really are…

      The limited amount of time available to me does not allow me to investigate that kind of allegation.

      I have limited myself to the published record and even that is vast – in parts imponderable, to an amazing degree – with no end in sight to the work.

      Thank you for blogging


  51. #62 by BAICO Depositor on September 22, 2010 - 9:47 pm

    Dear Sir,

    Please, all this economic jargon is absolutely confusing to me. What I really need help with to find out is exactly where does BAICO stand in all of this confusion. They have not been mentioned a lot in the articles or news. I have a 5 year deposit with Baico and it should mature in two years time. Its my retirement money from the sale of my house in Trinidad before I went abroad to reside.

    Kind Regards.

  52. #63 by lester on September 26, 2010 - 9:07 am

    My concern is for the persons who have life insurance policies and pensions with clico and B.A. that are registered with Inland Revenue and should be covered by the statutory fund. Mr. Raymond is there a clear way forward for this group?

  53. #64 by ASHVIN on September 27, 2010 - 8:36 am

    With all the talk about CLICO, suing the Central Bank is really not the issue. The Central Bank where an Insurer becomes bankrupt is only obligated to Protect the Capital deposited and NOT the interest earned. This is All that the Statutory fund deposit provides. I think the more appropriate Strategy is to file a “Class action Lawsuit” against the owners, family shareholders and members of the BoD All Liable under the Company’s Act of 1995 among others…How come no talk of action against the very Wealthy Owners of this Private Company??? Interesting….should there not be both civil and criminal lawsuits?

  54. #65 by Brian Stone on September 30, 2010 - 10:29 pm

    Afra, is the MOU signed between Duprey/CLF and the government in the public domain? Does the media/public know the details of the MOU? I understand Duprey is still the major shareholder, and consequentially has a legal claim to assets.

    • #66 by AfraRaymond on September 30, 2010 - 10:34 pm

      Hello Brian,

      The MoU is available from the Ministry of Finance website at http://www.finance.gov.tt/content/mr03183E.pdf or on this blog at the Quick Guide on the page for CL Financial.

      The 12th June 2009 Shareholders’ Agreement is also available on this blog.

      Yes, Lawrence Duprey is still the major shareholder, with his rights intact and that is the most outrageous part of this entire situation.

      Thank you for joining-in.


  55. #67 by Jameela Raymond on October 22, 2010 - 2:45 pm

    Just having a browse via my blackberry! Oh wait.

  56. #68 by Delphin on October 29, 2010 - 10:40 am

    I saw you on TV this morning and I think this was one of the few times you missed the mark on the Clico plan. I have read the Ramesh Maharaj comments on the 100% plan and with years spent on Wall Street I know that this is a Principal Defeased Debt Offering, similiar to what the US Federal Government does, so it does not earn 300% in months but is pledged for debt issuance at 3 times value

    • #69 by AfraRaymond on October 29, 2010 - 11:15 am

      Hello to you, Delphin, whoever you really are…

      I was merely reacting to the reported details of the proposed Ryan ALM plan announced by Prem Beharry of the CPG at their Woodford Square meeting on Sunday 23rd October – that incredible proposal is, as I outlined this morning on CNMG, for the State to invest $600M USD with that firm and within 3 months have $1.8Bn USD to repay so-called ‘policyholders’ – although we all know that the entire discussion has been captured by depositors. The link for that article is at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/40__NOW-105651543.html.

      Quite frankly, that seems to be a continuation of the same unrealistic and ruinous high-interest strategies which wrecked both CL Financial and HCU. If it were that feasible a proposal, maybe the CPG should just accept the proposal which has now been approved by both Houses of Parliament – i.e. the budget – and invest their reduced sums with Ryan ALM. That would be a real win-win.

      No, I have not read Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s comments on this aspect of the fiasco, but if you have a link that should be interesting.


  57. #70 by trutrini on December 19, 2010 - 3:43 pm

    thank you very much afra for continuning to bring this information to the public. even some people who worked in the cl financial group did not have all the pieces that you are putting together. some were forced out when they tried to act in the public interest, perhaps they will never even be recognised. thank you and please continue to do this, to challenge a system which tells you that you must conform or be eliminated. evil prevails and continues to prevail when good men do nothing and continue to do nothing.

