Much of T&T’s high crime, domestic violence and racism occur because citizens have lost their sense of citizenship says High Court Judge Justice Frank Seepersad.
Speaking at a regional Rotary Club symposium held at Naparima College auditorium on Saturday, Seepersad said selfishness was the root cause of domestic conflict, the target used to rank T&T as number 97 on the World Peace Index.
He noted that citizens were no longer patriotic or respectful of diversity and this triggered discord. This discord, he said, reflects in the way business is conducted in public institutions.
“Our public institutions have to be modernised, a more relevant educational framework is needed, bureaucracy cannot frustrate the ease with which business is undertaken and mutual respect must be the mantra which defines how we live and interact,” he said.
Seepersad added, “Domestic conflict will only decline when we reject tribalism and partisanship and embrace the reality that our diversity is our most prized asset. We need to stop the fighting and start trusting each other.”
As T&T moves to celebrate Republic Day today, Seepersad said it was important for citizens to forge a national identity.
“This would then encourage us to contemplate how our actions impact others. Then we may appreciate that the sums expended under-inflated contracts premised upon kickbacks could be better used to purchase hospital beds or improve health care. Justice would not be viewed as a cloistered virtue nor would some Judicial Officers operate as if they are unaccountable while perched in ivory towers,” he said.
“ Selfless service would ensure that empathy, ethics, equanimity and equity would define the approach to judicial conduct and adjudication. All must feel that they had a fair opportunity to be heard and citizens must be able to respect all those who lead public institutions,” he also said.
He also said while the separation of powers among the various arms of the State was important, there was also a need for all arms of the State to act with cohesion.
“Information should be shared so as to achieve the desired objective of realising our fullest potential. When court decisions are made which reveal inter alia inherent legislative flaws, where there is a need for legislative intervention or where a breach of authority has been established,” he added.
Seepersad said if citizens become less selfish and pause to consider the impact that his intended action may have on others, this will lead to a decrease in crime.
He called on citizens to disregard divisiveness and discord.
“It is possible to propagate positive peace in this land but this objective will only be realised if each of us is prepared to reject selfishness, look deep within, change our attitudes of division and embrace the truism that
we must all work together,” Seepersad added. It is only then that true peace, productivity and prosperity return to our shores.
Meanwhile, economist Dr Roger Hosein said the T&T’s economy is in a bad state because of corruption and waste.
Saying the T&T’s economy has ranked 93 on the World Index and 105 in ease of doing business on the World Index, Hosein said it was alarming that more people were not part of the productive labour force.
“If you have an environment in which one per cent of the labour force between 2005 and 2019 has been murdered, and you have a labour force on the decline from 638,000 to 634,000, where the employed labour force stands at 595,000 and participation of people in labour force has fallen below 60 per cent, then you have a problem,” Hosein said.
He added, “When you have a society where there is an increased element of corruption, difficulty in doing business and low ranking on the global peace index, we will find ourselves in a position where the economy since 2007 has not grown. Since 2007, the economy has produced 3.4 billion barrels of oil and gas but the economy has contracted by minus 0.1 per cent on average per annum.”
He called on citizens to become more productive, cooperative and self-reliant.
Reporter: Radhica Sookraj