A familiar depression: Daly bemoans PNM’s poor communication and belligerence

This time last week, a familiar depression settled on me. It is best described by referring to some of what I wrote in November 2010, six months after the so-called “People’s Partnership Government” was in office.

Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and former Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal. (Courtesy Baltimore Post)
Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and former Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

At that time, I suggested: “The bottom line is that a mere six months in office this Government is already super sensitive to intelligent commentary.”

I asked: “Are we going to bump along the same old rutted roads” and I worried about “indecision during six months of inaugural meandering.” (See The Daly Commentaries pages 375, 376 and 389).

I cannot yet say definitively whether the promise of this new PNM Government is withering before our eyes after six months because the Government’s communications are poor, bumbling and reactive.

If it discovered gold under the GTL building on the Petrotrin compound, its spokespersons would somehow manage to allow others to make the gold look like brass.

Look at what has happened to minister Camille Robinson-Regis. It is entirely regrettable that someone’s banking business should find its way into the public domain.

Photo: Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie.
Photo: Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie.

I endorse the sensible statement of the President of Amcham that: “all persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy, even if a process of further review is undertaken. Financial Institutions should also always have adequate procedures to protect customers’ privacy.”

Nevertheless, the unfortunate disclosure having been made in the media, the response to it needed to be measured and directed towards whether there had been compliance with current bank procedures regarding source of funds declarations.

Unfortunately, as with some of the responses to the Raymond Tim Kee issue, belligerent partisan blows were dealt against the newspaper, the bank, and sundry commentators.

If the Bank was requiring its customer to comply with source of funds requirements, there are no political sides to be taken with regard to such compliance.

In fact, had Mrs Robinson-Regis been properly advised, she would have kept in the forefront of her mind that as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister of Government, she is a PEP—that is, a politically exposed person—to whom a higher degree of scrutiny is applied as anti-money laundering guidelines mandate.

Photo: Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis. (Courtesy PNM)
Photo: Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis.
(Courtesy PNM)

Financial Institutions are jumpy over compliance with these guidelines because the penalties are great and slackness can have international repercussions.

Some years ago, when I was a non-executive director of a leading financial institution, I went into the institution to deposit a cheque that represented the proceeds of the sale of a car.

To her eternal credit, the teller politely, but firmly, insisted that I must complete a source of funds declaration.

In the case of Mrs Robinson-Regis, the content and the tone of her responses as well as those of the PNM were not only distressingly belligerent. They did not address the fundamental issue of compliance, particularly in respect of a politically exposed person.

Communication of the discontinuance of the lawsuit against Malcolm Jones was equally deficient, even though there was a striking point in the Government’s favour, namely that the lead attorney, who had advised the commencement of the proceedings, was now apparently of the view—in the light of the developments since the commencement—that the proceedings were no longer sustainable.

Photo: Former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones (centre). (Courtesy Firstmagazine.com)
Photo: Former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones (centre).
(Courtesy Firstmagazine.com)

Unfortunately, that was not skilfully put centre stage in the Government’s response to the suspicion that Mr Jones was given a merciful but an unmeritorious exit from the proceedings.

Let’s see what the Law Association makes of it.

Perhaps the serious deficiency in Government communications is the result of not anticipating the inevitability of cynical responses from a citizenry whose trust in persons in public life is at an all time low.

Hopefully, it cannot be that the only views that matter are those of the zealot circle, typified by Mayor Clyde Paul, of Point Fortin.

Regarding minister Marlene McDonald, Fixin’ T&T has put pages of evidence into the public domain.

There may be some irony in this though. I refer to the current belief in the existence of “a media housing list”, which allegedly establishes preferential treatment of members of the media in the distribution of Government housing stock.

Photo: Housing Minister Marlene McDonald. (Copyright Andy Hypolite/Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Housing Minister Marlene McDonald.
(Copyright Andy Hypolite/Trinidad Guardian)

When, as is inevitable, the alleged list—if real—is disclosed, some who have mocked the distress of minister Robinson-Regis at the breach of confidentiality, may have some explaining to do, including an explanation of why this news has been suppressed.

The Government better take a hard look at the operations of both its official communications portfolio and  its party’s public relations.

