MP not ready for prime time
By moving promptly to separate Cumuto-Manzanilla MP Collin Partap from his junior ministerial position, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has set herself an eye-catching precedent for decisive action. In this case, the action was a corrective response to thoroughly disconcerting behaviour by a member of the People's Partnership administration and of its parliamentary caucus.
Mr Partap, until yesterday Minister in the Ministry of National Security, carries a family name with ranking associations inside the UNC, of which Mrs Persad-Bissessar is also political leader.
What Mr Partap demonstrated in his encounter with the police, however, is an unqualifiedly junior capacity for political and governmental responsibility. Rather than insisting on calling his lawyer when stopped by breathalyser-bearing police, he should probably have called his father, Harry, now High Commissioner to South Africa, for the mature, judicious and practical advice of which he was hopelessly in need.
Instead, he refused to take the breathalyser test that the officers are empowered by law to administer to any motorist showing signs of being under the influence of liquor. Predictably, he soon found himself—a criminal suspect with high-level Government status—under what looked like arrest at the Belmont Police Station.
The National Security Ministry where Mr Partap enjoyed ministerial rank carries portfolio responsibility for the police. He could not be unaware of the delicate situation that arose when law-enforcement officers characterised his appearance and behaviour as those of a person of interest.
Nor should he have been insensitive to the reality that legislation and policing which target impaired driving actually support the urgent national objective of reducing death and bloodletting on the roads and highways. Indeed, not enough police action appears directed toward interdicting and deterring the still-too-common practice of driving under the influence.
The breath samples eventually taken from Mr Partap showed his level to have been within the legal limit. But other charges may be applicable for his alleged failure to co-operate with the police officers as and when asked.
It's especially inexcusable for a Minister in the critical Ministry of National Security even to be linked with such incidents. With Mr Partap's Sunday morning episode, the associations were even more alarming.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, though then attending church, was brought into the matter. Before it had all settled down, Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams had taken personal charge of what should have been a routine exercise at the Belmont Police Station.
For now, Mr Partap's governmental career has come to an end. As other politicians involved in other scrapes have found, however, a future in public life may yet be possible for the Cumuto-Manzanilla MP. For now, however, it is indisputable that, both in Government and politics, he is definitively unready for prime time.