Leadership matters. The leader is responsible for shaping the timing, tone and tempo of the organisation, particularly one as complex as Trinidad and Tobago’s administrative structures.
It is, therefore, vital that the Cabinet team assembled to undertake the tasks of social transformation and national development are prepared to address the demands of public office which will inevitably arise.
The complexities of government bedevil every country. Brexit has led to three prime ministers in three years, a constantly changing Cabinet, is challenging the parliamentary democracy of Britain and may yet leave the country diminished, if Scotland and Northern Ireland go their separate ways.
More ministers in the UNC-led administration under Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar were sacked than in any previous administration for all manner of improprieties. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, then leader of the Opposition, pointed to this ministerial turnover rate as evidence of a failure of managerial competence, judgement and leadership.
The current administration also has a number of turnovers. But the thrice dismissed minister and deputy political leader of the PNM raises the question of judgement of both Ms Marlene McDonald and Prime Minister Rowley.
The old adage “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” applies. That Ms McDonald faced the electorate in 2015 is evidence of serious flaws in the party's selection criteria. Her dismissal to facilitate a complaint to the Integrity Commission was entirely in order. Showing up to her second swearing-in with a person of known gangland contacts, was not merely an indiscretion but a failure of judgement which ought to have disqualified her from any further consideration for ministerial office. Reappointing Ms McDonald exposed Dr Rowley to the identical charges he leveled against Mrs Persad-Bissessar of a failure of managerial competence, judgement and leadership .
The Constitution is built on the doctrine of separation of powers to prevent abuse by an overly powerful Executive. Contrary to the comments of Mr Fitzgerald Hinds, the police are under no obligation to disclose the nature or the subjects of ongoing investigations, unless there are issues of national security. The same is true of the Judiciary and the Integrity Commission. This helps to keep those institutions above political interference.
Section 137 of the Constitution exists for this reason and exemplifies why allegations of impropriety on the part of the Chief Justice merits further investigation.
The Prime Minister has refused to accept responsibility for his failures by claiming that the judiciary, and the media are working against the government. The sprint to the 2020 elections has already begun and both PNM and the UNC are entering the elections with key personnel before the courts on serious corruption charges.
Blemishes by Darryl Smith, Faris Al-Rawi and Camille Robinson-Regis remain uncleared. The type of society is influenced by the choices we make, the values we promote and manner in which we address difficult issues. All political parties need to be aware that they must fix themselves if they are to fix the affairs of state.