Monday, January 22, 2018

Hoping for a healing

Keith Subero logo44

Mark Fraser

Every year Mother’s Day gets a lot of commercial hype. But given the state of our nation, I kept hoping that yesterday would have been seen as an opportunity to pause and press the national reset button.

I had hoped that this year Mother’s Day would have been different; that our leaders would have felt the wrenching pain coming from our wounds and would have gone beyond stale platitudes to sincere appeals that could re-ignite feelings of love, foster healing and create moral narratives that could somehow mend broken hearts.

After the assassination of Dana Seetahal last week I had hoped, too, that in every home, mothers would have gone beyond expectations of flowers and chocolate to, at least, a moment of dialogue with their children, focusing on the therapy of sharing feelings and expressions of love.

Demonstrations of love are so important to healing at this time because, as therapist and author Bernie Siegel wrote, “love is the most important thing in human life… it is tremendously meaningful, because it comes from our deepest essence, the source of human freedom”.

I wondered what, beyond expressions of love, would have been the narratives the Prime Minister, as a grandmother, gave to her grandchildren yesterday.

What if, in child-like innocence, they had raised questions about old-fashioned virtues, ethics and public values? Would she have said they were distinct from her Government’s political practices which were based on “a morality of their own”?

And what if the grandchildren had pressed their grandmother further about her Government’s performance in the areas of trustworthiness, integrity, accountability and promise-keeping?

One would hope that she would have repeated, sincerely, the statement she made in March that all her considerations were character-driven and she held consistently to Gandhi’s declaration that “politics without principle” is a social sin.

My thoughts on Mother’s Day also went to Nyree Alfonso, chairman of First Citizens, who this morning will seek to distance herself from the bank’s IPO scandal, and win re-election at the bank’s annual general meeting.

Ms Alfonso told the country that business ethics and the bank’s corporate code of conduct were irrelevant in the then-evolving scandal, describing it as purely a legal matter.

Her response also completely ignored the legal assurances the bank’s directors gave in the IPO prospectus in which they stated that after “all reasonable enquiries” they had signed and accepted “collectively and individually” their approval of the public document.

Last week, in media interviews, Ms Alfonso continued to shift blame for the scandal from herself and the board to the Divestment Secretariat of the Ministry of Finance and bank executives.

To his credit, the Attorney General was forced earlier to censure the chairman, describing her statement as “clearly injudicious, premature…and somewhat prejudicial”.

The matter involving allegations by the former solicitor general about “an unethical business venture” operating within his office has evolved into a criminal investigation based on the instructions the Director of Public Prosecutions gave to the acting Police Commissioner.

The instructions were met with relief in many quarters but others pointed to the poor performance record of the Police Service on key issues. For example:

• Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams took four months to lay charges against former minister Collin Partap although Mr Williams was called to the Belmont Police Station by Mr Partap on the night of his arrest for refusing to take a Breathalyser test;

• The acting CoP, although he was instructed by the DPP, is yet to inform the country of the results of his 2010 investigation into Jack Warner’s alleged bribery attempt of CONCACAF officials at the Hyatt;

• The Police Service is yet to update the country on the investigations into the sexual abuse allegations against former minister Glenn Ramadharsingh;

• There has been no word on the investigation into the alleged assault charges brought against former minister Chandresh Sharma based on complaints by his former female companion;

• This month marks one year since the Opposition Leader made allegations about emails, incriminating the PM, the AG and other ministers. The only development has been the retirement of the main investigator, without any report, and his assumption of a more lucrative position within the Service;

• The Police Fraud Squad has never shown any interest in investigating possible breaches in the Section 34 scandal. Neither has it displayed any interest in the numerous fraudulent certificates that executives presented at State enterprises; nor the current First Citizens scandal; nor the breaches outlined in the Auditor General’s report.

• There is also an outstanding investigation into reports that cocaine was found in a container consigned to a San Fernando used-car dealer.

The list of incomplete investigations under acting CoP Williams continues. One observer called to comment on what he described as “management by investigation”.

I keep looking for the reset button, so T&T can talk again about virtues, ethics and public values.

• Keith Subero, a former

Express news editor, has since followed a career in

communication and management