Saturday, December 16, 2017

New SIA chief must correct PM's mess-up

After inspecting the security arrangements for the coming days, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar felt sanguine enough to comfort a nation continuously afflicted in spirit. "This Carnival," she said, "has all the makings of one of the best Carnivals, if not the best."

Security has been ramped up, and the Prime Minister sounded especially proud of the installation of CCTV cameras, capable of delivering detailed, reliable, and actionable panoramic images for a police command centre.

It all made for a rare moment for Mrs Persad-Bissessar to strut her stuff in the area of national security. Rare, because the Prime Minister has been mostly on the defensive since November, when she had opened the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) can of worms that have since been crawling around, to the deepening discredit of her administration.

She who justifiably takes credit for planning and execution of Carnival security, must also accept the lioness' share of discredit for the SIA debacle. Mrs Persad-Bissessar must know that the acerbic calypso comments heard throughout the season, and highlighted at Dimanche Gras tonight, target her own spectacular mess-up of the SIA matter.

Nothing has more shaken national confidence in the management capacity of the Prime Minister and, indeed, in her trustworthiness, than the continuing unholy outcomes of what she set in train last November. Her exposure of the former administration's illegal electronic surveillance of citizens initially attracted support and sympathy for blowing a scandal sky-high.

Unhappily, Mrs Persad-Bissessar shortly contrived to turn such good feelings into bad, through successive bumbling, stumbling and dissembling, that have awakened rather than put anxieties to rest. It is entirely for her account that Reshmi Ramnarine and Julie Browne have become household names, and political lightning rods for scandalous reference in calypso and other commentary.

The country has been left to relive the nightmare scenario of the appointment of the unqualified Ms Ramnarine as SIA/SSA director. The questionable role of Ms Browne in that shortest-term appointment represents another piece of grievously unfinished business.

On February 18, the Prime Minister underscored the error of her earlier ways by announcing a new Director of the SSA in Colonel Albert Adolphus Griffith. His credentials include academic training in management and security, all of which Ms Ramnarine notoriously lacked.

It is thus to Colonel Griffith that the country now looks for prompt and proper closure of the malodorous SIA/SSA matter. Questions he must swiftly resolve include the continued employment of Ms Ramnarine and of Ms Browne, in the face of reports that have challenged their fitness for any public office.

On his shoulders rest the hopes for restoration of public trust and confidence in national security, so badly damaged by a Prime Minister who has so far signally, and disappointingly, failed to recognise and correct the mischief wrought by her hands.