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Error after error
Halfway through its five-year term, the People’s Partnership coalition government has immersed itself in a quagmire of unbelievable conflict and questionable/incompetent governance practices.
It has been a form of governance, in style and substance, in which the ruling regime has seemed fated to commit error after error to the point that the view is emerging that it is not a matter of habitual errors but an inherent incapacity of the regime to provide the quality governance promised.
At the level of the coalition, the parties have failed to achieve the intent stated in the Fyzabad Accord. In its place are crisis meetings amongst the leaders that offer photo ops with empty boasts of the coalition being “stronger than ever.” One party has defected.
Every one of the major crises faced by the government has rubbed another coat of sheen off the coalition government. Combined, the crises have cost the PP large quantities of the substantial political currency it was elected to office with. In the main, the crises have been self-inflicted. The first big one, the Reshmi Ramnarine affair, remains unexplained.
Another garrulously contentious issue which reeked of self-serving was the award of the status of Senior Counsel by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to themselves. To compound their troubles, their gift of similar awards to an appeal court judge and the Chief Justice was so severely criticised by the most senior of Senior and Queen’s Counsel that the judges were forced to return the silky awards.
Over the two-and-a-half year period of government, the Prime Minister has fired three ministers for what she considered inappropriate actions. At the same time though, the PM has clung for dear life to Jack Warner while many serious allegations are made against him locally and internationally; even a cabinet colleague said he should step aside to be investigated.
Warner in fact refused to be investigated by the international football body that he was a senior member of for decades.
At the level of central government and in the state enterprise sector, cabinet appointments to boards and other senior positions have drawn allegations of racial preference for Indos over Afros. The observation has been that the PP government, predominantly Indo-Trinidadian, has been perpetuating a form of discrimination that it rightly condemned the Afro-Trinbago PNM for.
Undoubtedly, the government’s biggest disaster to date, again self-inflicted, has been the premature and partial proclamation of Section 34. In so doing, the Cabinet reneged on assurances given to the contrary by the Justice Minister on behalf of the government.
Included amongst those who said nothing to prevent premature promulgation was the Attorney General, who had promised that matters against the Piarco accused would be expeditiously prosecuted; yet he sat in two cabinet meetings which decided to have Section 34 proclaimed knowing it would result in the possible freeing of the Piarco accused.
An opinion poll could indicate whether the action taken and responses given by the Prime Minister and members of her Cabinet satisfied the national right to know the whole truth.
Then there have been the pressure-induced: the inability to take the jamming from a media environment alive and cynical, anti-media comments by Minister Warner and his fruitless attempts to ban the police from telling the story of a crime wave that remains virulent and dangerous. Similarly, the offensive e-mails of the hapless yet cunning, Brer Anancy-type storytelling of Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed drew anxious attention.
The dangerous undercurrent of both these attacks is a disposition to attempt to silence media from investigating, reporting and analysing the obvious failures and questionable practices of the government. Still pending are questions over the wisdom of cancelling the OPVs.
If the State ends up having to pay the reported $1.3 billion in compensation, $200 million less than it would have cost to acquire the vessels, it would be a disaster of a decision that rivals, even possibly surpasses, the Section 34 fiasco in terms of questionable practices and at best poor decision-making by the government.
At the level of direct governance, two of the major promises of the PP government: to return the economy to growth and to uproot criminality in the society have not been achieved. Continuing multi-billion dollar deficits, a third year of economic decline in all of the major sectors including energy, non-energy manufacturing, construction and agriculture are recorded in the review of the economy.
While reduced, the criminal organisation and culture have not been penetrated and attenuated notwithstanding a three-month state of emergency in late 2011.
On the plus side, the management of the Clico CL financial debacle, developed under PNM rule, has been creditably managed.
To be continued
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