?What kind of blight has befallen T&T? Or more specifically, the Government of our twin-island republic??
As the Power 102FM promo so succinctly puts it, every day this country just can't seem to settle down. When it is not the criminals terrorising innocent citizens with unbridled murders and other serious crimes, we are subject to constant jamming from the State in so many ways–and which with a little commonsense could be avoided. There are so many examples of situations in which the people are receiving disturbing mixed messages, and in some instances plain contradictory behaviour, from the political directorate, starting with the chief executive officer him-self, Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Because we cannot in this space deal with every one of these debilitating situations, we would just look at a few of them. Readers are left to arrive at their own conclusions as to what the hell is taking place in our beloved T&T, and where they think we are heading at this troubling time.
We begin with the church that is being built by a Chinese company under mysterious circumstances in the Heights of Guanapo. We don't know who the real owners are except that the State granted the land on which this ornate structure is going up. Manning has stated quite emphatically he has no personal interest in this multi-million dollar edifice but pays a secret visit to the construction site without the media being invited. Wouldn't it be a clear violation of his professed Christian beliefs and principles if one day he is found to be playing any role in the church? But what could we do about it then? One of the many unanswered questions on this project is how come the Chinese company which came here to carry out specific government contracts ended up building this church? Why did it feel it could actually start construction without the necessary permission from the state regulatory authorities? Was it empowered by the knowledge that because of its connections, if any at all, it could have just gone ahead and gotten the show on the road? Up to now Manning has not said why he felt it necessary to visit the site and any how I look at it this seems to be quite an unholy mess. With this controversy still not yet over, I dare say we have not heard the worst of this–I refrain from saying scandal for the time being–bedevilling case.
On Saturday, the Attorney General denied having said in a story carried by this newspaper that reports of a former government minister and his wife having a six-figure account in a Cayman Islands bank was a hoax. The source of the report was the first draft of a speech the AG had intended to be read in the Parliament and which ended up on the desk of a senior reporter at this newspaper. It is not uncommon for public figures to give reporters advance copies of their speeches and no doubt the reporter in this instance felt he had the correct version and went ahead and did the story. What is baffling to me, and I am sure the rest of the national community, is what was responsible for the apparent abrupt change in the tenor of the document. One day it was reported the Cayman Islands bank account story was a complete hoax and the next day that was not the case and the matter was still being investigated. Dr Keith Rowley is not the only person anxious to get to the truth of this confusing affair. Finally, let's look at another matter involving Manning and 81-year-old San Juan resident Percy Villafana, a former supporter of the ruling People's National Movement (PNM). Readers would recall that this courageous senior citizen told Mr Manning in no uncertain manner that he was not welcome at his home during a walkabout in the constituency last week. However, this did not prevent the PM from walking past Villafana to shake the hands of a woman and young children. Of course this unprecedented and embarrassing act made national news and in the House of Representatives last Friday, Manning told the legislature that Percy was not a resident of Trinidad and that he came from Canada to spend the winter in San Juan.
Not surprisingly, the former public servant fired back, denying Manning's claim. He said he was born here, lived here and would die here. And, like other citizens who could afford to, travels overseas every year to spend time with his children. My beef about this is why would any leader of a government go to the lengths that Mr Manning did to discredit the man's action instead of trying to ascertain the reasons for his vehement stance last week? A sensible leader would have sought to speak to Villafana, perhaps privately, to get to the root of his obvious disenchantment with the PNM administration and with Manning himself. Unfortunately, Manning's reactions in both instances in San Juan and subsequently in the Parliament again demonstrate this administration's and Manning's disconnect with the people. When anyone could confront the head of government in the manner in which Villafana did and when radio listeners are actually agreeing with Dr Morgan Job in berating that leader, you know an administration is in trouble.