There were a few voices last week sneeringly dismissing the lead-up to the October 21 local government elections as just another political travelling circus.
I guess that our own VS Naipaul, if asked today, would pour scorn, also dismissing us as “the picaroon society” he saw some 50 years ago, descending further into smelly politics.
Nonetheless, in the political mix last week there were a few noteworthy news stories that may have gone unnoticed or may have been ignored by readers.
For instance, in the controversy over the blacklisted Canadian company, SNC-Lavalin, Opposition MP Colm Imbert revealed that Canadian High Commissioner Gerard Latulippe had resigned as Quebec Solicitor-General (Public Security Minister) in 1987, because of “allegations of conflict of interest and improper practices” involving contracts awarded to a law firm to which he was attached previously.
Let’s go beyond Imbert’s charges to Latulippe’s response. It contains, I believe, a lesson which should be drawn to the Prime Minister’s attention:
“I never resigned for conflict of interest; never for a breach of integrity, but rather because of my integrity. I resigned as a minister for an appearance of conflict of interest.
“I wanted the democratic institutions to be completely free to do work and investigate whether contracts were given, according to the law. I did not want it to be seen that as a minister I could have intervened,” he told the Express.
His statement reminded me of Richard Austen (aka RAB) Butler, who as British deputy prime minister and home secretary (responsible for the police) resigned and left politics in 1960 because the police had begun an investigation into a company with which he was associated years earlier.
In politics, the examples of both the ethical and the smelly abound. It is unfortunate for us that the Prime Minister’s Government continues to choose the latter.
Last Friday, standing behind the new National Security Minister in a photo-op were the acting Police Commissioner and his Deputy — the officer assigned to investigate Minister Gary Griffith in the emailgate scandal.
I fear that discerning readers could be tempted to draw various conclusions from such events, particularly after the Deputy COP told this newspaper recently that he had done all he could in his five-month investigation.
Readers might be tempted to make further deductions, maybe incorrectly, after the acting Commissioner’s near three-year investigation into former national security minister Jack Warner’s role in the Concacaf bribery scandal at the Hyatt; his public commendation of Mr Warner on his resignation and his three-month delay in charging former minister Collin Partap.
In the meantime, the Minister shrugs off the police investigation, admitting at last that T&T needs offshore patrol vessels. Earlier, it was alleged that he advised the PM in 2010 on the cancellation of the order for the three vessels from the British dockyard.
But this time the Minister proposes that vessels be purchased from Colombia, a country with a limited history in ship-building, but known for its notorious US $17 billion drugs, arms and human trafficking industry.
I also found the case of the 34 paintings by 19th century artist Michel Jean Cazabon that are now missing from the President’s House noteworthy. In Britain, such a disappearance would be likened to an assault on the state, or theft of the Crown Jewels.
But here in T&T it is made out to be just a simple case: the former curator of the National Museum emphasised that in 1997 she catalogued 34 paintings, some pieces valued then up to $80,000, on loan to President’s House; last week officials at the residence said they had no paintings from the Museum, just 14 lithographs.
How could such national treasures just disappear from President’s House? And why is there no public outrage? Why must the Police Service await a report — such as in the cases of the Airports Authority Board member and deputy general manager; the former T&TEC chairman; and the deputy general manager at PTSC falsifying their qualifications — before its officers intervene?
Also of significance was the claim by Integrity Commission, chairman Ken Gordon, that children were cheating in the Commission’s “Do It Right” Competition.
Gordon said there were instances of plagiarism, tracing and photocopying, borrowing, and undue influence.
“Integrity is something which makes us do what is right when no one is watching. We want to promote integrity as a way of life. Integrity takes on all shapes of character and consistency, it cannot exist where there is no discipline,” Gordon said last week.
In Britain and Canada politicians vacate public office once there is an appearance of misbehaviour. In the People’s Partnership Government, a politician gets promoted.
Link this all back to our children cheating in an Integrity Competition.
* Keith Subero, a
former Express news editor,
has since followed a career in communication and management.