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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Dark clouds, thunder and showers outside the Parliament yesterday marked resumption of business for MPs.

Inside the building, it was UNC MP Rudy Indarsingh’s comments to PNM MP Randall Mitchell prior to yesterday’s sitting, which seemed to indicate the Opposition’s view of what has marked Government’s term.

“So how was your two years...what all you really achieve?” Indarsingh enquired.

“I bringing out a video...” Mitchell quipped.

“... Buh the only thing all you do is try to lock up a former AG,” Indarsingh observed dryly.

“...And I know you was glad for that,” PNM’s Fitzgerald Hinds added.

Despite the good humour, Indarsingh leapt into action during proceedings when PNM’s Stuart Young replying to a query, brought “court” into the picture.

On the consequences of the impending departure of pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, it was Young’s opinion that even if people stopped holding positions, arrangements could be made for them to give evidence in court cases.

In Indarsingh’s view, Young’s mistake was to add something else to his statement, “....Some former ministers may have to come to court to give evidence...” Young declared.

“Low conduct!” Indarsingh complained.

Post-recess greetings at yesterday’s resumption had been confined to assorted exchanges (among both sides), a hug (between Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and PNM’s Terrence Deyalsingh) and brief statement (from House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis).

The seat of PNM’s Maxie Cuffie was conspicuously empty as he remains in Intensive Care at St Clair Medical Centre, two years after an initial medical episode.

Missing too, was Prime Minister Keith Rowley, returning Monday from US health checks. His OPM office will be the next base for a ramped-up Communication unit, officials said, relieving some of Cuffie’s burden.

Also out was PNM MP Marlene McDonald, following recent surgery at St Claire Medical Centre, leaving with a clean bill of health, it’s confirmed.

Her political career is another issue. Yesterday, McDonald’s PoS South name plate on the PNM back bench was punted all the way back to her former last seat on the bench, following her recent 48 hour rehire-refire ordeal.

McDonald spent a few hours, promoted further up the bench when she became Public Utilities Minister on June 30. But now it’s back to the end (of the row).

Yesterday, while Government was rapid with responses to (external) regional hurricane devastation, locally, the administration’s two-year mark arrived with ailing public stocks, in tandem with the ill-health of some frontliners.

Negative reviews should be no surprise. And not necessarily because of difficult economic circumstances. Every strata of society tells a story. It particularly didn’t require a recent headline to confirm to the rest of the world that “Women Not Safe” in T&T.

A die-hard southern PNM official, acknowledging Government’s unpopularity, believes belt-tightening will be adjusted. He feels John Public’s struggle for food, shelter and safety will be forgotten as initiatives open up ahead, jobs arise and Government’s anti-corruption push throttles up. He projects that combination, appropriately doled out would result in a population being grateful the PNM “has taken T&T through difficult economic circumstances with minimal social upheaval.”

Whether legal dramas pacify public concern on unemployment and bread prices, is yet to unfold.

Along with whether fulfilled PNM manifesto pledges on corruption-hunting will cancel out failure to meet other manifesto pledges to deal with crime and improving Tobago links.

Aspects of the latter scenario played out in recent Joint Select Committee scrutiny of the ferry service involving members of Government, Opposition and Independent benches.

Government members focused, however, on perceived ferry issues under the past PP tenure and Opposition members focused on such under the current Government. An approach while demonstrating the perils of JSC composition on the probers’ side, revealed an assortment of issues among those being probed.

Conflict among past Board members. With Port management. Insufficient time to obtain a ferry recently. Questions arising from some Ministers’ evidence. And that of people in past and present acquisitions. Disastrous impact on Tobago business. Lack of presence by Tobago House of Assembly leaders at an event which focused on the biggest problem affecting their island.

(Nobody was counting JSC member Franklin Khan’s faux pas, “Cobo, sorry, Cabo Star..” slipping out on Wednesday.)

How much of Government’s overall dilemma in the two years can be attributed to leadership deficiencies will continue to be revealed ahead—not limited to the next “Conversations with the Prime Minister” forum on Friday.

Leadership issues have held significance, not just for the PNM, but UNC. It was former AG John Jeremie, at the recent memorial for late leader Patrick Manning who noted T&T still lacks the leadership it needs.

Over now, to T&T’s leaders to prove him wrong. Or right.


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