Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A pall of depression

Quick! Tell me something inspiring that has happened recently in the country, has held the public’s attention, and is inspiring. What? What? What?

A breakthrough in the bloody murder of Dana Seetahal? What breakthrough, when the police are reported to be divided amongst themselves and to be distrustful of one another?

The non-reelection of four directors of the First Citizens’ Bank? How is that inspiring when it was clearly forced by relentless public opinion and not originally intended by the Government?

If it was intended, then surely the four rejected directors (including the chairperson!) would not have had to suffer the opprobrium of being voted out by Corporation Sole? Surely, the latter would have had replacements on standby at the AGM? And while their removal is a victory of sorts for intellectual democracy and people power, it would have given us greater pleasure if Corporation Sole had moved positively and boldly at the first real opportunity (since the directors unrepentantly clung to the mantra of no ethics in business and refused to step down).

The PM’s decision to appoint Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to head a committee to investigate the allegation of a racket by lawyers in prisoner litigation against the State? How can that bring joy when the AG would most probably have to investigate the conduct of attorneys hired by his ministry and, more importantly, when the AG had already prejudiced the outcome of the proposed legislation by declaring that he had already had a (private?) investigation conducted, which investigation had found nothing untoward going on?

And how can it bring joy when the DPP, in the face of the Prime Minister’s initiative, ordered the police to conduct an investigation, declaring that they were the most appropriate body to do so and forcing the PM to slink away from her action?

It is the action of the DPP (brave independent man that he is!), and not the Prime Minister’s, that is cause for celebration, isn’t it?

Is it the decision to buy armoured cars, 20 of them? Are they going to improve the crime detection rate, reduce the murder rate, protect people like Dana Seetahal and better safeguard our honourable ministers from assassination? What exactly are they going to do? And if we can’t see how armoured cars can do these things, how can we rejoice?

Is it the decision to reopen Malick Secondary School in the middle of the school year, after the loss of so much instructional time? Or the lack of a clear decision, even up to this time—the last school term—on Princes Town West Secondary vis-à-vis the deplorable state of the school and a state of affairs in which teachers have been forced to stay away from most classes (the public examination classes excepted, I understand) and parents to send their children to other schools outside of the area?

Didn’t the Government anticipate the debacle and so take steps to overcome it with far less deprivation for the students and parents? How could governmental tardiness and neglect in this matter inspire us?

Does inspiration come from the litany of unending police investigations into this or that matter, sometimes matters that, incredibly, involve police officers? In the national tradition of himself to himself, how could that inspire us?

Does it come from the apparent abandonment of issues of national import, including, as fellow columnist Keith Subero reminded us: • Jack Warner’s alleged attempt to bribe CONCACAF officials for support of Bin Hammam’s candidacy for the FIFA presidency;

• Police investigation of the sexual abuse allegations against former minister Glenn Ramadharsingh;

• Police prosecution of the assault charges made against former minister Chandresh Sharma by a former female paramour;

• Emailgate—the sordid matter of e-mails, purportedly from the PM, the AG, and other ministers, revealing terrible executive conduct or, alternatively, extreme irresponsibleness on the part of the Opposition Leader;

• Outstanding judgment on the Section 34 scandal;

• Lack of interest by the police in investigating fraudulent academic qualifications tendered by people employed in high and highly-paid offices at State enterprises;

• Breaches outlined in the Auditor General’s report;

• Silence on the matter of the cocaine discovered in a container consigned to a San Fernando used-car dealer.

We have had no closure on these issues, and many of us despair of ever getting any.

Perhaps there is inspiration to be found in the way the campaign for the PNM elections is being prosecuted? Ok, quick!

What are the inspiring issues raised? How would Keith Rowley as prime minister transform the country, energise our democracy, rid us of the chronic problems of sidelining of the people, financial corruption and tribal dictatorship or hegemony?

How would a Beckles-Robinson administration do it? Found any inspiring issues yet—three sentences later? The issues that dominate the discourse, at least in the media coverage, are the suitability of the candidates for both leadership of the party and the country, and the integrity of the voters’ list.

Incredible, in a context where the country is under siege on practically every front, where there are so many gaping holes in the delivery of government, where there is unrelieved and, indeed, mounting psychological stress.

Everywhere I go, I sense a suffocating depression, a weariness of bone and spirit. The executive are struggling to give us comforting sound bites. The country’s collective soul is palpably dragging one leaden foot after the other towards an uncertain destiny. A pall is spreading relentlessly over the land.

Can we pull it back?

• Winford James is a UWI lecturer and political analyst