It ought to be becoming clear to all that the lame excuses which are offered for the dire results of our failing governance are reflections of rudderless leadership, of which we have been excessively tolerant.
Public dissatisfaction has condemned the Office of the President to regular memes. I only bother to resurrect reference to that office because the President last week surfaced to exhort the members of Parliament to co-operate with national interests in mind.
Unfortunately, Parliament and party politics as vessels for selfless service have already sunk deeper than Gypsy’s notorious sinking ship. It is not the robust partisan exchanges in the Parliament that are disturbing—it is the old talk and blame game. These also reflect rudderless leadership.
Let us take a simple example of a fortnight ago. The Government lynched the first hearing of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the deaths of four divers in the Paria Fuel tragedy by failing to provide the basic requirements to enable the conduct of the CoE.
The Attorney General, who is on credibility probation, suggested that inquiries for that failure should be directed to the Office of the President. It is elementary that the President acts in relation to Commissions of Enquiry in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or an authorised minister.
The Attorney General’s attempt to place accountability for the false start of the Paria CoE on the office of President shows him up to be the latest player in the blame game.
In addition, it is too late for pious exhortations from the President—especially when the elites have campaign financed and otherwise sucked-up to political parties, regardless of the conduct of their leaders and satellites, and have benefitted from slackness in governance.
Meanwhile, as indicated below, it is acknowledged that corruption is facilitating crime “in a very direct way”.
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, a member of the Cabinet far longer than the current Attorney General, has a repertoire of seemingly endless, ineffective plasters for the sore of murderous crime.
On Tuesday last, the Trinidad Express newspaper reported that Minister Hinds and purported police “analysis” tied the increase in murders to the increase in the number of illegal firearms in the country. Well duh—how do the guns get in here?
According to that report, the Minister described the challenge as “dealing with guns coming in from both legal and illegal ports of entry in this country”. He “noted that corruption is fuelling the criminal enterprise” and that “corruption is a major problem in this country and it is impacting the crime situation in a very direct way”.
Earlier this year, in attempting to clarify a remark that it was not part of his duty to ensure that people feel safe, Minister Hinds stated that his “role does not involve operational aspects of law enforcement” but “among his primary responsibilities was to ensure that the law enforcement agencies are properly resourced”.
In discharge of that admitted primary responsibility, urgent accountability is required from the Minister regarding the scanners on the ports, which senior Customs officials have reported are obsolete or non-functional. I guess they are first cousins to almost half of the CCTV cameras in public spaces, which the Minister reported to Parliament to be “non-functional or not fully functional”.
Let us recall also the previous Kamla Persad-Bissessar led Government’s 2010 cancellation of the contract for border patrol vessels and the hiatus until this current Government procured new vessels. There were also relatively recent issues with the maintenance of older Coastguard vessels.
For those who can only now see that tolerance for poor governance—while the drug and gun trade flourishes—does in fact endanger all citizens and not just those in criminal hotspots, I remind readers of my concern expressed in 2003:
“When the society is in constant turmoil, is divided by unjust material inequality and is distorted by the drug trade, the whole country could become one big wet fete where everything is up for grabs by the disadvantaged to whom the elected government has become irrelevant.”
We are currently being badly burned by the fire with which successive Governments have been playing.