Carnival Monday and Tuesday are a brief respite from the many challenges facing T&T. On Ash Wednesday morning, the country will return to work, but the impact of the Prime Minister’s press conference on Tuesday last week will still be reverberating.
The Government persistently fails to take a systemic approach and holistically address key issues in the criminal justice system. Governments are elected to solve problems. Citizens understand that an administration is made of mortals who will make mistakes. They understand that problems cannot be solved simultaneously or by waving a magic wand. But they expect solutions to be devised in a calibrated way, in graduated steps which build on the progress achieved by each preceding step.
Political gamesmanship, blame avoidance and blame shifting are the working tools of any successful politician, and the Prime Minister is a successful politician. However, getting the job done also requires focusing on key elements of the problem, planning measures to address them, and perseverance in executing the solutions.
He deferred a full press conference on his return from overseas travel and promised to speak last Tuesday. One supposed that he would have used that time to develop a comprehensive report on matters he considered relevant. This country has long been the recipient of foreign advice and assistance in several different ways. The evidence suggests that the advice and assistance have not been translated into self-sustaining performance improvement.
There are resourcing issues across several different areas of the justice system; the Judiciary, the DPP’s Office, Forensics and DNA testing, ballistics, the TTPS and the Prisons Service. New buildings will no doubt be built which will need skilled human resources and rigorous systems. Given the prevalence of violent crime and murder, the country is seeking reassurance which cannot come from merely increasing the number of police recruits, or tasking the Defence Force with assisting the police.
Perhaps mechanisms are being developed to achieve meaningful change in the justice system. The press conference did not support that optimism. Instead, we were treated to more deflection and misdirection. Perhaps it was heartening to know that there was a 2017 Manpower Commission report on the TTPS and that the Cabinet is guided by its content.
The country needed a management update. How many of the commission’s recommendations were considered critical and how many had been implemented? What progress has been made since 2017 and what more needs to be done? What were the next important steps? How would the implementation of these recommendations improve performance and in what time frame? How are the objectives and improvements aligned with the developments taking place in other branches of the justice system?
Instead, the media, the Opposition, the late Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday for the 2006 changes in the CoP’s election process were all under attack. Missing was meaningful accountability and acceptance of responsibility. An anxious public was told that the Cabinet should not be held responsible where it did not have the authority.
If the buck does not stop with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, who is responsible? These are serious issues which require leadership, not a rant. Perhaps Carnival’s Midnight Robber came early and stole leadership.