Regardless of its five-year tenure, it will not be possible to run a country where the citizens are constantly angry, disaffected or suspicious.

Most importantly, it is urgent to rebut the feeling that “if the priest could play who is we” in order to have the requisite moral authority to take firm steps against crime.

Meanwhile, our young gymnasts, stay strong. Your careers may be the victim of narrow mindedness and hypocrisy.

Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015. (Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)
Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015. Williams and her alternate, Marisa Dick, are being probed by the TTGF.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)
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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    The PNM was never good at propaganda & spin but are very confidential & some may say secretive…

  2. LOL half of them lose weight by now

  3. I would admit that their communication arm needs a kick in the ass.

  4. I don’t think the PNM will be under pressure at the local elections. Understandably too. The last government was that bad and the memory is still fresh.
    But we need a government that doesn’t only rate themselves in comparison with the last administration.

  5. In these trying times,the prime minister should be addressing the nation at least once a month,keeping the nation up to date on what the government is doing.

  6. Unfortunately I would have to agree with Martin Daly’s article. PNM is quite early exhibiting some unsavory aloofness. Communications at this point desperately need to be improved otherwise they will feel the pinch at the Local Elections

  7. Yeah the communication is an issue for me

  8. True. Room for improvement. One thing is for sure, I prefer a few mishandled episodes and silence rather than being bamboozled with ubiquitous “your government working for you” messages. They should communicate more but please do not ever turn into that.

  9. Just yesterday I telling my mother this very same thing…..

  10. They could all take a page from the communication savvy of Clarence and Camille Rambharat.

    • At the risk of being cheeky, maybe it’s because they have more to communicate? Whether u like the man or not, he may be the hardest working minister! Glad he has the support of his family, but working mon-sun can take a toll on ur family life. I have to commend him for that, he has been actively meeting with the various stakeholders around the country.

    • Gerard Emile Zatopek Pinard – the irony in your statement comes in the form of a Earl Best article on this very page today where he claims that Clarence has gone silent. :/

    • Anthony Morgan Beach, that’s what I was referring to. But apparently Earl Best is not exactly social media savvy.

    • In fairness…the claim is that he has gone silent on issues of national interest. Which may very well be true-whether it is strategy or he just does not have time. Maybe as he is one of the ministers that many have faith and trust in, the media can ask for a statement on a particular issue?

  11. Communication seems to be the perenial PNM problem. They work and perhaps produce but no one knows. They need to put the GISL to work.

    • I’ve often heard it said that “we do so many wonderful things… our only ‘flaw’ is we aren’t good as we can at explaining how wonderful we are to everyone else.”
      Lol. I’m always a bit unconvinced by that.

    • That’s why I said no one knows. 🙂 We’ll only know if they tell us (and we can confirm). So, we wait…

    • I agree to an extent. I had said on one of Clarence Rambharat’s posts that he is very good at communucating what he is doing. Why do the other Ministers do the same. By the same token, the communication from the office of the PM seems to also be lacking. We need information disseminated in a timely manner also. So for ppl who really want to get a holistic understanding of the gov’t achievements or otherwise, you have to scan the newspapers, social media-including the opposition, Parliament, Ministries etc to try to figure what is going on. To be honest, what I do not appreciate is the growing trend in the communication-what and how-where I am left feeling like u pissing in my face and telling me is rain. Moreover, I noted some comments made by Mariano Brown, and supporters bashed him. I have listened to him for a long time, and find his contributions informative. So what, is the party back to the days of no dog bark, where we see those with dissenting views/positions ostracised? If so, that is a slippery slope.

    • Nerisha, I think part of the PNM’s problem is that they are moving into the 21st century but they have a lot of members who still think that no one in the party should have another opinion. For their sakes, I hope that changes, because if it does not it will be like the proverbial albatross.

    • Exactly! U clearly see a party divided but I hope they have the interests of the nation at heart and put together egos and get the work done, because they do have the intellectual resources. Why has Conrad Enill not been approached to be part of any discussion on energy? He seemed knowledgeable about tge subject matter.

    • No one asking Adrian Clarke anything about reducing corruption …..lol

  12. Hope they heed the warning signals and don’t circle their wagons and scream “the media elites don’t like us” like the last bunch.

  13. Communication is again mentioned – but not a damn dog bark

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