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Sat’s public servants comment upsets Dumas
Former head of the public service, Reginald Dumas, is taking issue with a claim by the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj, that generations of People’s National Movement (PNM) supporters were planted in the public service to prevent any non-PNM government from getting a second term. Maharaj made the claim during an Indian Arrival Day function hosted by the Maha Sabha in Debe on Friday.
Addressing a huge audience about perceived inequity in treatment by previous governments, Maharaj said, “The battle has now begun. Any government that gets into office for the full five years, you can’t do anything because the civil servants (lock) you in. Robinson could not last more than five years, Panday couldn’t last more than five years because you got to get past the civil servants who have been planted there by the PNM. They plant two generations of civil servants to block you.
“So I am saying this Government must get its second five-year to properly deliver.” Persad-Bissessar did not directly address Maharaj’s comments in her speech subsequently, but praised the Maha Sabha leader for speaking out on issues over the years and urged the public to do likewise. But in an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Dumas said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar must tell the nation whether she agrees with that claim, noting its potential to divide the society along racial lines.
“I want to know if she thinks what Maharaj said is correct or has validity. I would like her to make a statement on that,” Dumas said. He said Maharaj’s statement was made at a time “when people working hard on behalf of the country are suddenly now seen as political operatives to subvert the Government and thus the country.” Dumas said he rejected Maharaj’s claim totally.
During his speech, Maharaj said the People’s Partnership Government would deliver resources equitably if it were to be given a second term, adding that in the past five decades all major developments have taken place north of the Caroni river. The Opposition PNM have repeatedly criticised the Government of only doing projects in central and south Trinidad. General elections are expected within the next 12 months.
Dumas said he was “dismayed” by Maharaj’s claim that public servants helped to bring down the Arthur NR Robinson and Basdeo Panday governments. Dumas said: “As a former public servant myself, I feel this is a serious assault on the public service.” While admitting that there were public servants who were supporters of the PNM, United National (UNC) and Congress of the People (COP), Dumas said: “To give the impression that the public service is full of two generations of PNM plants is very extraordinary.”
He said if there were “so many plants, how come Panday won the elections in 1995 and in 2000, if the public servants were working so hard to bring down his party.”
He said this claim was astonishing, adding that while he served as head of the public service he was permanent secretary to Prime Minister Robinson. Dumas said he did not know if Maharaj was suggesting that he was “the mastermind behind the defeat of Robinson in 1991. It would be nonsense of course.” He said before he was appointed head of the public service he was high commissioner to Barbados and reported then to Panday, who was External Affairs Minister.
Dumas said he never belonged to any political party and while in the public service he held no allegiance to work on behalf of any party. “At no time that I can recall did the PNM ever approach me and say to me that I should do anything to undermine or subvert the Robinson government. So I really do not know what Maharaj is talking about.”
Dumas noted that the population may have been upset with Robinson’s National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government because it reduced public servants’ salaries and removed Cola. But he said there was never any indication that public servants wanted to undermine the then government.
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