We are probably not paying much attention to the decision of the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday last when the British Prime Minister’s decision to advise the Queen to suspend the British parliament was declared to be unlawful, null and void and of no effect.
The decision represents a complete refutation of the attempts by the Executive to decide on important matters by reference to partisan political advantage, or to spite objections or opposition to the Government’s wishes, when there are wider public interests to be considered.
It went badly for the UK Prime Minister because he put in no evidence to justify his decision. It is made clear that the Court does not tolerate hiding or fudging reasons.
The Court acted in support of fundamental principles, one of which it stated: “is Parliamentary accountability: in the words of Lord Bingham, senior Law Lord, the conduct of government by a Prime Minister and Cabinet collectively responsible and accountable to Parliament lies at the heart of Westminster democracy.”
Interestingly, the dictum of Lord Bingham (now deceased) to which the Court referred, was taken from a Trinidad and Tobago case in the Privy Council, in 2006, Girlie Bobb v Patrick Manning. The case arose out of the 18-18 deadlock in Parliament.
In that case Lord Bingham also said: “The Board agreed with the Appellants that irresponsible, unaccountable government is the antithesis of the democratic model on which the state of Trinidad and Tobago is founded.”
Re-statement of these constitutional principles helps us further to understand why it is quite wrong not to tell us how the the TT$72 million fiasco contract between the Housing Development Corporation (the HDC) and the Chinese construction company, Gezhouba Group International Engineering (Gezhouba) came about and to identify who was responsible for it and any liabilities flowing therefrom.
It also tells us why the pertinent details, including the identity of all partners and associates of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union in the proposed Petrotrin acquisition must be disclosed when settled. Citizens now know of the obligation and have the burden to disclose source of funds in the simplest of bank transactions. It is not unpatriotic to ask for this information or who is taking the huge existing debt burden, if not the acquirer?
Neither status nor friend ting justifies bobbing and weaving around accountability. The above judicial statements also contain the homely message that our governments must treat the electorate as adults and not insult our intelligence by trying to hide the facts or bawling us up.
In that vein, I was pleased last week Monday with the calm approach of the Ministerial team of monitors of Tropical Storm Karen comprising Stuart Young, Rohan Sinanan, Kazim Hosein, Dr Terrence Deyalsingh and Robert Le Hunte. Their two media conferences were re-assuring. They gave us facts and the best available weather predictions.
Their approach was a surprise—the antithesis of the frequent bursts of authoritarian anger. It was more helpful that they explained Karen delivered nearly a month’s rainfall, rather than to dismiss our concerns as complaints about ‘an act of God’.
Ironically the credibility of these Ministers was enhanced by the tireless work of the television stations which gave us live coverage the length and breadth of the country, when we were fearful and at greatest risk.
It is ironic because it is the media, which is habitually being blasted for alleged agendas, that became valuable partners when their visual reports lent credence to official statements. I suppose that, if one of the Opposition gadflies had said anything disparaging that morning, the Ministers might have started yelling at us; but it is not necessary to rise to every provocation. Give us the facts and thereby pre-empt stupidness and/or let us judge for ourselves.
With much empathy for Bamboo No1 and No 3, Bourg Mulatresse, and Mount Lambert, the facts given about the volume of rainfall, permitted us nevertheless to assess positively the remedial work done, by way of de-silting, drainage and using pumps, learning from the Greenvale disaster of the previous year. We did not need to hear the constant cry of what others had done or failed to do.
Hear nuh boss, treat us like adults.