Presidential Dictatorship in T&T
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
May 16, 2009
Updated: May 25, 2009
The recent massive domino-like collapse of the membership of the Integrity Commission brings to the fore the stark reality of the co-existence of dictatorship politics in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President of T&T.
President Professor George Maxwell Richards
The fact of the matter is that the decision by President Professor George Maxwell Richards to appoint Fr. Henry Charles, Ph.D. Ethics, as chairman, despite his known/proven unethical plagiarism and Jeffery Mac Farlane as a member and co-chairman of the Integrity Commission suggests two things: either the President is totally unaware of the complexities of ethics and thus totally incompetent in the highest decision-making process in the country or he has overtly exhibited the utmost "arrogance of power" in this regard or both.
Indeed, the appointment of Jeffery Mac Farlane was a simple CXC or SEA decision that any school student at that level could have made.
President Richards did not have to utilize any complex/integrated /simulated Einstein mathematical formulae or any similar engineering equations to make the only correct decision in this case. The President literally "blew it."
The Integrity Act specifically states that no appointed member shall hold membership on any state board. That's it in plain English -- nothing complicated or vague. There is neither room nor need for legal interpretation. Keep it simple, keep it plain.
On the Curriculum Vitae (CV) that Mr. Mac Farlane would have submitted to President Richards, it would have been clearly stated in plain English that he held membership on one state board at the time of his presidential appointment to the Commission.
In this regard, the following questions immediately arise: With utmost due respect, does President Richards, a former UWI Principal, understand plain English? Does President Richards understand/realize that NO means NO as in NO membership? Did President Richards wilfully defy T&T's constitution, albeit laws, in making these appointments with the full knowledge and written information before him that Fr. Charles was guilty of plagiarism and that Mr. Mac Farlane was totally unqualified for such appointment? Did President Richards conclude that since he has the final/sole power of last resort in this decision that he can tell T&T's constitution and laws "to go to hell"? Did President Richards engage in any second party collusion and/or consultation prior to his decision? And finally, do Trinbagonians think and/or believe that Prime Minister Patrick Manning will call on President Richards to resign?
Indeed, it is instructive to recall the apocalyptic admonition of social commentator, albeit Calypsonian, Versatile, to the extent that "one tief doh like to see another tief with ah bag."
Since Prime Minister Patrick Manning and President George Maxwell Richards apparently seem to be wrapped up in the same swaddling dictatorship clothes, himself will tell himself: Trinbagonians like it so -- no problem.
In other words, President Richards played a Trini game on Trinbagonians in that the President knows that Trinibagonians would rant and rage and even misbehave for a while but at the end of the day, they would accept the status quo. "We like it."
Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that President Richards announced his decision and then proceeded to leave the country "in less than a New York minute" afterwards in the hope that when he returns from vacation things would back to normal -- that's how Trinis operate. He knows that he can weather the storm and not cut short his timely vacation. Who is going to force/compel him to return to clean up the mess he left behind?
This is exactly how dictatorship politics and pappyshow, congosa and mammaguy operate in T&T.
On one hand, Prime Minister Patrick Manning is not only completely convinced that workers in the country's labor movement may rant and rage and even misbehave against the PNM administration today but also the salient truism that if he were to call general elections on 15 July 2009, these very same dejected, disgusted and disgruntled workers as in citizens would still vote for PNM -- it's that simple.
Patrick Manning continues to capitalize on the co-existence of political immaturity and those people electoral politics in T&T.
On the corresponding hand, President Richards is also capitalizing on this real co-existence. He is totally convinced that since Trinbagonians have been successfully "hoodwinked, bamboozled and took" by the PNM government for the past 53 years and counting, then, why change this political modus operandi. "We like it."
For while President Richards has correctly and very belatedly confessed in his written public statement that "to err is human", however, in this vital, specific public decision-making process at the highest institutional level, simply "to forgive is (not) divine."
The fact of the matter is that as adults we always admonish our young that they must be prepared to stand the consequences of their actions. As the adult Head of State in T&T, then, President George Maxwell Richards must also be prepared to stand the consequences of his actions which by any stretch of the imagination, constitute supreme dereliction of duty.
Furthermore, this irresponsible action by the President does not fall into the category that begs for forgiveness; it falls perfectly into the category that demands nothing but punishment. President Richard's impotent action was not a third class blunder; it was a first class, colossal, shameful fiasco which rightly deserves first class punishment -- no public presidential putative apology is acceptable.
In the final analysis, the duality of dictatorship politics in the Office of the President and in the Office of the Prime Minister at the highest levels of governance has totally transformed T&T from a failed State to a lawless State from the top to the bottom as in Picton, Laventille.
There is only one viable solution to this thorny but not intractable problem/ issue that is afflicting T&T -- President George Maxwell Richards must "do the right thing" and resign from office, period.
Shem Hotep ( " I go in peace").
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.
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