WOMEN and children's rights activist Hazel Brown is fairly pleased with the way Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has so far conducted herself in office.
However, she is unhappy with the fact that, after pushing for more women in positions of political power, that vision could be tainted by recent allegations of impropriety against women Government officials.
Two weeks ago, former planning minister Mary King was fired by the PM, after a Sunday Express investigation revealed that she did not declare her interest in a family firm, Ixanos Ltd, which was awarded a contract by her ministry.
Last week, the PM herself came under scrutiny when it was revealed that she had stayed for free at the home of her friends, Ralph and Maureen Gopaul, who had won a $40 million bid for a National Petroleum transport contract. The PM has declared that her hands are clean.
"I am in fact very disturbed about the fact that the situation with Mrs King reflects adversely on two groups—women and on NGOs like the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI)," Brown said.
"She has managed to shatter their (TTTI's) credibility and it is not fair to them."
Brown added: "The woman issue got me. We said, "'Put women and they will make a difference' .... but all this doesn't look good where that is concerned."
Speaking on Persad-Bissessar's performance, Brown said she is impressed with the way the PM has managed her people so far, a feat no one else would have been able to accomplish with it getting "messy".
"I think she's done the best anyone else could have done and we should be thankful and hopeful," Brown said.
"In so far as performance as a 'woman' Prime Minister, it has been balanced and she has shown a flexible and compassionate style of governance that is different from what we experienced before," Brown said.
The activist said it should be taken into consideration that Persad-Bissessar would have faced—and continues to face—major challenges as woman in a male-dominated environment.
"This should be considered in making an assessment of her performance," Brown said.
Persad-Bissessar also brought a renewed sense of hope and a level of empowerment to the nation that its people had not seen or felt in sometime, she added.
"One of the things I was particularly impressed with was her approach to governance. She gave us all a sense that 'we can do it', whatever needed to be done," Brown said.
"This is a contrast when compared to the powerlessness and hopelessness that we were facing in 2010."
Asked whether Persad-Bissessar has at all lived up to one of her better-known platform promises of improved care and security for women and children, Brown said there has been more focus on that issue for the past year than there was in previous times.
"I am reasonably satisfied that she focuses on issues related to women and children," Brown said, "And she did so in a way that addressed national concerns but kept a regional vision of such matters should be handled. She was able to balance the national reality with international and regional situations."
Brown said Persad-Bissessar also seemed to have learned some lessons along the way, which will guide her in times to come.
In her overall assessment of the Government's performance, Brown said the Partnership has not yet lived up its own hype for the expectation of the citizenry.
"Given the level of expectation, I don't think they have, overall, come up to mark in terms of their performance. Even given the difficult, I expected a lot better from a lot of them."
Yet an unexpected choice rose to the top of Brown's list of ministers who deserved some praise—Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath.
"He was not one that I might have put at the top of my list but in terms of the method required to deal with T&T, he has some shown real mettle," she said.
Brown said her opinion was not based solely on the feats that have made it to the newspapers.
"This is also based on what I know he has been doing, without the showmanship and the loud-speaking that you get from some others."
She said, though, that T&T does not make it easy for anyone and this country's problems would never have gone away in a year.
"Trinidad and Tobago is a difficult place to rule and run," Brown said.
"It has, shall we say, ingrown faults and it is not an easy place to govern. Any government who was faced with the T&T of 2010 could not reasonably be expected to fix it in a year. T&T people are a hard nut to crack."