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"Don't Talk About It; Be About It!"

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 12, 2018

My first impulse was to congratulate the government for voting to appoint Gary Griffith Commissioner of Police (CoP). Whatever Griffith's weaknesses, his appointment promised to give the police force the stability it deserves and the country the space it needs to breathe easier; that is, until Stuart Young, "Ad-minister of everything but master of nothing," was recycled into the Ministry of National Security.

Without even being confirmed, Griffith hit the airways telling the population what he would and would not do although prudence dictated that he meet with the leadership of the police force, learn from their experiences, and tell them of his plans to make the force a more efficient unit. After such discussions, he could have determined how best to attack the monster called crime.

Given the skepticism the rank and file of the Police Service felt about his appointment, Griffith should have first bonded with his officers before he engaged the public. It would have been better if he adopted the strategy of Deng Xiaoping, the former leader of China: "Hide your strengths and bide your time." If he wanted to be more rootsy, he could have sided with the rappers who say: "Don't talk about it; Be About it."

It was not wise for Griffith to begin his tenure by reducing people who run afoul of the law to insects or animals and to interpret his mandate as "crushing the cockroaches." Such a policy gives the police license to perpetrate heinous atrocities against those accused of violent crimes and violating our drug laws, as is the case in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Nowhere in Griffith's discourse did he speak about the social causes of crime, a point about which Reggie Dumas reminded him.

Just as I was about to celebrate Griffith's appointment guardedly Young was selected as the Minister of National Security, thereby making him Griffith's boss, a frightful combination if ever there was one. Then I thought of the Peter Principle that suggests that in most organized hierarchies, an employee will be promoted until s/he reaches the level of his/her incompetence.

How can one man be so blessed? An Express editorial, without any trace of irony, announced that Young is emerging as "the PM man for all seasons and all reasons. In three years, Young has been shuffled into ever-expanding cabinet responsibility, from Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs to Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister of Communications, and now Minister of National Security."

Did the Express look at the "Portfolio Responsibility" of the Minister of National Security as contained in Gazette No. 125 of 2015? It consists of over 40 specific responsibilities. Just to name a few of them: Airspace and Territorial Waters, Cadet Force, Citizenship, Defence Force (Regiment, Coast Guard, Air Guard and Defense Force Reserves), Drug Enforcement/Interdiction, Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering, Global Security Issues, Immigration, Intelligence, Internal Security and Public Order Safety and Law Enforcement.

Young is also negotiating the Sandals Hotel deal which promises to be a major rip-off of the country's resources.

Where will he find the time to oversee all these things?

Gary Aboud of the Downtown Owners and Merchant Association informs us that Young is the best man for the job. He is "an accomplished attorney-at-law and a successful litigator locally and internationally" (Express, August 8).

Rodney Charles, MP of Naparima, disagrees. He says Young is unprepared for the job and compared Young's experience with that of Harjit Sajjan who was appointed to a similar position in Canada. "Young's Curriculum Vitae is manifestly thin on both military and police experience and also in managing large bureaucracies" ("Media Release," August 7).

Vivek Charan of the San Juan Business Association wondered if Young would be able "to give 110 percent of his attention to the ministry, given that he holds other ministerial portfolios….If Stuart Young is only able to give 70 percent of focus to national security, is that what we really need?" Jack Warner calls Young's appointment "a poor decision" (Newsday, August 8).

The PM's monumental error in judgment raises another question: What about the five PNM Black benchers (Nicole Olivierre, Ancil Antoine, Glenda Jennings-Smith, Adrian Leonce, and Esmond Forde) who only show up in Parliament to support government policy?

Is it that Young's wisdom and knowledge supersede (or should I say dwarf) those of the Black benchers (their description of themselves) or, is it that these men and women are so dumb that they cannot think through a simple idea or administer a ministerial portfolio? Or, is it that their blackness prevents them from acting nationally?

I resolutely refuse to believe that these black men and women are dumb. There is nothing in Young's past or present that suggests he is better than any of them, can manage his proposed offices more successfully, stay abreast of and devote sufficient time to each of his ministerial and other responsibilities. There is a huge difference between being briefed on a subject and studying it assiduously.

Meanwhile my people still sit on the river bank of destitution and frustration, demanding accountability and transparency, even as they cry out aloud: "How [long] shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137).

Cudjoe's email is He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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