  58. #71 by sean ifill on December 21, 2010 - 12:20 am

    I cannot but wince at the fact that the Gov. of the CB has anointed ‘public confidence’ as the key potential cataclysm for the continued demise of the T&T economy. He did not see fit to clearly identify that the erosion of public expectation has been a systemic failure by legitimate institutions to function. There continues to be a denial that Clico would not have happened had key people/institutions been performing their duty.

    The failure of the CB, the SEC, Supervisor of Insurance, The Minister of Finance and the PS in the Ministry of Finance continues to avoid taking responsibility. These are the institutions that are obligated by taxpayers to function on their behalf. If the Minister fails to perform then society/taxpayers can vote them out. If the Gov.CB acts ultra vires or alternatively intra vires there is no ‘visible’ recourse. The same goes for the conduct of the CEOs of the other semi-Ministerial institutions.

    The Taxpayer was held hostage by the former regime. The situation showed that taxpayers have no real leverage other than the power of the vote; they cannot translate that power into a legal recourse in which past malfeasance can be punished. The hostage can only plead that should they be released no further action would be taken to rectify or remedy the situation. The hostage taker having that power can play the game where the hostage is provided with consensual relief but not…never remedy.

    Why is it 2 years later that there has been no one held responsible. Is this ‘Code of Silence’ or ‘Conspiracy of Conduct’ more insidious; more clandestine; more a carefully matriculated Madoffian scheme. Some have drawn a similarity between Bernie Madoff and Lawrence Duprey. But was it really? To me that would be construing too much intelligence to Duprey which I doubt he has. This was pure incompetence at every level. It was incompetence at the CB, the SEC and PSs. It was incompetence drawn through each successive political regime and their manifestation. Indeed this was no simple mismanagement but instead it shows that even those astute ‘learned’ professors of UWI could not discern through their ‘theoretical’ glasses the complete morass of stupidity which was the foundation upon which CL was built.

    What in my mind is the reward for incompetence? Immediate Termination aka fire those who were incompetent. Then the investigation should be directed, no longer attributing responsibility and restitution. This should not be left to the AG. The highest authority in the land is Parliament. A body of competent parliamentarians should be directed to hold live testimony of all the parties to this calumny. From former PMs, Manning, Panday et al, to CB governors Dookeran and Williams and all others.

    This ‘Code of Silence’ to which you so correctly speak is an identification that a ‘group’ has co-opted a body of information which inures them by a common fallacy. They are immune because the hostage has no insurance against moral hazard. The public/hostage does not know his or her rights. There is the mistaken belief that the role of the Government is to act as surrogate ‘Parents’. Daddy and Mommy always know best. From such a perspective, although chosen by the people become mistakenly ‘protectors’ of the people. This confusion leads both the people and the Government to implicitly conspire to act in such a way as to take responsibility.

    The ‘Code of Silence’ is parents not believing that their children need be bothered with unnecessary information much of which they are too stupid to understand. The public on the other hand believe unwittingly that ‘their’ government would only do what is in their [the publics] best interest. So it goes on the Yellow Brick Road. Had the public understood the actions of legitimate institutions; they would have demanded that Clico be allowed to fail and all who had their hands in the machinations be made to account with jail and loss of personal assets.

    Some say that would have been to the demise of the T&T economy. That is utter foolishness. It would have led to the demise of the vacuous political and intellectual class which have together foisted this upon us. Should GHL fail in the future should the taxpayer be made to bail them out without a public referendum. How can any money be paid to any party without a plan being put forth to say:
    1) Why did this leech occur?
    2) How can it be prevented from happening again?
    3) Who will pay both in terms of money and in terms of jail time?
    4) When will it end? (memories of SWAIT, ITL and others come to mind. Note no one then was punished).

    Clico was indeed a ‘black’ Caribbean Company in the most malevolent misinterpretation of that word.

  59. #72 by Andrew Abraham on January 23, 2011 - 8:26 pm

    Hello Afra,

    You have long been calling for the CLFinancial 2008 financial statements. I think it does not exist as they have not been prepared as yet for the board to review them. It actually has not been done for the auditors to look at. They hired a accounting company to prepare them to give to the board and to give the auditors. You would think that that the people that running the company would have said this all along. I think they shame that in 2011 they have not prepared the books for 2008 yet. Maybe they should all get fired and new people put there to run it.

