Freedom in the World
Trinidad and Tobago
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In 2013, a rise in the murder rate coincided with an increase in gang activity in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad’s capital. Official corruption remains an issue, especially within the law enforcement community. After disappointing growth in 2012, Trinidad and Tobago experienced modest economic growth in 2013.
Political Rights: 33 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12
Tobago is a ward of Trinidad. The president is elected to a five-year term by a majority of the combined houses of Parliament, though executive authority rests with the prime minister. Parliament consists of the 41-member House of Representatives and the 31-member Senate; members of both houses are elected to five-year terms. The president appoints 16 senators on the advice of the prime minister, 6 on the advice of the opposition, and 9 at his or her own discretion.
Faced with a no-confidence vote, Prime Minister Patrick Manning of the People’s National Movement (PNM) dissolved Parliament in April 2010 and called for elections in May. Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s People’s Partnership (PP) coalition—comprising the United National Congress (UNC), the Congress of the People, and the Tobago Organization of the People—won 29 of 41 seats, while the PNM took only 12. The PP’s victory ended nearly 40 years of PNM rule.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 13 / 16
Political parties are technically multiethnic, though the PNM is favored by Afro-Trinidadians, while the UNC is affiliated with Indo-Trinidadians. The PP coalition was multiethnic.
The multiethnic population consists of Afro-Trinidadians, Indo-Trinidadians, and those of mixed race. The Indo-Trinidadian community continues to edge toward numerical, and thus political, advantage. Racial disparities persist, with Indo-Trinidadians comprising a disproportionate percentage of the country’s upper class.
C. Functioning of Government: 9 / 12
The country suffers high-level corruption. Trinidad’s Integrity Commission, established in 2000, has the power to investigate public officials’ financial and ethical performance. Following the resignations of several commission members in 2009 due to suspicions of their ineligibility to serve, including because of allegations of malfeasance, a new Integrity Commission was appointed in 2010. In April 2013, Minister of National Security Jack Warner resigned in response to a report that he was involved in financial misbehavior while he served on the regional football association CONCACAF.
Drug-related corruption extends to the business community, and a significant amount of money is believed to be laundered through front companies. The 2000 Proceeds of Crime Act imposes severe penalties for money laundering and requires that major financial transactions be strictly monitored. Trinidad and Tobago was ranked 83 out of 177 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Civil Liberties: 48 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16
Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed. Press outlets are privately owned and vigorously pluralistic. There are four daily newspapers and several weeklies, as well as private and public broadcast media outlets. Internet access is unrestricted. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and the government honors this provision in practice. Academic freedom is generally observed.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12
Freedoms of association and assembly are respected. Civil society is relatively robust, with a range of interest groups engaged in the political process. Labor unions are well organized and politically active, though union membership has declined in recent years. Strikes are legal and occur frequently.
F. Rule of Law: 9 / 16
The judicial branch is independent, though subject to some political pressure and corruption. Rising crime rates have produced a severe backlog in the court system. Corruption in the police force, which is often drug-related, is endemic, and inefficiencies result in the dismissal of some criminal cases. Despite the efforts of human rights groups, Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the region that imposes a mandatory death sentence for murder. Most prisons are severely overcrowded.
Most abuses by the authorities go unpunished. An October 2011 Amnesty International report criticized the use of excessive force by police and noted that such violence was seldom investigated. Reports of police brutality still persist in 2013.
The government has struggled in recent years to address violent crime. Many Trinidadians of East Indian descent, who are disproportionately targeted for abduction, blame the increase in violence and kidnapping on government and police corruption. According to government statistics, 407 murders and 116 kidnappings occurred in 2013, showing an increase in the murder rate over 2012, but a decline in kidnappings. In addition to the increase in the number of murders, the kind of killings in Trinidad are becoming more brutal (e.g., beheadings), indicating an uptick in gang activity according to an October 2013 report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 13 / 16
Women hold 12 seats in the House of Representatives and 7 seats in the Senate. Domestic violence remains a significant concern. A draft National Gender and Development Policy, which will provide a framework for promoting gender equality, was submitted to the Cabinet in 2012 for approval. Human rights groups have criticized the government’s unwillingness to address the discrimination and violence against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) persons in Trinidad and Tobago. A proposed change to legislation that would extend death benefits of civil servants to include same-sex domestic partners was rejected in 2013.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year