No ‘work-around’ when it comes to curbing crime

‘Discipline guarantees success’ has been a tried-and-true maxim, but no matter how disciplined you are, if your operating context is chaotic, you are unlikely to succeed.  At all levels, Trinidad and Tobago exhibits a lack of discipline, which is facilitated by the absence of enforcement of the rules.  From captain to cook, there is a woeful lack of discipline and an inclination to look for the ‘work-around’ or ‘link’.

The reality is that there is no ‘work-around’ when it comes to curbing crime.  While the daily headlines reflect our reality of a high murder rate and unrestrained borderline activities and robberies, law enforcement is absent for small crimes particularly traffic violations (other than speeding).

Photo: Police car lights.

Some citizens feel helpless on the roads where traffic violations are rampant and it is a case of survival of the bold and daring.  This is intensified by the ‘PH’ drivers and maxi-taxis who hustle on the shoulders, break traffic lights and speed limits and stop without warning as they see a potential dollar standing at the side of the road.

The six speed guns have had little impact on the chaotic driving because much of the chaos occurs under the speed limit.  Law and order has broken down in general with the roads being a clear indicator.  Other jurisdictions have demonstrated that strict enforcement of traffic rules results in the discovery of criminals both big and small, so this absence of vigilance escapes my logic.

There is a strong argument that the responsibility for discipline is in the homes, which is supported by several studies that conclude the lack of parental discipline is responsible for aggressive and anti-social behaviour in children.  Even when parental intervention is absent, it does not remove the responsibility from the state for creating a context that encourages compliance rather than rule-breaking or the ‘link-up’.

The state is ultimately responsible for creating efficient structures and systems that facilitate daily living.  For example, in 2010 it took three days to renew a passport; today it is more like three to six months. So there is now a higher temptation to ask: “Who do I know that can help?”

Another example of the state presiding over chaos and confusion is being played out before our eyes in the changeover of our ‘blue notes’—the $100 note.  If the state cannot get basic things right, how can you expect the average citizen to do better?

Most citizens intuitively understand their responsibility, but people do what is done and not what is said. Every time John and Sumintra Public observe incompetence or mismanagement by our leaders, it re-enforces in their minds that this is the standard.  There is no incentive to hold ourselves to a higher standard, particularly since there are not many examples of leaders operating at a higher standard.

The daily lack of graciousness exhibited by our leaders in parliament … the apparent largess exhibited by favoured contractors … the blatant use of cell phones by police officers while driving … the obvious preferential treatment received by the friends and families of those in power … the abuse of special bus route passes …  the list can go on and on and are all examples of some citizens being favoured.  These all send messages to the population that we do not have to hold ourselves to a higher ideal, we just have to know ‘the right people’ and everything will be fine.

Our society cannot thrive in this context. All criminal and antisocial behaviours must be managed either explicitly by consequence management or implicitly by peer pressure and/or moral suasion.

Nobel Laureate and former secretary of state in the Richard Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger, said: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

Our next leader must be up to this task!

Four women on 5 member Board at Angostura!

In 10 years, Angostura Holdings Limited has had two women appointed to their board of directors: Vidia Persad-Doodnath was the first in 2009 and Ingrid Lashley the second in 2016. At the time of her appointment, Ingrid Lashley was the only woman out of eight board members, if you exclude the corporate secretary.

Barely two years later, the company has announced a 300% increase in board membership by women. Four of the five members of the board of directors at Angostura are women under the leadership of the sole male, Terrence Bharath.

Photo: Ingrid Lashley, Angostura Holdings Ltd director (via

Trinidad Guardian’s Joel Julien commented that: “Angostura Holdings Ltd has undergone a facelift in the last year, with four of its five members now being female.” This is unprecedented in the commercial sector, and if he is right that it is a facelift, then what has happened is cosmetic, unsustainable and a slap in the face of all those who are working for social justice and gender equality.

We recognise how difficult it is to move our society away from the entrenched systems of government in which men are seen—and behave—as if they know what is best and will let you know at the appropriate time. Changing this patriarchal approach requires transformational leadership. From their responses, it is clear many of our leaders do not understand how their own behaviours reflect this lack of understanding and reinforce the dominance of men.

Brand Angostura has become associated with brand Sexual Harassment and the simple inclusion of four women on the board of directors will not decouple this association. The decoupling will occur when there is evidence of the company’s commitment to policies and procedures that support a culture of gender equality. The decoupling will occur when there is the implementation of policies and procedures to prevent all forms of violence, including sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

This four-woman board of directors has a responsibility to ensure that Angostura takes the leadership role in ensuring that every woman and man in Angostura enjoys equal access to opportunities, while at the same time being protected from violence and abuse. They have an opportunity to demonstrate how gender equality can be operationalised in the manufacturing sector.

This is no easy task, especially since there is a lack of awareness that the demand for gender equality is not about numbers of women represented. Rather, it is about behaviour change, which only occurs when the systems and procedures support the outcomes.

The work to be done will involve understanding how entrenched behaviours allowed Angostura to have three botched attempts at investigating a claim of sexual harassment. It will be deep, painful and systemic. More importantly, this will not be explicitly included in the terms of reference of members of the board, but it will be the measurement criteria the society will use to judge not just the women on the board, but the entire board of directors.

It is an opportunity for these four women to demonstrate how gender equality can impact the bottom line in the manufacturing sector. If they take up this challenge of transformation while maintaining Angostura’s profitability, they would not have just served the company but they would have led the societal transformation that our country deserves.