National Security Minister Jack Warner has described an editorial in the Jamaica Observer as an attack against the People's Partnership Government led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Warner, also chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), called on the newspaper to reveal the author of the editorial entitled "The more important issue is abuse of substance", which was published on Tuesday.
The editorial took note of former Government minister Verna St Rose Greaves's allegation that the Prime Minister had an issue which was interpreted to be a substance abuse problem, which Persad-Bissessar has refuted.
However, the editorial stated the abuse of substance in the form of "ethnic stocking" was a greater problem in this country.
In a release issued yesterday, Warner slammed the newspaper, questioning where it had the authority to suddenly speak of ethnic stocking.
Warner asked where was the voice of the Jamaica Observer when "ethnic stocking" was in its most dominant form under the People's National Movement (PNM).
"In a country which boasts of 'Many Nations; One People', one would never have believed that such an august institution would decline into such stealth racism, but it seems as though that even across the Caribbean, sensationalism seems to be the modus operandi for selling newspapers," stated Warner.
He questioned where was the Observer when now Government Minister Devant Maharaj had to seek legal action in order not to be passed over for promotion at the National Lotteries Control Board (NCLB).
Also, he asked further where was the Jamaica Observer when Ganga Persad Bissoon's appointment as Commissioner of State Lands was vetoed by former prime minister Patrick Manning and when a radio licence was denied to the Maha Sabha by the PNM Government.
"For more than 30 years, not a Hindu was appointed or elected as a member of government by the PNM, and yet the Observer dare speak about ethnic stocking? The old adage that cockroach should not meddle in fowl business is relevant to the Observer in this context," stated Warner.
The editorial's author, stated Warner, "clearly has a hidden agenda that transcends the decency of truth and the tenet of the journalistic profession of objective loyalty to the facts".
Warner said under this Government, the country has improved its ranking on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
"Is it possible that if 'ethnic stocking' is really taking place that the current preferred ethnicity may be the one to keep Trinidad and Tobago less corrupt?" asked Warner.
The Observer, he stated, must therefore salvage its integrity and reveal the author of the editorial.
"I guess this is another one of those Jamaican attacks of the past as 'T&T's oil will pass through it as a dose of salts' (as stated by former PM) Michael Manley," Warner said.
Ms Verna St Rose Greaves, Trinidad and Tobago's former minister of gender, youth and child development, raised many eyebrows in the region recently with her allegation that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar "has an issue which must be addressed frontally".
That, unfortunately, has been widely interpreted to mean substance abuse, the substance being alcohol. The upshot is that it has become common talk among Trinidadians and has been posted on YouTube, undoubtedly by politically motivated detractors.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has categorically denied the allegation, stating publicly that she has "no such problem" and would have "nothing further to say with respect to that".
Her Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, has come to her defence, suggesting that there is a case to answer. Whether any such action will materialise is yet to be seen. However, this type of rumour is the stuff of great calypsoes, in a country famous for making fun of politicians.
It is, though, an unfortunate distraction from the serious centripetal forces tearing the increasingly fragile political coalition which constitutes the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The real problem in the energy-rich republic is not substance abuse, but the abuse of substance. By that we mean the abuse of the substance of government business because of the ethnic stocking of public offices and the widespread perception of corruption.
This year, on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, Trinidad and Tobago was ranked 80 out of 176 countries, down from 71 in 2011. In fact, Trinidad and Tobago scored 39 on a scale of 100, on par with Jamaica and behind the rest of the Caribbean islands.
One of the egregious aspects of corruption is what is known as "ethnic stocking"— the appointment to public office, including overseas posts, on the basis of ethnicity to ensure ethnic monopoly of political power.
Notwithstanding Minister Jack Warner, the current Government of Trinidad and Tobago has systematically practised ethnic stocking; reward- ing individuals with positions even though they not qualified, either by professional training or by pertinent transferable work experience.
The instances of local appointments are too numerous to discuss, but the embarrassment associated with overseas appointees poses reputational damage. Ms Therese Baptiste-Cornelis was fired as ambassador to the United Nations, Geneva, after some inappropriate remarks. There was even a case of a diplomat assigned to the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London being charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
Many people in Trinidad and Tobago do not want to tackle ethnic stocking because persons who raise the issue are accused of being racist, in a society guilty of self-delusion about racial harmony.
There needs to be a parliamentary review of appointees to local and overseas posts to ensure that they possess the necessary qualifications and years of pertinent experience, and to establish a transparent selection process free of ethnic bias.