  60. #73 by Bishop Dr Victor Phillip on February 15, 2011 - 8:31 am

    How good and pleasant to view your site.

    TTCA need to take a page and make the change just for their membership.

    What is the position with contractors payment? open dialogue on line.

    The small business sector is suffering. This sector that will kick start the economy. We done in the US and other countries.

    Thank you for my brother.
    Rev. Member of TTCA

    • #74 by AfraRaymond on February 16, 2011 - 12:36 am

      Brother Victor,

      Very good to hear from you and I hope you can share this blog with any friends you think might be interested.

      The monies owed by the State to the JCC members is an issue, but one I am dealing with elsewhere, so will contact you separately on that.

      Best wishes


  61. #75 by brian krebs on June 12, 2011 - 5:11 pm

    Good website! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes and the data is well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS feed which must do the trick! Have a great day!

  62. #76 by Dean Gouveia on November 25, 2011 - 1:03 pm


    My wife and I have a substantial amount of money in Clico that we cannot get access to do you have any idea when policy holders will be paid out …I am not up to date with what is going on as I am based in the UK.

  63. #78 by Theodora Ulerie on February 16, 2012 - 4:35 pm

    Well thought out and a considered approach to national consciousness-raising. Thank you Afra Raymond! Keep us informed!

    Theodora Ulerie
    Culture House
    Government Quarters
    3 Zoo Road

    • #79 by AfraRaymond on February 17, 2012 - 9:51 am

      Thanks, Theodora!

      Please spread the word and share the links…

  64. #80 by enoch john on February 26, 2012 - 11:24 am

    Mr Afra Raymond. It is heartening to see and read of your interest in these public matterts.I like your methodical approach.

  65. #81 by vshe01 on February 21, 2013 - 6:59 pm

    My Dear Mr. Afra Raymond.
    Your speech on Corruption was outstanding! I think you gave many people around the world something to be outraged about! Your definition of corruption speaks billions no trillions in American tax dollars. This energy gets so like water it grows anywhere and leaves a wet trace. Thank you for the insight
    Sheree Victorian, Chicago, IL

  66. #82 by G King on February 23, 2013 - 9:02 pm

    Good Stuff. Also, re: The S Fdo-Point Highway, which is by far the largest capital project ever undertaken, why was this not financed through the standard channels ie lending agencies? Is the financing coming from thru current expenditures? Hmm., is it because the lending agencies would have much stricter controls, requirements, procedures etc in place?

  67. #83 by Jeff on March 2, 2013 - 3:36 am

    Hello sir,

    I was watching Ted’s tv and found your expose. I am from Gabon/ Africa, and I can relate in understanding the deep sorrow and incredible events that you have been talking about. I just wish one day, we will be able to face the reality.

    Good luck!

    With all my respect!

    • #84 by Christopher McMaster on March 2, 2013 - 1:10 pm

      It is so refreshing to know that Gabon shares our vision. In the diaspora we assume that we are isolated and that ours is the only ‘problem’ and indeed your support encourages those like Afra to continue his gargantuan task since so many like him have paid with their lives for much less than he has already done. R. K. Narayan teaches, “The truth is like the sun. Few can stare at it for more than a few seconds.” Please keep letting us have your views too.

  68. #85 by John Thompson on August 28, 2013 - 3:47 pm

    Good piece on the TSTT /integrity commission issue in the Business Express at pg 13 on 28th Aug 2013. This kind of inept rationale is what we still fear from our judges and why the Privy Council keeps looking “good to stay” instead of “good to go”. The judgment is so ostentatious that I believe it’s just a ruse to give these guys time to exit their directorships and accountability, before the appeal is overturned by the Privy Council, (That’s if it reaches there at all). It’s a short-term escape plan, the future directors will now have to beware / be aware. What about government’s acquisition of CLICO? Government is not a natural owner for any of these conglomerate businesses what makes them feel they will be better off? Are you going to have a say on this move, looking forward to it, if you do

  69. #86 by The Observer on March 21, 2015 - 11:50 am

    Some excellent postings. I am wondering why they do not draw a large number of TT comments. However, that does not detract from the quality of the work. Keep the faith and keep pressing forward.

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