Wishing for the answer
So voting day is here, at last.
Strangely, in the lead-up my thoughts were not on the results of today’s local government elections. I had been thinking instead about PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley’s claim last week that he won a bet that the Prime Minister would not have showed up at the party leaders’ debate.
Days earlier, my anticipation had crested in hope. I was enthused about the expected exchanges, feeling that in the cut and thrust of debate against other political leaders, the nation, at last, would see the true pluck of the Prime Minister.
In many social settings I had come to the Prime Minister’s defence, particularly when her detractors had dismissed her as a fluffy, intellectual featherweight; a person overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of prime ministerial office, whose only capabilities are political machinations, reading prepared speeches, and cameo appearances at social events.
When her critics advanced that she would be remembered only as the Prime Minister who was “so advised”, I attempted a balance to the discussion, suggesting that her rural development policies had resulted in a raw, rapacious, tribal appropriation of the state — but originally they may have been her sincere attempt to provide basic services to “plantation” communities.
Some critics maintain that since 2010 a cordon-sanitaire, isolating her from any attempts at detailed scrutiny, has been constructed to preserve her manicured persona.
Psychologist Carl Jung told us that “the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face”. The PM’s appearance at that debate, her critics argued, could have been that mirror, an unmasking of her public image, the revelation of her true face.
I had hoped, however, that in debate the Prime Minister would have answered this, and other public questions, all of which would have distilled the pressing national issues for voters this morning.
For instance, we would have understood better her defence of the Attorney General as point-man in this nasty electoral campaign, and particularly his personal attacks on ILP’s Anna Deonarine.
Already, the Law Association president has condemned the AG’s behaviour, while two former attorneys-general and a senior counsel have scolded him.
Last week also, the AG retreated humiliatingly from three highly-publicised, legal clashes with the Tobago House of Assembly – the multi-million dollar Milshirv office complex, the Bacolet Aquatic Centre, and the community micro project.
During the THA election campaign the AG, supported by the PM, questioned the financial integrity of the Milshirv project, and openly hinted that THA members had corrupted the process.
We look to see whether the Law Association president Seenath Jairam will dance out of summoning his 15-man disciplinary committee to determine whether the AG’s behaviour breached the profession’s code of ethics.
Here are some of the questions that could have been put to the PM during the debate, questions for her to answer:
• The PNM claims that you destroyed its development framework and security apparatus for the country. Detail your government’s achievements since May 2010?
• A US think tank says that gangs are now stronger than your government even though you have had four ministers and two ministers of state in National Security. Is that a fair conclusion?
• Please explain your reasons for appointing Gary Griffith as National Security Minister while he is under police investigation?
• Your lawyer in the emailgate scandal is seen as attempting to create legal hurdles on your behalf. Have you acceded to the Integrity Commission’s request that you authorise the Internet provider to hand over your records? If not, why?
• Corruption has been identified in some 23 of the 30 wholly-owned State enterprises. It is alleged that the Sports Company’s programmes are responsible, in the main, for the recent gang murders in Malabar. Please, explain?
• The US government in February 2012 wrote to you expressing its concerns about the award of a US$5.3 billion project in the energy sector. How have you addressed those concerns?
• WASA has been ordered by the International Court of Arbitration to pay $100 million to the Israeli company, Merhav Merkorot Development, for breach of contract. PM, you questioned the contract in 2010; it was cancelled, allegedly by your Environment Minister, then WASA’s CEO, triggering the arbitration. Will your AG be suing Minister Ganga Singh as he has done at Petrotrin and E-teck?
• George Nicholas, as chairman of Caribbean Airlines, claimed publicly in November 2012 that the airline made a $200 million profit; he then donated US$5 million to your Children’s Life Fund? Was this just theatrics? What actions have you taken?
• Explain our ranking on the International Corruption Index; explain also, the findings of IMF Report and the T&T-Venezuela natural gas controversy.
Since May 2010, questions, without answers, abound. I hope that the results tonight will provide T&T with the answer.
* Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in
communication and management.