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PP Govt must heed constructive criticism

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On assumption of the reins of governance on May 24, 2010, the People’s Partnership (PP) ought to have recognised that given the overwhelming mandate by the population to rule, govern and administer the affairs of this twin-island republic, its Cabinet, ministers and manner of dealing with public interests would have come perhaps under greater public scrutiny and microscopic watch than any previous administration. This public scrutiny has become necessary because the PP had promised the electorate that public affairs would be conducted in a more than transparent, accountable and procedurally fair manner and that the government would consult and provide an improved service unparalleled to any other administration.  

While the PP Government has made some positive strides in several ministries, it should be borne in mind that service to the public is not a favour, but a serious governmental obligation and responsibility. Even after the electoral campaign, the honourable Prime Minister made statements such as, “I will not betray you,” and “I will not let you down,” in the media and these statements can have serious repercussions in that they can return to haunt the entire Cabinet. The PP Government should also recognise that when it undertakes to make decisions on behalf of all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and not all these decisions are sound nor are they productive, they ought to contemplate and consider the effectiveness and meaningful adoption of such decisions.  

Public scrutiny of governmental affairs and compelling public interest issues have heightened given the national and international exposure of manifest examples of improper professional advice and extremely poor decision making, in the Reshmi Ramnarine intelligence security scandal and the Government’s decision to cancel the offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).  Such decisions without careful consideration of the adverse implications on our national and international interests appear to be devoid of intelligence, bereft of reason, irrational and impaired judgment. At best, constructive criticisms should redound to the Government’s benefits and not looked upon as attacking the Government.  Clarence Rambharat’s articles in the Express and Theo Feruson, writing in the Trinidad Guardian are good examples of critical thinking for improved governance.

National Security environment

Equally significant is the fact that having entered government without an articulated national security strategy or planned policy directive, the PP appears unable to create the necessary changes that impede effective reforms and changes sorely needed to take this country forward. This National Security Ministry has come under local, regional and international scrutiny and has assumed a greater significance since the demise of the Soviet Empire and the changing geo-political dynamics of international security and world order especially after 9/11.  Areas of national security that have local, regional and international interests are migration, human smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking, illegal firearms, transnational organised crime and terrorism. 

These are areas that national security must reconfigure and function from an intelligence perspective. In each of these areas, we have international obligations and a duty to foster international security and justice. Our international obligations need to be taken much more seriously and in the principle of utmost good faith by this Government. There is also an urgent need for a more intensive and thorough educations for all national security personnel, as these areas are perceived by the public to be compromised to an extent by some of its officials.

Thus far, however, functional operations have remained the same because ministers and some of their advisers may not be au courant with all the inner workings of their several organs, and perhaps have placed their priorities elsewhere. This column will go into greater detail in the coming weeks in each of the areas mentioned and what ought to be done as a matter of urgency in national security. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 2011 (INSCR)

This column wants to highlight  some of the US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 2011(INSCR), and its relation to Trinidad and Tobago.  This is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress, and “prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act,” describing the efforts of countries combating drug trafficking and organised crime, including money laundering.  The report indicates that, “the new Government has de-emphasised regional efforts and assistance programmes, including some security-related projects that would impact counter-narcotics efforts in order to focus greater efforts on domestic issues.”

Furthermore, the report states that “the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has since signalled it will scale back previously planned maritime asset acquisitions, while undertaking efforts to restructure its security apparatus, improve its law enforcement efficiency and address internal corruption.” Finally, in its introductory section, even though its notes that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is party to the UN Drug Convention, it states that the Government of T&T “struggles to effectively co-ordinate and implement its drug control assets, and maintenance issues, corruption and gaps in the legislative framework remain challenges.”  

Thus far, any knowledgeable individual would discern the challenges we encounter as a result of cancelling the OPVs.  To be continued next week in a series on national security and international obligations.


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