"Ouch" said the headline of the lead story in the Express last Thursday. It captured the lighter side, the impulsive response of Opposition Senator Terrence Deyalsingh to the range of issues President Max Richards was raising during in his address at the ceremonial opening of Parliament last Wednesday.
President Richards, according to Express Political Editor Ria Taitt, used the bully pulpit, but nuanced both his observations and his warnings to the Government on the issues of equality of opportunity, fairness, even-handedness, and transparency.
Strikingly, they were the same thoughts that I expressed in my column last Monday. I wrote of my hope that the Prime Minister, as she flew across the Caribbean, would have reflected on the growing public perception that her government is one of selective interests — first, the "Midnight Cabinet" selects what is its own interests, then it caters for party devotees, followed by the overall welfare of the clan.
Just like President Richards, I too expressed fears that the Government, in its coarse decision-making, is eroding our fundamentals, our core values, moral standards and bed-rock principles, or "the solid foundations" as the President described them.
In looking ahead, he warned that "we must be careful in our quest for new things, not to discard the past and behave as if it did not exist."
Also, in obvious reference to National Security Minister Jack Warner's role in the demolition of the Re-route Movement camp site two weeks ago, the President cautioned against the abuse of the armed forces, warning further that "zeal must not inform our behaviour".
Turning to education, the President, a former Chancellor of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, fired another warning: "There is …no room for partisan behaviour and personal preferences in appointments at the highest levels of leadership at our university, or at the level of academic staff.
"Ability is what matters, and governments and others must ensure academic autonomy is preserved."
Although, he cited UTT, the President's warning was expansive enough to deal with another perception, that there is a deliberate strategy to replace every prominent office holder in the public sector with a kinsman or member of the ruling party.
In calling for even-handedness, equality of opportunity, fairness, and transparency in policies, the President alluded indirectly to the dangers and irrationality of identity politics in which the national agenda could be no longer reasoned out but reduced to the advancement of tribal or sectarian interests.
In practice, that irrationality goes like this: "I don't care who he or she is…or whatever they did…or thinks, once they are one of us." The President did not say it, but be reminded that such un-reasoning, taken to its extremes, caused millions of deaths in Germany, South Africa, Rwanda, Kosovo and continues in Iraq.
And how did it start? With small, innocuous, "well-intentioned" steps from which leaders obtained endorsements that resulted in nations finally going over the edge.
That behaviour may not be foreign to us, according to Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie, who at the launch of the Competitiveness and Innovation Council last May, lamented that Trinbagonians have "a capacity for brutality, callousness, and insensitivity".
The Newsday story, headlined, "TT uncivilised" quoted Tewarie as calling for a "reasoned culture" because of its "humanising effect".
But in reality, there are some frightening events across the public sector. Many senior persons in state agencies continue to lose their jobs because of that very politics of callousness and insensitivity — all of them being replaced by the party faithful.
With the departure of Larry Howai, it started at First Citizens bank last week, adding to a long list of firings which began after May 24, 2010 — in the Police Service, SUATT, the SIA, CNMG, the Business Development Company, NIDCO, ODPM, TSTT, T&TEC, NP, PTSC, CEPEP, and other state agencies, plus junior contract positions in schools, hospitals, and the wider public service.
One source, describing the figure as "painful and sad", says the contracts of between 6,000 and 8,000 persons in the public service have not been renewed.
It was against that background that the PM tried to trumpet the appointment of Jwala Rambarran as the new Governor of the Central Bank. "Jwala who?" was the question making the rounds.
The question then turned sour when people began amassing the list of public officials who have been dismissed recently.
The only light side was the question being asked whether Mr Rambarran, like Rabindra Moonan, the chairman of CAL, who worked at the Central Bank 38 years ago, was also a CEPEP contractor.
The sourness returned when someone mentioned the millions spent by the Ambassador to Washington to renovate his office with gilt-edged fittings, while patients are sleeping on the floor of an over-crowded San Fernando hospital.
On Friday Jack Warner, fully briefed with all of the negatives against Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, will meet him officially.
I hope Mr Warner really heard the President.
• Keith Subero, a former
Express news editor,
has since followed a
career in communication