You are here
Connecting the dots to Kamla
“Another big challenge in leadership efforts is credibility—getting people to believe the message. Many things contribute to credibility: the track record of the person delivering the message; the content of the message itself; the communicator’s reputation for integrity and trustworthiness, and the consistency between word and deeds.”
John P Kotter:
What Leaders Really Do
In all the confusion occasioned by the fiasco over Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been portrayed as a hapless victim of incompetent, mendacious officials. Under the official narrative, the PM was forced to surreptitiously conduct her own investigations unbeknown to Cabinet and country to get the truth over the legislation’s premature proclamation.
What has been missing in all the analysis thus far is the fact that the Prime Minister contributed to the developments which ensued, and ultimately has direct responsibility for the Section 34 fiasco. The Prime Minister herself provided the enabling environment which encouraged the passage and eventual proclamation of the legislation which would prove so beneficial to the party’s financiers. As leader, she fostered a culture that made it all possible.
In a development that was unremarked at the time of the euphoria that accompanied her being sworn into office, the Prime Minister personally invited, or caused to be invited, to her swearing-in ceremony, Cheryl Galbaransingh, the wife of Ishwar Galbaransingh, one of the more prominent of the co-accused in the Piarco Airport corruption case. The picture which appeared in the Newsday newspaper was hard to miss. There was the elegant figure of Mrs Galbaransingh, gazing approvingly on Mrs Persad-Bissessar, as a specially invited guest at the Prime Minister’s finest hour.
That picture sent two messages. The first one: that the banishment from polite society, otherwise known as the cocktail-party circuit, as a direct result of the Galbaransingh association with the Piarco Airport scandal, had come to an end. Even if the PM did not mention a word, the second message was even harder to miss. It was that the Prime Minister now had the back of the Galbaransinghs, whom the UNC party line had identified as the victim of a political prosecution instigated by the PNM.
We shall leave aside for the moment the alleged May 2010 $2.8 million donation to the PP’s election campaign by the Ferguson and Galbaransingh-owned Royal Castle. Kotter makes the point that leaders communicate not only through speeches but through their actions and the action of inviting Mrs Galbaransingh would have sent a powerful message to Galbaransingh and Ferguson that, well, “we have your back.” Not that it was necessary to telegraph such a message.
During the election campaign, another co-accused had raised his head, in the form of former St Joseph MP Carlos John, who, it was reported, was the UNC emissary who had gone to the then sitting puisne judge with an offer to be the party’s candidate for John’s former St Joseph seat.
The photographs of John, who is a co-accused with Galbaransingh on a corruption charge, accompanying Volney to his screening by the UNC, were carried in all the media, sending another powerful signal. The message was clear: under the PP administration the corruption-accused not only had nothing to fear but they could expect to be taken care of.
John was later to function as the campaign manager for Volney’s eventually successful campaign. The Justice Minister appointed by the PM, the man entrusted with laying the bill providing an amnesty to corruption-accused, entered office owing his seat to a man facing corruption charges.
The PP Government came into office with the Piarco accused and their collaborators as known friends of the administration and with key access to the highest levels of the Government. Far from the PM’s declaration that Section 34 was not in keeping with government policy, given the closeness of the Prime Minister with some of the accused, no PP Member of Parliament or Cabinet member was likely to have questioned if the intent of the bill was to undo the “political prosecution” of Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
Official policy, as articulated by Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal and National Security Minister and UNC chairman Jack Warner, was that both Galbaransingh and Ferguson were innocent until proven guilty and therefore fully entitled to benefit from continuing state contracts. By that definition, one expects the Government to utilise the services of Calder Hart, who it should be recalled, is yet to be charged with an offence.
The Prime Minister therefore has to be held responsible for fostering a Cabinet culture which was aimed at facilitating the Piarco and other corruption-accused. Even if they recognised that the act would have benefited Ferguson, Galbaransingh, John and others, Cabinet members would have gone along with it as the party’s official policy.
The Prime Minister has yet to explain how Volney, with his known link to persons currently before the courts, was able to introduce amendments to Section 34 to the Parliament without reference to, or approval by the Legislative Review Committee or the Cabinet.
And most importantly, as Prime Minister, and, as we are being constantly reminded, “distinguished Senior Counsel,” how could she have allowed it? The Section 34 fiasco represents either gross incompetence through wilful neglect or a deliberate conspiracy perpetrated on the public. Either way, the buck stops at the PM.
Maxie Cuffie runs a media consultancy, Integrated Media Company Ltd, is an economics graduate of the UWI and holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow in Public Policy and Management.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.