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SCALPS NEEDED

By Selwyn Ryan

 There was much speculation as to what  hidden agendas lay behind the Prime Minister’s swift and dramatic dismissals of Messrs Glenn Ramadharsingh and Chandresh Sharma. Not surprisingly, there was much skepticism and second guessing.

I am of the view that the Prime Minister was faced with gross public misbehaviour on the part of two ministers, and did well to act decisively. 

I am in fact pleasantly surprised that she acted in the manner in which she did. Normally, in these  matters, “Mr Big” goes unpunished and continues to misbehave with impunity until he is perhaps stripped up by hubris, an affliction  of which most of us are  all victims. Not surprisingly, conspiracy theories abound as to what actually happened and why. 

The political agenda is currently crowded, what with preparations for a State funeral for former president Robinson, media leaks in respect of the ghostly Flying Squad, and incriminating  reports of what the Solicitor General stumbled upon, and calls for the firing of the board of First Citizens. All intersect, nevertheless, and time will tell which accounts are to be believed.

In respect of the two ministers, Kamla acted swiftly. Had she merely punished them, she would surely have been the butt of derision and negative gossip, especially from the woman’s lobby. It is possible that the intervention of Sat Maharaj  served to  tighten the noose around Ramadharsingh’s neck. It is also possible that his firing was the occasion for the Prime Minister’s action, the straw that broke the camel’s back . Having fired Glenn, there was no room for Sharma to wiggle. He had to be“encouraged” to resign, and she had no option but to  accept it. Politics (long and short term) informed both dismissals. Having fired the one, it became imperative to fire the other.

“Moving on” from the executions, we have to look at how they were contexed, and  at what  other  factors may have influenced the decisions that were taken. I would be surprised if the decisions were not made with one eye on the 2015 elections. The firings fit in well with strategies  being put in place to enhance her tarnished political reputation. My guess is that the amputation of the two ministers unintentionally served as gift horses which fitted nicely into the plan to isolate and sanitise her from the burdens of “cabal”type  politics.  Like Eric Williams who  lightened the political load which he felt himself having to carry in 1976, and who chose to  run against the five ministers whom he characterised as “millstones”, Kamla’s advisers may well be telling her that if she is to get a second term, she has to put a great deal of distance between her and some of her front line ministers. She might in fact not be unhappy if she were to be given opportunities to play “Salome” (of Biblical renown) and  is offered more bloodied heads on a platter. If I were her ministers, I would take extreme care to avoid exposing my scalp to Kamla’s sheathed gilpin. If there was ever any doubt, Kamla is no longer a”political weakling”forced by necessity and prudence to take advice from any“cabal”, but  a “monarch” in her own right who will accept any proffered letter of resignation (dated or undated) which she may have in her possession. 

I am curious about the justifications which the Prime Minister chose to give for dismissing  the two ministers. She claimed that her actions were informed by the principles which defined the Partnership - humility, compassion, human dignity, proper conduct and value-based leadership. One recalls Basdeo Panday’s comment , borrowed from Machiavelli, that politics has a morality of its own that was guided by expediency. 

That saying was to be rejected and replaced with what we may conveniently christen the ” Kamla Declaration, ”in which she pompously  promises “to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do regardless of the consequences. No man, or woman for that matter, will be permitted to deviate from the very principle upon which we were  elected into office. …There must be no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect, there will be no sacrifice of our values on the altar of political expediency regardless of whether the decisions I take hurt me politically or not. I have the strength and courage and independence of mind to measure every tough decision on the basis of what is right and just. My decisions in the past demonstrate this consistency regardless of whether you are in Cabinet or not.  No one is exempt from the measure of value-based leadership.” 

Does Kamla indeed see a consistent pattern in her behaviour? There were indeed some firings, but were they all justified on the same lofty principles, or were some persons sacrificed and fed to the lions? Why were there so many false starts and missteps ? Was it lack of political experience and competence as Manning and Panday claim? Was it Kamla’s political personality? was it that she had more on her political plate than she could eat and digest? Was it that in her initial choice of ministers and board chairmen, she had to reward all those who had worked with her in the days when they were all in the wilderness? To what extent was she constrained to be responsive to nominees made by her electoral partners? Was Jack Warner the elephant in the room? How much was the anxiety to deal with the undeclared ethnic agenda have to  do with what happened or did not happen?

The Prime Minister is obviously stronger now than she ever was. Ironically, her seeming decision that she would henceforth seek to be a transformational type leader comes at a time when her legitimacy seems to be at its lowest. 

It could well be that her speech writers and advisers forced some alien stuff into her speech (as speech writers sometimes try to do) which has led her unwittingly into making extravagant promises and commitments which she will come to regret. 

There are surely going to be continuous public gasps and demands for dismissals and sanctions, perhaps beginning with the First Citizens board and  employees in the Solicitor General’s Office. The Beetham project still smells and may yield some scalps. So too some of what  is being said in respect of the Flying Squad? Who or what will be next? And what will happen when affected persons push back or counter leak information or say or do things  that may unintentionally stain the prime minister’s reputation? Will  integrity be sacrificed? Will the right thing always be done because it is the right thing to do? The Prime Minister has overbid and may have promised more she can deliver. I wish her well. One however reminds her that hubris inevitably prevails.

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