Monday, January 22, 2018

The hits keep coming

Keith Subero logo38

Mark Fraser

At one point last week, this place felt as though it had descended, finally, into the state described in Latin as reductio ad absurdum—a reduction into the absurd.

The seemingly unending flow of negative news may have pushed even the most inveterate pessimists farther into the dark side. Listening to callers’ comments on talk radio and using what Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran calls the “Conversation Index”, one could have sensed the intense mood of anger, despondency and despair.

Although many appeared to recognise the need to change our “heads” because, as they believed, our old existing mental models would lead us only into decline and ossification, they expressed deep fears about societal conflict and even disintegration.

Using David Rudder’s kaiso, one caller likened T&T society to the “madness” of St Ann’s. “Chaos! Not madness!” I told myself, and then I tried to recall the outlines of Chaos Theory, once popular in management schools, and wondered whether possibly it could explain last week’s events.

As I recall, its theorists argued that if one viewed chaos differently one would discover order. They held also that those who believe crises could be resolved only by people working harmoniously in a strategic direction ultimately end up imitating the solutions of the past.

“When managers choose to harness chaos, and promote the conditions in which spontaneous self-expression can occur, they make it possible for innovation and new directions to emerge,” one of Chaos Theory’s proponents, Ralph Stacy, had argued.

They promoted, inter alia, group learning. Individuals operating in groups become more self-organising, they engage in self-policing and they discover their personal control mechanisms, which they can transfer to the larger body.

People operating in groups can produce controlled behaviour; “even when no one is in control, sometimes the best thing is to let go and allow things to happen,” Stacy wrote.

Some may argue that Stacy may not have thought of the T&T system—a ship, meandering aimlessly, its crew, a cabal, intoxicated with bountiful success—and no one is at the bridge.

So last week, the country witnessed television clips of Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, openly revealing her bedroom secrets, and making tactless pronouncements that in Tobago males and females hold no proclivities for condom use.

This followed an earlier police investigation into the behaviour of Minister Glenn Ramadharsingh of the same Social Development Ministry. It is alleged that he was intoxicated on a domestic flight, refused to comply with the flight attendant’s repeated safety requests, later touched her breast when he reached for her identification badge, and issued threats to her.

Then there was the latest Jack Warner scandal—the London Daily Telegraph alleged that Warner and his two sons received US$2 million in illicit payments from a company in Qatar that is owned by Mohammed bin Hammam two weeks after that country was awarded rights for World Cup 2022.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan entered the brew, in a volte face encouraging Warner to cooperate with investigators to clear his name. It should be noted that in 2010 both the Prime Minister and the AG strongly defended Warner’s joint holding of a Cabinet appointment and his position as FIFA vice president.

The AG even obtained legal opinions from four senior jurists—including former president Ellis Clarke—to support the PM’s appointment of Warner as Works Minister.

Then there was the attempt by Nyree Alfonso, chairman of First Citizens, to correct her mis-steps of the previous week in which she jumped ahead of two investigations into the bank’s IPO controversy, claiming First Citizens’ chief risk officer, Phillip Rahaman, had not breached the bank’s regulations.

Rahaman purchased 659,588 shares in the bank’s IPO, in spite of the employee limit of 5,000 shares. The bank’s CEO Larry Nath also purchased 215,000 shares. Three other executives also exceeded the 5,000-share limit.

Alfonso, ignoring the fact that integrity is the basic tenet of the banking industry, said: “How can I tell (Rahaman) that in my view he breached ethical or moral codes in the bank, or as other people see them?

“People are inferring (she meant implying) insider trading or insider information. I have found no evidence of that. I have to work by legal principles. It is a legal matter,” she said.

Ms Alfonso throughout her clarification made reference to the bank’s code of ethics, insisting the matter was legal, not ethical.

Then the PM was off on another overseas trip; this time to Fort Lauderdale, where she was greeted by steelband and tassa. Her public relations people said she went to attend the funeral of “a relative”, but it was revealed later that it was “a close friend”.

Before she left she announced that the Japanese Prime Minister would be visiting T&T—but this prompted a denial from the Japanese Embassy here.

An unending list—school violence, 100-plus murders, state-enterprise corruption, etc.

Madness? Or just chaos?

• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a

career in communication

and management.