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Time for a real conversation, Mr PM

Published: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

This evening’s third instalment in the Conversations with the Prime Minister series provides Dr Keith Rowley with an opportunity to level with the nation. It is particularly important that he does so as this event takes place against the backdrop of two recent opinion polls which show his approval ratings and Government’s performance getting a thumbs down as well as the prospect of another difficult national budget to be presented in just a few weeks.

Given these and other prevailing issues—crime, unemployment and the fake oil controversy among them—conditions are ideal for a real and honest conversation with the public who, in the large majority, are eager to finally get answers to all their questions on these many burning issues.

The last thing the nation needs is one of those stage-managed affairs where public contributions are so tightly controlled that the entire affair ends up being nothing more than a PR event which will do nothing to ease current public disenchantment and frustration with the current administration’s style of governance.

Opportunities for proper account were not provided during the two previous “Conversations”. In the fact the first, held February 5 at the Maloney Mall Amphitheatre in the Arouca/Maloney constituency, evoked heated debate as well as heavy criticisms for Dr Rowley when, in response to concerns expressed about increased attacks against women, he said: “I’m not in your bedroom. I’m not in your choice of men.”

Subsequent efforts at damage control, including a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister claiming that Dr Rowley’s remarks had been misinterpreted, only made matters worse.

The second in the series, which took place on July 11 at the Point Fortin East Secondary School, also failed to live up to expectations of a proper engagement with the people of T&T.

This evening, however, Dr Rowley, just back from a vacation and medical check-up in the United States, gets another chance and he should make full use of it to live up to expectations of a proper accounting to the nation on his stewardship so far.

What about campaign finance legislation?

Energy Minister Franklin Khan’s curious statement on Monday that he doesn’t know what is a financier of the PNM bring to the fore once more the question of campaign finance legislation. Indeed, this would be a good time to give a progress report on that long-promised law which should be high on Government’s legislative agenda.

It continues to be a worrying fact that neither the ruling PNM, of which Mr Khan is chairman, nor any of the other parties that raise and spend millions of dollars campaigning for public office, are under any legal obligation to account for their sources of funding. Any such financiers can exert significant influence on the parties they give substantial monetary support to, including lucrative state contracts and influential political positions.

Such a situation, if it currently exists, is not in the best interest of T&T. Bring on the legislation.

Time to lend a hand

A painful, expensive process of rebuilding now begins in Barbuda, Tortola, Sint Maarten and all the other islands recently ravaged by Hurricane Irma. Even as the death toll and the full extent of financial losses is still not known, there is no doubt that many of our neighbours in the Leewards suffered a serious blow.

T&T, which has been spared the force of such natural disasters over many decades, needs to step up now with tangible support, financial and otherwise, to help our neighbours rebuild.