The Attorney General's free pass

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

IT'S NO small thing that the holder of one of the most important offices in the land openly displayed irresponsible behaviour at a recent charity event, sending mixed messages about the urgency of vigilance against covid19.

Politicians in other countries guilty of similar lapses weren't offered absolution by way of a flimsy apology.

In Bermuda, two senior members of that government's cabinet were recently “invited to resign” after a video circulated showing the two men maskless at a charity event. In TT, with an administration that's famously selective in its interpretation of public accountability, we could expect no such censure.

Indeed, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi insists he broke no laws. As for breaking the public trust – well...what the hell.

Al-Rawi preened and flexed in an Instagram live charity event that looked like it was staged in 2019. Grown men huddled in close quarters, physically touching and shouting into each other's faces, freely trading particulates and obligatory inanities.

Amid rising covid19 statistics, this tomfoolery raised eyebrows and triggered calls for the Attorney General's superbly coiffed head. The Prime Minister, typically volcanic in his condemnation of such derelictions, was uncharacteristically reserved in this instance. He chided the AG as if it were a mere misstep.

"I expect every person in a leadership position in this country to demonstrate that leadership wherever you are, whenever you're out. So I'm not giving any passes to anybody," demurred Rowley.

Clutching his laminated free pass in hand, the Attorney General delivered what was meant to be an apology – which was in itself insufficient. His garbled screed fumbled at feigning contrition but went off the rails almost with the first line.

"I have noted comments on my attendance at a live-streamed charity event which was held in a private residence with less than ten persons in the room." In that line, the AG lays out that he doesn't have anything to apologise for, but here goes anyway.

Al-Rawi harped on the meaningless detail that participants had their temperatures taken and they sanitised. He graciously offered the concession that it would have been prudent to wear masks.

It has been drilled into most of us that people can be infected and not display symptoms. Al-Rawi, it seems, has a more robust skull than most.

Additionally, he emphasised there were fewer than ten people in the room. Those men gathered shoulder to shoulder and cheek to cheek, however, did not represent some sort of “bubble” – a group of individuals ensconced in the same quarters isolated from others.

Participants in the live stream undoubtedly came from different locations with exposures to different people. The Attorney General and the organisers of that event displayed a shocking ignorance of how this virus works. That's barely excusable for an entertainer and certainly unacceptable in someone occupying the office of AG.

Incidentally, in other non-banana republics live or recorded programmes have far stricter protocols – chief among them being periodic rapid covid19 testing. With shows like The Voice, The Talk, and others, participants are also seated apart and, in some instances, are partitioned by plexiglass. Not so in the AG's arm wrasslin’, strongman get-down.

Ironically, Al-Rawi mused that the event “would have helped the audience tuned in to keep the fight against covid19 alive..." It's more likely to have achieved the opposite, showing viewers vigilance is open to interpretation. Thus, the man responsible for drafting regulations to keep the population safe actively undermined them with a breathtaking flourish.

Thousands have made sacrifices to keep the virus from doing its worst. Countless citizens have lost jobs and homes. Businesses have been destroyed, many have been forcibly exiled from their own country because of lockdown measures.

The Attorney General hasn't had to make any of these sacrifices. It's doubtful those closest to him have suffered from the economic apocalypse the way the rest of us have. To reduce his involvement in that charity event to an I'm-only-human moment is an affront to those who've had so much ripped from them by this pandemic.

What's clear is that the AG's participation in that live-streamed debacle and his subsequent justification for it shows he lacks the wisdom and judgment required of his office. What's also clear in “vibesy” TT is that none of that matters.


"The Attorney General's free pass"

More in this section