There are some who are boldly advocating that the section 34 nightmare has gone away because the minds of the citizenry have a ten-day storage period after which matters of urgent, public importance are automatically erased from memory. In response, I say, not this time. At the point of writing this article, the Prime Minister who has promised to make a statement on the matter has not yet broken her silence so what I state today is in the context of all that has occurred up to and before her much anticipated remarks about the issue at hand. And my sympathy goes out to the Prime Minister, whose government once again, has found itself in an embarrassing controversy that could have been avoided if she had been properly advised in a timely fashion about the implications and repercussions that would flow from an earlier than anticipated proclamation of the infamous section 34 which was laid to rest last week.
How often must the Prime Minister be called upon to cover the shameful acts of some of her members who are busily promoting self-interest at the peril of the welfare of the nation? This is not the first time that the intelligent Mrs Persad-Bissessar has to use all her political skills to quell the outrage of a significant portion of the population which is seriously challenging the accountability and transparency of her regime. The tremendous support for the march on Tuesday that was organised by the PNM is a matter that should concern this administration. Whether the thousands who participated in the march were ‘bussed in’ or not, the fact remains that they were prepared to show their faces in broad daylight in order to register their dissatisfaction with the present state of delivery of governance. That over the past few years persons have used as a convenient excuse the fear of victimisation for their absence at non-government organised events, yet used this occasion to demonstrate their disgust with the current state of affairs in the nation, is indicative that the nine or ten day memory syndrome can be overridden by the cumulative effect of a series of serious government blunders.
As I type these words, I am confident that the Prime Minister is reading the members of her Cabinet the Riot Act, reminding them that the assignment of their portfolios is a gift from her which can be taken away at the stroke of a pen. The honourable leader must be asking at least two major men in her ranks the justification for the apparent premature proclamation of certain sections of the Administration of Justice Act. And finally, the iron lady must be thinking that after all her hard work and effort to become the leader of this nation, she is undeserving of this kind of embarrassing action on the part of some of her colleagues. The President of the Republic who delivered an address at the ceremonial opening of the law term 2012-2013 said: “Moreover, we must be careful not to be cavalier in our approach to what we must do, every single one of us, to ensure that mistakes of the past are used, not as pawns in the blame games that weak and irresponsible people play, but as opportunities for learning.” And that is an important message to be appreciated—that the s34 mistake, if it can be termed as such, remains an error or oversight of the entire Parliament including the independent Senators.
Although only Senator Helen Drayton has to my knowledge expressly apologised for the omission to include white collar and other serious crimes in Schedule 6 of the Act, it is hoped that the other independent Senators recognise the fundamental role they play in the passage of legislation that can withstand the highest scrutiny. It is a lesson for all to learn that Parliament is not a place to promote oneself but to preserve our democracy. The Opposition must appreciate that it is charged with the duty to rigorously check the legislation brought by the government so that at the end of the day, the population is assured that good laws are passed. For those who advocate that enough has been said on the matter and it is time to move on, I respectfully beg to disagree. All the cliches in the world will not wash away the dirt that this regime has attracted as a result of the poor handling of this matter.
The Prime Minister has to wipe away her sweet smile and take decisive action. Being a strong leader means the having the ability to take appropriate action that is proportionate with the wrongdoing. The actions of Mary King, Collin Partap and Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, which never prompted a march or caused such public outrage as the s.34 issue, were sufficient to lay them to political rest. So like the rest of the population, I await the statement of the Prime Minister in order to determine whether we can really ‘move on.’