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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was right to fire former minister of the people and social development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh for disorderly behaviour while on board a domestic flight from Tobago to Trinidad on March 16. In fact, political analysts said the PM had no choice but to get rid of Ramadharsingh, based on the fact he violated the principles of integrity and public trust.
Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) flight attendant Ronelle Laidlow, 25, filed a complaint that during an incident on a flight from Tobago Ramadharsingh’s hand touched her breast when he reached for her ID badge, which was pinned to her blouse, and threatened to have her fired. Two official reports were made by Laidlow, one to the security department of the Airports Authority of T&T (AATT) and the other to the Piarco police sub-station.
Ramadharsingh had apologised for his behaviour, saying he was suffering from “severe fatigue,” but denied touching Laidlow or threatening to have her fired. Yesterday, political analyst Dr Winford James said it was a justifiable decision, especially on the basis of “no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect,” as Persad-Bissessar said on Tuesday in a release she issued on her decision.
He added: “I agree with the Prime Minister that an example must be set, especially given the fact of the dwindling political fortunes of her Government. “So this sent a message that we still stand for something... we still stand for integrity.” He said it appeared that while on the flight, Ramadharsingh’s ego may have been “bruised in some way.” “The point is he used a set of words and it’s how you use your words and how your words are received, especially in a public space.
“We also have to look at what kind of mood he was in. If you sit next to the exit you have to put your bags in the overhead compartment,” he added. James said Laidlow had no reason to mistreat Ramadharsingh, adding she was merely carrying out her duties. “I think I have travelled to Tobago more frequently than Mr Ramadharsingh and the flight attendants have always been very courteous.
“It is clear this kind of misbehaviour on Mr Ramadharsingh’s part was too much. There is a line that you should not cross and he sought to cross that line,” James added. However, Ramadharsingh’s firing could also be an indication that Persad-Bissessar was wary of the fact that a general election was next year and she was left with little choice but to put her foot down.
“I thought the Prime Minister acted properly, given the issue of values and integrity but this was how she should have been acting from the onset. I am wondering if it is too little, too late,” James said. Political analyst Mukesh Basdeo, who also agreed with the Prime Minister’s firing of Ramadharsingh, said that was an instance where Persad-Bissessar had shown leadership.
On whether she may have been too harsh, given the fact that Ramadharsingh was touted as one of the hardest working ministers, Basdeo said it could have been a difficult decision to make. He added: “The Prime Minister acted independently. She examined the reports presented to her and her statement on the matter clearly identified breaches. “But in the public’s interest, when you weigh it against the performance of Ramadharsingh, the Prime Minister was within her right to preserve the integrity of her government.”
Glenn helped the needy
Random interviews of employees of the Ministry of the People and Social Development yesterday showed some believed Ramadharsingh was a polite minister who helped the poor. The employees also said they were surprised when they learned of the incident involving Ramadharsingh. “He was a good minister in the sense that he helped many people. He was polite... always saying morning,” one employee, who did not want to be identified, said.
Another employee, who agreed, described Ramadharsingh as “a good minister.”