New Archbishop calls for return to God*

LEADING THE WAY: Rev Charles Jason Gordon leads a procession yesterday into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain where he was installed as Archbishop. –Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

The move to becoming a Republic in 1976 was a significant next step in our evolution as a nation after independence was achieved in 1962.

Both are important milestones. Both signal a direction for self-governance, autonomy and charting our course in the world of nations.

Sometimes we forget just how young we are: 57 years independent and 43 years a republic. In contrast, England took 1,000 years of bloody war before the Magna Carta (1215). Then it took another 800 years to evolve the equality of all citizens.

America took the Magna Carta and built on it to write their Declaration of Independence. This document framed the aspiration of a people and the equality of the citizens. Yet, the US remained divided between the North and South over the issue of slavery and fought a bitter civil war 1861–1865, one hundred years after its independence.

Venezuela fought its own war of independence, 1811–1823. That country spent the first years of independence in the grip of strong men, competing for power, leaving a legacy of feud that still persists in some ways in the present day.

Given the uneven development of nations, we are not doing that badly. But we are not doing well either.

In 380 BC, Plato wrote The Republic. In this work, Plato sees the purpose of the state as fostering justice for all citizens. To do this, however, the character of the citizen must be fostered and there has to be just laws. Justice can only be achieved by just people. Thus, character formation is vital for happiness of citizens and justice in the state, and happiness is dependent upon justice and this must be shared by all.

If there is a great challenge to us as we celebrate 43 years as a republic, it is in this regard. We do not have any sense, individual or collective that pushes towards justice and character formation. Nor do we have any sense of the individual good, as dependent upon the common good: My happiness is dependent upon the happiness of all.

Our current aspiration for individual wealth and happiness is the greatest challenge facing us. This Republic Day is a call to grow up.

If justice for its citizens is the goal of the republic, we have a long way to go. In Trinidad and Tobago today poverty is a crime. There are hundreds of people in prison simply because they are poor. They do not have the money to have a property free from debt to post bail. The laws allow for money in an account, but the judges do not.

The delays in the system mean that these people are in prison for longer than the sentence if they were found guilty. People have been let off as innocent after years in prison. This is a flagrant injustice to the invisible, the powerless.

There are laws in process to deal with this continued injustice that we have accommodated. The Bail (amendment) Bill 2019, if and when passed would go a long way to addressing this sorry state of affairs.

There are also unused existing laws. The Sentencing Commission Act came into operation in November 2000. It was updated in 2015. If this commission were funded and operational it would have a dramatic impact on justice in our Republic. We have had six governments since 2000 when the Act came into operation. If governments cannot enact the laws, then who can?

To achieve justice in the republic, according to Plato, we need (1)just laws that are strengthened by (2) the institutions and resources that are needed for them to work, and (3) citizens formed with sound character. In relation to (3) we have clearly misunderstood certification for education.

Our education system is a mass production factory that churns out citizens who often do not have the required competency for the next stage of their learning, and whose skills are a mismatch to the needs of the economic system.

Universal education is a vital commitment for any modern democracy. But it must be education, not certification, that is relevant to the needs of the economy and society.

To become the republic we are destined to become, we need to radically re-envision how we educate our citizens, young and old. Character formation for a just society where all citizens flourish needs to be our goal. We also need a different commitment to just laws and the institutions to ensure they are implemented justly.

—The Most Rev Charles J Gordon is Archbishop of Port of Spain


Public confidence in any government is not helped when the family of a senior government minister is the beneficiary of State contacts. In the case of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, contracts to his relatives run to over $20 million a year for the rental of property, according to an exclusive Sunday Express report. Put in context, this works out to 8.5 per cent of the State’s annual bill for the rental of private property.

I wish to thank the endorsers of the statement on the “Education of Children of African Origin” articles that appeared in this paper recently. The statement rightly raised several issues of inequality in access to quality education in T&T, by black children (among others).

Every employee in Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of if they work in the public or private sector, is entitled by law to certain rights.

I have been working with the United Nations on Violence against the Women/Gender-Based Violence for the past ten years in Africa, the Arab world, and Eastern Europe. And in Trinidad and Tobago we have had one of those recent uproars over the killing of women and the search for causes. And the primary cause stares us in the face.

The state of existence as a tribalist is when one is living with a distinctive characteristic so as to be identified with a particular identifiable distinctive group. This status quo surfaces to facilitate the tribal member who is excessively loyal to his own group. 

LISTENING to President Paula-Mae Weekes’s address on the reopening of the Red House, even the most sceptical among us could not help but be impressed, indeed be moved, by her departure on the role she was expected to play and the sentiments she was expected to express as head of officialdom, to be a spokesperson for the people on the ground pointing to their “hurt” and the inability of the leadership to address this hurt.