Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Good call on Ramadharsingh

Express editorial logo363

Mark Fraser

In a show of responsiveness to public opinion and, one assumes, the facts at hand, the Prime Minister has done the right thing by dismissing her Minister of the People and Social Development.

In just a few minutes, on that short Tobago-Trinidad flight, Dr Ramadharsingh had badly misbehaved, and drew such discredit upon himself as to overshadow his nearly four-year ministerial performance record. Such abuse of power was compounded by his subsequent attempts on television to deflect blame from himself and to bring his victim into question. If there is a heroine of this piece, it is surely Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight attendant Ronelle Laidlow who took the brave step to file a formal report on Minister Ramdharsinghís inflight behaviour.

The Prime Ministerís position is to be applauded although it marks a departure from her previous responses to high-handed, even abusive behaviour by some members of her Cabinet. The public would not have forgotten her failure to act when senior Government ministers commandeered prime-time TV to gossip about the private life of a female reporter, or her silence when the Attorney Generalís Facebook page joined the anonymous scandalising of the reporter. Perhaps the prospect of an election in one yearís time is strengthening her resolve to do right by public opinion. Whatever the reason, the decision to send Dr Ramadharsingh packing is a welcome development inside a Cabinet where ministerial accountability has been in short supply.

Still, the case of Glenn Ramadharsingh raises valid questions about the Prime Ministerís judgment in her appointment of persons to high office.

Riding the crest of a rare electoral majority into prime ministerial office, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was arguably endowed with an embarrassment of riches. Apart from 29 Peopleís Partnership MPs in the Lower House, she also exercised the right, in constructing her administration, to another 16 senators of her choice. Nearly four years later, the floor is littered with the names of has-beens, rejects, try-outs, and defectors so high in number and so wide in range as to raise questions about Mrs Persad-Bissessarís judgment of people. The PM, who once saw promising ministerial material in Jack Warner, Herbert Volney, Verna St Rose-Greaves, Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, Subhas Panday and Jamal Mohammed, should now be instructed by the publicís lack of confidence in her ability to choose horses for courses. That she has additionally placed bets and lost on John Sandy, Nan Ramgoolam, Christlyn Moore, Nicole Dyer-Griffith, Collin Partap and Mary King must amount to a record-breaking failure in highest-level people management over just 46 months. With another year to go, and at least one more (post-Ramadharsingh) reshuffle to come, such a learning experience for the PM has been gained at high public cost. This realisation, weighing heavily in the scales measuring Kamla Persad-Bissessarís leadership and prime ministerial capacities, will support a conclusion that the early embarrassment of riches has turned out to be serial embarrassments for her, and for T&T.

Her firing of Dr Ramadharsingh suggests she may be attempting to rescue her Government. Time, and elections, will determine whether she succeeds or not.