I don’t know what plans he has for his vacation, but I strongly recommend to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that he spend all of it in solitary self-confinement seeking guidance from whatever deity or deities he believes in regarding his leadership capabilities.
I don’t care whether it’s an ashram, a monastery or Papa Neezer’s shrine, I honestly believe that Keithos can benefit from a mega-dose of divine intervention to help him determine whether he has what it takes to lead this cussed country out of the morass it has been mired in for decades.
By now, he must recognise that his leadership of the nation has fallen short of the expectations of most citizens. That after almost one year at the helm his Government has nothing tangible to show.
So much so that, if it continues in this mode, it would be stricken with rigor mortis and, rather than mark its anniversary with a celebration on September 7, it should hold a wake.
This Government has not cleaned a drain, fixed a pothole, installed a street light, brought water to the thirsty, reined in galloping crime, created new jobs, built or completed a new school…
The only thing it can boast of is that, thus far, none of its ministers or top officials has stolen from the public purse. And that might be more because the coffers are empty rather than any moral rectitude on their part.
To misuse a scientific term, the inertia in governance is explosive.
Look, those of us who are not sycophants of one brand or other know that Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her gang raped the country every which way and blew close to TT$300 billion in five years with precious little to show for it.
They borrowed money to increase the public debt, and owed every dog and his brother more billions when they were booted out of office.
In fact, their abuse of power and misuse of money were what caused the electorate to kick them hard in their butts one year ago.
We also know that energy revenues fell precipitously since the PNM took office. For example, it dropped from TT$6.15 billion to TT$1.67 billion between October 2015 and January 2016—and possibly worse between February and July—rendering management of the economy a nightmare.
But you know what, Keithos? We are fed up hearing what Kamla and her gangsters did or did not do.
The only time you and your Cabinet colleagues should mention their names henceforth is to announce their arrests, detail the charges against them, and to tell us what cells they occupy in prison.
Failing that, I’ll say like CLR James used to: shut up!
While money is important to do most things a government needs to do, there are many more things that a good leader can say or do to inspire or motivate his or her people. Britain’s economy and its war machinery were inferior to Nazi Germany’s when Winston Churchill rallied his countrymen to make immense sacrifices, millions of lives included, to turn the tide and defeat Hitler.
But to achieve such goals, one must lead by example—drive ordinary vehicles, eliminate lavish receptions, eat local and let people see you do that. And, most of all, ensure that you, your family and Cabinet colleagues are above reproach.
I know the ideals I’m setting out are tough on a people who have grown accustomed to living the good life. But if you want to change people’s work ethic, their lifestyles and adjust their expectations during harsh times, you must first change and adjust yours.
The motto at Sandhurst, the military academy where I was trained and from which I graduated exactly 50 years ago, is simply: “Serve to lead”.
What am I asking of the Prime Minister? Example one: runaway crime, especially murders, is of urgent and critical concern. Inspector Michael Seales, president of the representative association, is reported as saying to a call by Minister Edmund Dillon for an intensification of joint army-police patrols, we’ll cooperate—but pay us our money first.
In other words, your money or your life, which is preposterous, coming from a senior police officer.
As leader of the nation, the PM should address police officers directly and rally them to engage in a massive, sustained assault against the 10,000 or so criminals who are terrorising the nation.
With no apologies to General Dillon, this is no time for “architecture”, this is a time for war, a fight to the finish.
Likewise, the PM must “ground” with public servants, daily-paid workers, teachers, energy sector workers, CEPEP, URP, farmers—in other words, everyone from whom you are demanding productivity—and motivate them to rescue the nation from the brink of becoming a failed state.
This is not about micromanagement, this is about leadership of a calibre we’ve never had in our history.
It’s a tall order.
Keithos either has it, or he doesn’t.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Raffique Shah’s follow-up column as he offers an apology and expresses concern for the health of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley; and opens up on his own life with Parkinson’s Disease.