Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sticking to her script

 If the Prime Minister is true to her word and genuinely prepared to implement her tough talk on a sustained basis, then her position on the political future of Minister Chandresh Sharma is a no-brainer—he must be fired.

The ethics, traditions and convections of the Westminster system of government would dictate that Minister Sharma should tender his resignation but as we are all aware, such action based on high principle is an extremely rare find in our watered-down brand of Westminster. 

And while some have chosen to compare the incidents involving former minister Glenn Ramadharsingh and Sharma as ‘chalk and cheese’ respectively, the common thread that runs through both allegations is inappropriate behaviour in public amounting to assault.

Both matters are still the subject of investigation with no charges having been laid thus far, and so it would be wrong to make any legal finding while the chips of truth are still being collected.

But in the political arena, the presumption of innocence is not a cloak of defence that enables the accused to go away unscathed.

Once it has been determined that a politician has caused tremendous embarrassment to his party or is deemed a poor role model, he is declared a liability and while the law takes its course, the leader takes action.

Such was the approach in the Ramadharsingh affair. 

Political Leader of the Congress of the People Minister Prakash Ramadhar has boldly stated that Minister Sharma should either offer his resignation or be fired by the PM, and Ramadhar is right.

The PM has been commended for the firm stance she adopted in removing Ramardharsingh from her Cabinet after reading reports about the incident in which he allegedly misbehaved on board a domestic flight from Tobago to Trinidad. 

After meeting with the former minister, she took the decision to strip him of his coveted position insisting that “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”.

Having explained the reasons for her decision to dismiss the once favoured poster-boy Ramadharsingh, the PM is left with no choice but to apply the same yardstick to the allegation of assault by beating made against Sharma.

So it is expected that in the very near future, if she has not already done so by the time this article is published, the PM will once again write to President Anthony Carmona advising His Excellency to revoke the appointment of Minister of Tourism, Chandresh Sharma.

The version of the incident given by the young lady who is the subject of the report made to the police, on the face of it, speaks to an extremely serious matter and while there must be no pre-judging of the issue (especially since at the time of writing Sharma has remained silent), the PM must be very worried that as she outs one fire, another blaze gets going.

And to make matters worse, the Ministers who are causing problems for the PM appear unperturbed by her insistence that they must display at all times “a sound character of public integrity, fairness, humility, compassion and human dignity.”

The PM must therefore answer the question—why are some of her Ministers refusing to follow her instructions?

Is it a case of those Ministers being unable to help themselves?

Should the PM accept the harsh reality that confronts her, namely that she has made some poor choices of persons to run the affairs of the nation, 12 to date, then her focus as she prepares to prove herself worthy of a second term in office must include reassessing her recruitment process.

From the word ‘go’, when this administration was still finding its political footing, unsuitably qualified persons whom it knowingly appointed were being unearthed and exposed, and four years later, some members of this regime continue to believe that they can get away with reckless appointments.

 Years ago when I wrote that this administration had allowed its arrogance to go wild, I felt the wrath of those who believed that I was wrong, or more accurately, wrong to state publicly, my view on the matter.

But I repeat that the unbridled arrogance of some of the senior members of this regime, whether they belong to a cabal or not, has, adapting the words of William Shakespeare in Macbeth “overleaped itself and fallen on the other side”.

The conduct of several high ranking members in this administration is in complete contrast to the words of the PM that “I am always aware of the higher expectation upon which this Government was elected….” because these individuals are behaving at an all time low while holding public office.

And while the PM cannot be blamed for their transgressions, she must bring an end to whatever is empowering them to go astray.

The reported comment of Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Sat Maharaj that the Sharma matter is a domestic affair while the Ramadharsingh matter is a public manifestation of bad behaviour offers no distinction for the manner in which the PM ought to treat Minister Sharma.

If Sharma has “deviated from the principles upon which her government was elected by the people into office”, then in accordance with the script of the PM, his days in the Cabinet are numbered.

There will be little rest for the PM as the campaign for the 2015 general election heightens unless her ministers act according to the script. 

However, in light of all indications, torrential downpours are expected and so all ministers who have cocoa in the sun are probably busy finding shelter for their produce.

• Gillian Lucky is an attorney-at-law and presenter of the television programme Just Gill