Thursday, December 14, 2017

Treading water under PM’s gaze

 If anyone still thinks that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is cowed by her male Cabinet colleagues, her public boof of Sport Minister Anil Roberts and National Security Minister Gary Griffith should have somewhat disabused them of that belief.

 To be sure, the Prime Minister phrased her announcement in relatively diplomatic terms, saying that “I have made my views known to both ministers and I want to further indicate that I do not approve of public squabbling between ministers...” But her demeanour  showed she was not amused.

 Her boof was all the more telling because Messrs Roberts and Griffith are two ministers who seem to be suffering most from testosterone poisoning in this administration. Both men are garrulous, discourteous and arrogant, and it is perhaps these personal similarities which put them at loggerheads to start with. Certainly, the instant issue—whether the “Trinidad and Tobago” name should be used in the Red Steel cricket brand—was far too trivial to warrant such public bile.

 Given that the final decision is to allow use of the T&T name, Minister Roberts has been shown to be in the wrong. Ironically, though his argument against Mr Griffith’s intervention was that only Cabinet had the authority to make a decision about the branding, it appears that Roberts himself acted unilaterally in the first place in ordering that the Red Steel team drop T&T from its title.

 In his turn, Minister Griffith didn’t necessarily have to intervene in this issue, but he and the Sport Minister had already been at loggerheads over the far more important and pernicious LifeSport programme. This had been handed over to Mr Griffith as soon as allegations of corruption were revealed by the Express and, even as Mr Roberts loudly proclaimed the merits and purity of his brainchild, Minister Griffith was asserting that LifeSport was indeed a cesspool of corruption—an assertion that an official audit has now found to have sufficient merit to refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 All of which begs the question as to why Anil Roberts is still in Cabinet. If Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has won points for strength of leadership in halting the Red Steel squabble, she will equally be seen as waffling if she continues to tolerate Mr Roberts’ increasingly truculent behaviour and disingenuous claims. It cannot be that she considers Mr Roberts, who won his D’Abadie/O’Meara seat with just 53 percent of votes cast and only 1,343 more than his opponent, a valuable candidate for the 2015 election.

 Ms Persad-Bissessar has kept a high approval rating relative to her administration. She should not let Anil Roberts drag this down.