A catch-22 problem
problemIN every organisation there are both formal and informal leaders. Formal leaders are those who hold positions of de facto and de jure authority. A managing director in a company or prime minister in a cabinet are examples of formal leadership positions. Informal leaders are those, whilst holding no official position, nevertheless have the power to influence or control the pace of change in an organisation. In some situations formal leaders are sometimes bypassed or upstaged by informal leaders. This often happens in crisis situations, particularly in time of war. James Clavel in his war-time novel King Rat describes the daily struggle for survival by American, British, Dutch and Australian prisoners in a Japanese concentration camp in Singapore. The “King” is an American corporal who, despite being an enlisted man and without distinction in civilian life, became a major power in the closed society of the camp. Through his charisma and intelligence, he became the most successful trader and black marketer and overshadowed the formal leaders, all officers. When the camp is liberated, his power and influence evaporate as he returns to his official rank of corporal. The term catch-22 was coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch 22, which is set in World War II. A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot, or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules. Often these situations are such that solving one part of a problem only creates another problem, which ultimately leads back to the original problem. Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to, but has no control over.Jack Warner has been central to this administration’s performance, or non-performance. With the image if not reality of being a man of action, he has been at the centre of many initiatives and/or comments. Where there was no policy, there was always Minister Warner’s opinion on what should be done and how. He has been deal maker and queen maker.First it was the holding of two offices, a position in Cabinet, coupled with the retention of his private interest, the vice presidency of FIFA. Whilst there may have been no immediate or clear conflict of interest, there was always going to be a conflict in time. Even for the indefatigable Minister Warner, it was impossible to be in two places at the same time, especially given his Cabinet seniority. But there was always a conflict — a sitting minister, who as a vice president of FIFA, was in breach of his obligation to the national footballers (in breach of a court order) and with an input at Cabinet level in the development of sports policy, in particular, policy with respect to national football. This was eventually settled by FIFA in circumstances which should be contrasted to Mary King’s ousting from Cabinet. There are still many unanswered questions with respect to the funds distributed to CFU officials to influence their vote. There are many views as to whether his role in that debacle was unethical at best. But this is not yet a dead issue even if the police have yet to complete or even commence their investigations. How could we expect the police to conduct an investigation into the questionable dealings of the minister responsible for national security? An international court even went so far as to suggest that Minister Warner’s statement, such as it was, could not be relied on. Even if these events were not inappropriate in themselves, and causes for dismissal, we have also witnessed the blurring of lines between the police and the army in destruction of the Highway Reroute Movement’s encampment led personally by Minister Warner. This could have been viewed as “spiteful” given the minister’s previous failure to deal with the movement at the Ministry of Works. And what of the minister’s comments that Dr Kublalsingh should hurry up and die?Now there is the effort to precept members of the army, giving them the powers of arrest and seizure. This approach has to be seen against the background of the surreptitious efforts to establish a new “Flying Squad” outside of Cabinet approval or administrative niceties, far less the ambit of the law. Clearly we have a minister who knows no boundaries, who is attempting to rewrite rules in a way that is unsustainable. More importantly, the system of checks and balances is failing when the formal leaders, the Prime Minister, the CoP, the Permanent Secretary, “do not know”.
And where is the crime plan? All this coming from the Minister of National Security who also publicly attempts to set policy for the incoming President on the appointment of Independent Senators. And we have not yet begun to speak of the contradiction implicit in attempting to prevent crime in the city and environs by the award of “painting contracts” to a person who is a key figure of interest to a sitting Commission of Inquiry into events that undermined the very existence of the State. None of this is far removed from the crisis occasioned by the now infamous Section 34. Indeed, there is a common thread between all these not-so independent threads.A leader is responsible for setting the timing, tone and tempo of the organisation. Where there are consistent and egregious breaches that emanate from the organisation, the failure is one of leadership. So far only one traditional political commentator, a calypsonian, seems to have understood that the real weakness which faces the Cabinet is the absence of leadership. That is emblematic of a catch-22. • Mariano Browne is a former government minister