Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A bonfire for the inanities


(BI) Feedloader User

All governments have one agenda priority: to stay in office as long as possible. They equate "office" with "power", a word and concept they revere. They therefore make a point of using terms like "instruct" and "mandate" and "direct", which to them typify power, hence control. They see no contradiction between calling us "brothers and sisters" when seeking our vote, and then formally keeping us at arm's length as "ladies and gentlemen" once they have got that vote and are in "power". We must know our place and accept it.

Our present administration is no exception. But, like so many governments I've seen in other parts of the region and the world, it shows little understanding of how to make optimum use of office—or "power", as they see it—in the sustained and sustainable development of the country. It is widely charged with all manner of negativity. But its many blunders and shortfalls, most of them totally avoidable, indicate to me not wickedness (which of course you cannot exclude as a factor in any government) so much as, I'm sorry to say, a terminal incompetence.

I haven't rushed to judgment; after all, I've had nearly three years now to assess it. In that time, I've spoken to several Ministers – not, as the wilder elements of the PNM might wish to believe, because I am a People's Partnership supporter but because, as a committed nationalist, I consider it my duty to give such advice and make such comments as I can, in what I see as the best interest of the country. (I used to speak to Patrick Manning, too. Ask him.)

Our governments have usually had very many intelligent people in their ranks (though I must say that the Minister currently said to be responsible for Communications would not have caused Einstein any sleepless nights). But in politics, I've noticed through the decades, intelligence generally eclipses common sense: the obsession with "power" and "control", and the consequent logical need to "instruct" and "mandate" and "direct", not only fly in the face of the electorate's wholly reasonable desire for good governance, they overwhelm it.

Yet it is that very desire whose centrality those in "power" swore, when they were on the other side, they wholeheartedly supported and would, if elected, constantly respect and promote! The election won, however, common sense descends into the uncommon. Unhindered by reality, they persuade themselves that they are suddenly more intelligent than those who put them there; they can and should think for them – after all, isn't that why they were put there? It is the heyday of hubris.

For instance, I recall Basdeo Panday, challenged on some matter or other, retorting: "Who voted for you?" In other words, know your place and accept it. I wonder who voted for him. I have often said I would like to dissect the brain (if that is what it is) of a dead politician. I am certain it must contain synapses and circuitry not found in your average human's.

Is it commonsensical for the Head of the National Security Council, her Minister of National Security, and the Acting Commissioner of Police to think, especially after Reshmi and Section 34, that many in the country actually believe their denials of knowledge of "Dr" Mervyn Cordner's new (and no doubt improved) Flying Squad? And if they are telling the truth, what frightening message on the quality of our safety and well-being are they sending the population? How could a newspaper reporter discover what these eminent individuals, directly responsible for the country's security, were ignorant of? What message are they sending to Caricom, where we are the lead country for regional security?

If soldiers are to have the same powers of arrest as policepersons—a revolutionary proposal, affecting the Constitution and the country—was it commonsensical to present Parliament with an improperly drafted Bill on the subject? What relationship, if any, does the Bill have to the often-touted, and still invisible, "crime plan"? How in any case can you have a viable plan if the people of the country, victims of crime, have had no input? Where is the coherence? The common sense?

Personally, I like Jack Warner. But he and I have different approaches. I would not have been so dismissive of common sense as to shoot off in Parliament, without a shred of accompanying evidence, allegations about a secret meeting at which so-and-so were present to discuss the destabilisation of government and country. If, as Minister of National Security, I had such information or suspicions, I would, given the grave societal implications involved, have quietly let the Police, and presumably the DPP, take action. Or was it more dramatic (though not at all responsible) to buss a mark in the presence of Mark? Again, what message is being sent?

The PNM isn't backward in common sense deficiencies either. Word leaks out that a former THA Finance Secretary, Anselm London, is to be hired by the THA (as what, I don't know, since I've seen no job specifications) at a monthly salary of $60,000.

In "explanation" of this, we hear that London is the only person in Tobago who can do the job. But what is the job? And would the salary not be paid by Trinidad and Tobago? Now the Chief Secretary is reported as saying that his Executive Council will not yield to "public pressure". Eh? Is he thumbing his nose at the very public that is to fund the proposed salary? Is that the effect of a twelve-nil victory? You understand why I want post mortem dissection? And I haven't yet even whispered the word "Ramley". Nor have I mentioned the deficit of leadership, but I don't need to – Pink Panther has sung well, and it isn't only the PP that should be listening.

Inanities teem in the profligacy of our politics. It is more than time we put the torch to them.

• Reginald Dumas is a former ambassador and former head of the Public Service.