Saturday, February 24, 2018

PM mustn't miss these cues


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The Prime Minister's detractors have been trying to sell us the line that she is "mind-blinded" on the job.

They say that she is not the kind of person who responds promptly to a warning that "the train is coming, get out of the way". Neither does she pick up intuitively on social cues, through reading the minds of others.

Political problems are not anticipated long before they arrive, and even when they do arrive at her door, whether she is at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's, or more comfortably at home in Penal, she fails to perceive their full import.

And worse, they say that even after she has been "so advised", invariably neither she nor those she leads, confront those problems with a deliberate resolve. So there has been a record of little success because of little follow-through.

That line may be a difficult one to persuasively make for a "closing down sale", but some observers have argued honestly that there is a lot in the store to support such a sale.

The exact estimates of the thousands who came out in Port of Spain last Friday vary. National Security Minister Jack Warner produced photographs taken (at the state's expense) from a police helicopter to argue that there were just 10,000 political protestors.

Others, myself included, who walked throughout the city to get a sense of the protest, have placed the figure between 20,000 and 25,000. Whatever the final figure, this is not the best time for any leader to be accused of "mind-blindness".

Warner, who seems increasingly bent on reducing himself to a Shakespearean laugher, a kind of scorned, common buffoon, dangerously dismissed the protestors as just a rabble of one race.

Nonetheless, the thousands protesting in the streets were saying to the Prime Minister they will not "move on" from the alleged deception of Section 34.

So Friday's march now stands as one of those cues that the PM should be "so advised" not to ignore, because it is now on the agenda as an ominous indicator, allowing pessimists to speak of a collapsing political landscape or to use kaisoian Gypsy's warning of years earlier "Captain, de ship is sinking".

For our collective sakes, one can only hope that the PM is really not that "mind-blind" not to recognise that her Government, now in mid-term, has lost much of its credibility.

Friday's demonstration, she should be told, was not just an alliance of the opposition and labour, but more significantly included persons not previously politically engaged, who were demanding accountability, transparency and the clean government promised in May 2010.

They were also saying that they have not received the promised stability in the economy. They cited, too, the health, education, housing sectors or the fact that the entire social system remains broken, without any sign of hope from her Government.

They point to examples of how our national institutions have been thrashed, our basic values undermined, protocols ignored, and even the rule of law mocked repeatedly under her administration.

Many persons in the streets recounted to me the warning of President George Richards to the Police Service on Independence Day that its members should not be daunted by the "public games", and that the performance of the police should be guided by "independence and integrity".

Significantly, while the President was making those calls, observing further that "scepticism resonates in the whole country" and answers must be provided with "honesty", a fraction of the "Cabinet Cabal" was proclaiming Section 34.

On that landscape there is also the looming $1.3 billion that taxpayers may have to pay to the British shipbuilders for Government's cancellation of the OPVs contract.

The recklessness of that decision was demonstrated last week by the incursion into our waters of the Venezuelan coast guard and their boarding of Petrotrin's Rig 110 in our Soldado territorial field.

On the landscape, too, is the unprecedented statement by departing US ambassador Beatrice Welters that it would be highly disappointing if after years of investigation "Steve and Ish" were not brought to trial.

Again one can only hope that the PM was alert, not "blinded" to the subtleties within Ms Welters' statement, and that she is so minded to note the US government's response to Jamaica during and after the Christopher "Dudus" Coke matter.

She should be minded also that even in her constituency, the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce has warned that the "system of Government is poisoning" Trinbago, and that we are all drinking from "a poisoned chalice".

She should take note of the statement, also in Debe, from her anointed "deputy", Minister Roodal Moonilal, who warned the Hindu community that her detractors were "enemies" or Ravans (the evil villain in Hindu scripture) and of his hope that the Hindu community would soon be marching.

We should continue to hope that the PM is not "mind-blinded", as her detractors claim, so she can acknowledge the seriousness of the voices in the streets.

* Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management.