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We gone through or we all gone through?

By Selwyn Ryan

We live in very interesting times, times in which it is very easy to misstep and misspeak. One does not only need to be concerned about the ubiquitous camera, but even more so about the social media.

I ran into a former UWI colleague Monday last, and tarried for a brief chat. We aired views about the state of the country, and I nodded heartily in agreement when he said rather mournfully, that "we gone through".

There was no clear indication as to what that comment meant since we talked very briefly about several things. I was thus left to wonder "who", or in what way had we "gone through". Were we using code words to agree that "black people generally" or "little black males" in particular, had gone through?

Were we also agreeing that given some of the problems the PNM was experiencing, that the party had "gone through?" Were the two things related? There was also Jack's warning that if we did not get the "Hot Spots" of Laventille cooled down, "we all gone through".

As I reflected further, I considered other contexts in which those statement could apply. I wondered, for example, whether it could be said that Dr Kublalsingh was in a "no win" situation and that he had already "gone through" in more ways than one.

Given the signal that he had sent to the Prime Minister and the world at large that he had a default plan which would have him creep to the very edge of the grave, but not jump into it, what leverage did he have? My view is that he squandered his prestige.

Some opined that it was the Prime Minister who would in fact be in the soup if Dr Kublalsingh was allowed to die, since the professional environmental lobbies, the other "tree huggers" and the "soft left" generally would view her as a "heartless" mai who had allowed the proverbial Thanksgiving turkey to die instead of pardoning it as Obama had done in respect of America's equivalent bird.

Kamla manfully tried to spread her bets over two of the basic concepts of democracy. One emphasised concern for the rights of the citizen and the other the duty to obey the legal and legitimate prescriptions of the State. She chose to privilege the latter. She was a mother and a grandmother, yes, but she also had an obligation to obey what Volney calls the "mighty State".

Good governance Westminster style, meant that public issues were openly ventilated by the citizenry, after which choices were made and the majority spoke authoritatively. That dogma has it that the public interest must prevail thereafter. One could not allow any special interest group, however legitimate in terms of race, class, or gender, to override the public weal.

The Prime Minister's glorification of the role of the state prompted Dr Rowley and the members of the "round table" to claim that her solicitude for the State's interest was pure rhetoric. One certainly did not see it being manifested in the manner in which Section 34 was handled.

They argued that the State's interest was subverted by a patent concern for special interests linked to the ruling party. It was in this context that Dr Rowley asked the President to appoint a commission of enquiry to determine why Section 34 was singled out for early proclamation.

Rowley was of the view that this privileged treatment led the Government to act contrary to the principles of good governance, and morality in public affairs.

RowIey must have been aware that under Section 81, the President could only act on the advice of the Cabinet. He nevertheless insisted, disingenuously, that the President could be given a discretion to act otherwise. Rowley of course knew that this could not be done and I assume that he was merely seeking another opportunity to bring public pressure to bear on the government to explain why it acted in the way in which it did in respect of Section 34. That is the million-dollar question that still needs to be fully answered.

Dr Rowley and Mr Abdulah want the country to be told what it needs to know and has a right to know about Section 34. Have we as state which prides itself on governance that is "fairly good", "gone through".

So far, we have only had the Prime Minister's version and the various attempts which have been made by Mr Volney to exonerate himself. Mr Volney is understantandably not minded to "go through" by himself.

He wants to take others with him. One recalls that he has said that the Prime Minister's explanations were "hollow" and also that Mr Ramlogan was not to be held responsible for what happened or did not happen. He in fact explicitly declared that the decision to ask the President to proclaim the section was his and not Mr Ramlogan's.

Where does this leave us?

Mr Volney has been ambivalent and cloudy in terms of what he has said so far about the behaviour of the Prime Minister in the matter. He says he was badly hurt by what she did to him. He also tells us he was not the only one who was culpable, whatever that means in this case. He also talks about "Sacred Cows and Their Silence".

He has also lampooned the DPP whom he said was "derelict" and the Chief Justice for not having red flagged the likely consequences of the Section. He likewise insists he did not lie about anything, and still does not understand why the Prime Minister fired him from the Cabinet.

He complains he was too cheaply dismissed and disgraced even though he had brought much allure to the Partnership's electoral ticket in 2010.

All of this is confusing and calls for the use of Occam's razor.

We too need answers to this enduring enigma. Truth will however eventually "get through" even as others "go through".

My final comment is reserved for the slugfest over the OPV. When I heard the AG's various statements on the matter, I was delighted since I never supported the PNM's propensity to spend public funds as extravagantly as they seemed inclined to do.

The OPVs, the Brian Lara Stadium at Tarouba, and the Rapid Rail Transit System all seemed to me troughs for squandermania and likely graft. We were spending public money as if we had taken too much of the proverbial dose of salts. Thus, I was delighted that the OPV contract was scrapped. I however feared that cancelling the contract would cost us dearly and was relieved to learn that instead of being punished, we had in fact prevailed.

I even thought of sending off an e-mail congratulating the AG and a corresponding note to Dr Rowley chiding him about his comment about how "lucky" we were. Could we not celebrate like Trinis all, instead of acting as if we wanted everything with which the Partnership was associated to fail and go through?

Having read more about what really happened, I am now not sure whom to praise, whom to blame and who was "lucky". What seems to have happened was that in a curious way, there was a balance of burden and benefit. It was a non zero-sum game. We did not win, nor did we lose: or put another way, we did not lose as much as feared and did not gain as much as we proclaimed. We neither went through or got through. What I hope we have however learnt is that our governments must learn how to spend our money more wisely, and not be suckers to every travelling equipment salesman.

To be continued

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