Daly Bread: Crapaud, millstones and talent; of Moses, Young and Lewis

The biblical Moses was hidden in the bulrushes by his mother, fearful of an edict that all male Hebrew babies were to be drowned. The bulrushes were the reeds along the banks of the river Nile. Despite his origin, Moses was saved and eventually became the person trusted to receive the Ten Commandments.

Our foreign minister, Senator Dennis Moses, has been hidden in the political bulrushes for most of his time in office. He did emerge last Tuesday to state the government’s view of the contentious Rio Treaty and related matters concerning the visit of the Venezuelan vice-presidential delegation on 27 March.

Photo: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Caricom Dennis Moses (right).
(via Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Caricom)

The prime minister joined in the discussion on Thursday last, with a further explanation of our position on Venezuela and produced a video made as long ago as September 2019.

These interventions were deplorably late because the controversy surrounding the visit of the Venezuelan vice-presidential delegation had been intense for two months previously.

Describing the media criticism his government has suffered as ‘misrepresentation and speculation’ is not justified. It was while they were wriggling around the duty to account for this important foreign policy matter and failing to make full disclosure that the government’s credibility was damaged.

Stuart Young, the minister of national security, stumbled, credibility hurt. The invisibility of Moses and much of the foreign affairs burden of Venezuela being thrown on him contributed to this. He also stumbled during the information hiatus because of his tendency to be distrustful of any opinion that is different from his, or to see jumbies of ‘mischief’ everywhere.

Minister Young is like fidus Achates, who, in legend, was the good and faithful companion of Aeneas, the towering Trojan leader. However, in the epic poem about Aeneas, Achates is excessively silent, speaking only four lines in the entire epic. Our mostly mute Moses therefore receives my casting as Achates.

Photo: Minister of National Security Stuart Young prepares to face journalists at a virtual media conference on 7 May 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Nevertheless, no one can dispute the fidelity of Young to the prime minister in the course of the many different Cabinet duties thrust upon him. He has a high profile presence in Ministry of Energy meetings, here and abroad, as well as responsibility for some sensitive legal matters. The weight of his excessive ministerial burdens is evidence of a lack of available talent to fill Cabinet positions and an indication of millstones in the Cabinet.

Millstones have a history in the PNM. Dr Eric Williams, our first prime minister, lamented having ‘millstones’ in the Parliament, who were unsuitable for appointment as ministers. Referring to the preferred candidates of certain party groups, Dr Williams also once said in frustration at a political meeting, that ‘if PNM put up a crapaud in a balisier tie, all yuh would vote for it’.

In the coming General Election, for the sake of the country, we really need to avoid having a dearth of competent and articulate persons in the Parliament—no crapaud, no millstones please. Both parties need to relieve us of the talent drought.

Given that he has professed that ‘he is his own man’, Brian Manning looks good.  By contrast, I was not impressed by the appearance of Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) as a PNM hopeful, about which ‘Team Thema’ was unhappy.

Team Thema comprises huge groups of supporters of gymnast Thema Williams, (my pro bono client), who was cruelly deprived of her opportunity to compete in the 2016 Olympics when officials of the Gymnastics Federation acted with ‘entrenched biases’—for which the High Court later condemned them.

Photo: TTOC president Brian Lewis (right) and general secretary Annette Knott.
(via TTOC)

When they withdrew Thema, there was immediate public outcry. Thema testified that TTOC never contacted her.  Allegedly, without so much as a glance in her direction, Lewis oversaw the ratification of Thema’s replacement on the basis of the involvement of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

Could the grave injustice have been avoided had Lewis and his crew looked into the dirty deed and cared about Thema’s career?

Perhaps Lewis, although not a General Election candidate as he had hoped, will get an opportunity to support amends being made with respect to the outstanding damages payable to Thema, about which the current minister of sport was badly advised.

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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. “biblical Moses”, “Achates”, “millstones”? Methinks you’re being too kind Sir.

  2. Covid-19 has done wonderful things. We see the miracle of the dumb being able to speak- Moses and Jennifer

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