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Who Is In Charge Here?

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 09, 2010

It is one thing to win an election. It is quite another thing to govern a country. It's good to rule by consensus but disastrous when no one is in charge and the leadership functions by vaps. It is exciting when a leader is guided by a sense of good will. It is frightening when such a leader is not guided by any core principles and the ship of state is adrift and rudderless.

In the run up to the last election the PNM had warned that coalition governments are inherently fractious entities that result in the smaller partners (such as COP) becoming irrelevant once the grand aim of displacing an implacable foe has been achieved. So that while all is love and togetherness at the moment of victory, bacchanal and vitriolic are the necessary consequences once the coalition settles down to rule.

Although the McClouds, the Warners, the St. Roses, the Daagas were prominent personalities prior to the election now that the Partnership is in power their once-powerful voices are stilled. This leaves one to ask how they are influencing the direction of the coalition and how are they figuring in this kankatan. It is almost as though the minority players are unable to keep up with the many maneuvers of the UNC, its senior partner.

In voting for the UNC-led coalition is seems as though the populace took a six for a nine. Initially, we watched Kamla with a certain degree of fascination as she tried to maneuver the mechanism of government. All her decisions, they said, were made by consensus. The selection of the entire ministerial core was the product of a generosu give and take among the various fractions of the coalition.

Then things began to break down. First, she snubbed Hilary Clinton, the United States Secretary of States, because she not yet named her Cabinet so she had to stay home and min' baby. Once the Cabinet was named the excursions to different shores began. No Prime Minister in our short history has ever made so many trips abroad in such a short period of time but then these trips were deemed necessary to win friends, influence people and convince them about the credit worthiness of our country.

Such maneuverings were meant to distract and to take our eyes off the problem of governing. Lost in the bubble was the challenge that the new government said it would undertake: that is, righting the wrongs the previous government could not solve.

But then something happened along the way to Gethsemane: the murders kept on rising and citizens' fears increased exponentially. Once our criminals used to kill chirrup chirrup; now they were killing by grap. Gradually, a few murders a day became the norm. The bright and shining star, called the Commissioner, who had come in from another land described such outburst an "aberration." He did not know that he was in Trinidad and Tobago, the land of chutney, steel band and carnival where everything is a mirage and disguises and tricksterdom are the order of the day. That which may be an aberration in other societies constitutes the norm of our society.

The first lesson the Commission had to learn is that what you seen is not necessarily what you get; what you hear is not always is what is meant; and just when you think that you understand the society you learn that double-speak has as much validity as no speech at all.

Take the spectacle of the SIA which the Prime Minister encouraged you and your men to raid. Listening to the PM in Parliament one would have thought you and your men had done a wonderful job. The evidence was there for all to see. They found millions of dollars in cash and discovered that some of the most prominent personalities of the society were under surveillance. Not even the President of the Republic was exempt from the prying eyes of the state. The Chief Justice was not sure if he was also a victim of this massive invasion of privacy.

Sensing a political coup our PM read out to Parliament the names of the persons who were so affected by the misdemeanors and malfeasance of the former PM only to learn later that after all was said and done that more was said than done. We are not even sure whether a file existed at all.

When questions were raised about the legality of her having the files the PM declared that she never had the file in the first place; that the list was owned and controlled by the Commissioner. Then, to the surprise of all, the Commissioner declared that he had never seen the list and it was never under his care and protection. It belonged to the government. Pressed further, the Minister of Justice announced that the list was destroyed by Israeli men whose names and functions remain unknown.

Is this really any way to run a government which raises the substantive question: Who is in charge here and who is running this show? And after all of these wild charges were made and names sullied, is it normal for the Justice Minister to declared blithely: "There was a group of men from Israel who were here and they were thrashing all the files so that what we came across were empty folders."

Perhaps it is too early to tell. But if one comes to the Parliament; reveals the names of agents of the state thereby putting their lives at risk; destabilize the entire apparatus that was set up to get a grip on the illegal activities that take place in the society; tells us that she does not know who is charge of the operation; and then tells us that some mysterious men, outsiders, have destroyed the lists without anyone really knowing who they are and why it was done, enquiring minds are forced to conclude that confusion pervades at the topper most rug of the state and no one is really in charge.

Competence matters. The ability to lead is of enormous importance to setting the direction of any society. Is it good enough that a coalition that is supposed to be the savior of T&T does seem to know its arms from its elbows?

Given such a state of confusion can they vindicate the trust the public has placed in them?

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