By making Herbert Volney the sole sacrificial lamb over the Section 34 fiasco, the Prime Minister has put herself into a position where the aftermath of her action could be perceived as "damned if you do, damned if you don't." After all, she provided the nation with a lengthy explanation and reminded us all of the collective responsibility factor, given that it was Parliament that voted for Section 34 en masse.
This led nicely onto placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Justice Minister, followed by the predictable statement that she has done what no other PM has done before: practised accountability and ensured consequences for misdemeanours. It is a departure from the politics of the past, we were assured; it was a measured decision based on the facts and now that your PM has acted in such a righteous manner, let us all follow the advice of the Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal and "move on."
Wonderful. How great it is to exist in T&T during the era of new politics. Except, there is unsavoury residue left from this legal debacle. Firstly, for a government that relies heavily on the benefits of political spin, some severe damage has been done to its image and its ability to act on crucial matters.
Let us be in no doubt that the firing of Volney would not have taken place if Tuesday's protest march and the continued public outcry, had not taken place. For a ruling party to think that such a serious issue would simply flutter away onto the scrapheap of forgotten transgressions shows a lack of understanding of the people, along with a lack of respect and no drastic change in political practice.
The fact is that a leader, any leader, in the face of a crisis, can receive all relevant information within 24 hours or less. This being Trinidad and Tobago we would have given the Prime Minister a generous 72 hours to gather all the data, speak to the persons involved and then make an informed decision based on two of the watchwords of the Partnership's campaign: accountability and transparency.
Yet, as the nation stewed in its abhorrence that two UNC (United National Congress) financiers were given a loophole by legislation that was rushed through as we all celebrated our 50th anniversary, the PM remained tight- lipped.
Was there the hope that while the people will be angry this week, by next week there will be another piece of bacchanal to serve as a distraction? Well according to the Housing Minister, yes.
The power of the people prevailed, with the march organised by a Dr Rowley eager to capitalise, gaining massive support despite the hastiness of its organisation. The march, held 18 days after the offending Section was proclaimed, proved that on crucial issues, the nation possessed more than a ten-days memory. It forced the PM to act.
But it is not just a case of the PM being chastised for acting only after the public outcry, it is that even in firing the Justice Minister, the PM has (predictably?) protected the Attorney General. The PM probably thinks that axing one of the pillars of the Government would send a clear message of weakness amongst the coalition, but the public consensus is still one of partial disapproval that the AG has been exonerated from any blame.
If the errors were not detected prior to proclamation by the President then the AG's office and by extension, the Government, are incompetent in this role and cannot be trusted to amend or pass laws in the best interest of the nation. Given the importance of the office of the AG to any country, his head would have to roll too. The T&T public cannot think nor accept the AG is bereft of responsibility simply because the PM has absolved him.
Further, the explanation provided by the PM means that the Justice Minister has misled the President of the nation into proclaiming a Section, rendered false by the alteration done by the Justice Minister himself. This being the case, has the sacrificial lamb Volney been let off the hook as he is not being formally charged by the Government?
It is either a case of Volney purposely altering the Section to serve some dire purpose or practising bungling of the highest order. It represents the two factors that critically hamper Trinidad and Tobago, corruption from the top come down and incompetence at the very highest levels of administration.
As such, the PM's purported exercise in accountability should be all encompassing and the former justice minister should be charged. Should the Piarco accused walk free from all criminal charges on the basis that their application was made before the law was repealed—thank you very much for the two-week window of opportunity—it could result in the dismantling of the People's Partnership, for the public will not forgive the Government.
Apologies and axing were required and have been done, but only after a march highlighted the protest and forced a Government to practise damage control. Yes, the PM has ventured into new waters of action by firing her Justice Minister, where past PM's would have simply practised the politics of distraction, but she acted too late and now the country is fully aware of its ability to make its voice heard. It could set a new precedent. Or it could simply be that after the Reshmi Ramnarine and State of Emergency mess, the people would not tolerate another failure.
If the Government's standard was to be intolerant of such bungling, the PM would have acted sooner and the people would have more confidence in the Partnership. As it stands, the PM acted too late and her actions are still not all encompassing: a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't?