Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In defence of the PM

Mariano Browne, in a column in the Express last week Monday, questioned the leader­ship of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with respect to the investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In his column, he has either conveniently ignored or deliberately forgotten the facts, which are that the Honourable PM has issued two public statements on the matter and hence can in no way be accused of not dealing with the situation.

What is interesting is that in their thirst for the blood of Minister Jack Warner and the PM, the critics of the PM are prepared to ignore and set aside the principle of innocence until proven guilty. It reminds me of the haste with which the Integrity Commission has acted in at least one instance, causing deep embarrassment to the institution.

The PM has made it absolutely clear that she has enquired from the US authorities about the matter and now awaits further com­­munications from them. She has been very clear in her last statement that she has asked the Attorney General to also make enquiries, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The PM cannot compel the US authorities to provide any information. It is a matter of protocol that her enquiries would be answered in due course. One has no reason to doubt that the US authorities will, in due course, respond, at which point the PM will be in a more empowered position to pronounce on the matter.

A leader must act responsibly and fairly, especially where the reputation of persons and their rights to fair treatment are concerned. The thirsty-for-blood critics appear to want to precipitate a situation where the PM acts prematurely. The Honourable PM is wise to this ploy.

To suggest that the Honourable PM is loathe to take action in matters that concern the integrity of her Government is short-sighted and ignores (deliberately) her track record, which needs to be restated.

She has removed three ministers (Collin Partap, Mary King and Herbert Volney) while she has demoted another—Vernella Alleyne-Toppin—and recalled an ambassador for indiscreet comments. This is by no means the character of a leader who is weak but one who is strong and clear in her mind about the moral foundations of her Government and the quality of governance she wishes for the country.

She has made two reshuffles of her Cabinet. In no way is she a weak leader or an indecisive leader. As Mr Browne indicated, the PM is responsible for the performance of her ministers. Her actions have answered that question.

Since Mr Browne raised the discussion on leadership, I will like to add that in addition to making portfolio decisions, a leader, political or organisational, is also called upon to make “people-edge” decisions.

As Mr Browne would have noted in the article of Prof Selwyn Ryan, the fact that his statistics debunked the charge that the Government was engaged in ethnic-stocking of the boards, etc, Mr Browne would therefore also agree that in making decisions that showed a concern for reflecting the diversity of the country on the boards, the Honourable PM will exercise the same caution and care in making any decisions which are “people-edge” in nature.

That is also about good governance and leadership integrity, both of which the Honourable PM practises.

—­Dr Surujrattan Rambachan is a

Minister of Local Government