Take heed, Dr Lowe take heed!
“I am not prepared to make any comment on matters relating to the NCC at this time because I consider it indecent to be making comments on those matters while that matter is being adjudicated” – Dr Denis Lowe, Minister of the Environment.
Surprise, surprise! The Minister yesterday used the cover of the recently-established Employment Rights Tribunal to bury his head deeper into the sand on the very embarrassing public saga that continues to unfold at the National Conservation Commission.
Rightfully and dutifully so, the few journalists who were in attendance at the World Environment Day church service at the St Michael’s Cathedral actively sought Dr Lowe out, and tried to get answers.
It is after all a frontburner issue; one of national importance, which strikes at the very heart of our governance system and democracy.
That workers, numbering almost 200, were unceremoniously sent home at a statutory corporation back in April and more than a month later are still in the lurch, with an unclear Tribunal adjudication process still before them, is a matter of genuine concern, especially when that group of workers had been mandated to look after our environment and to ensure that our surroundings are kept clean and liveable.
Ironically, there has been not a semblence of purity surrounding their dismissals. As necessary as they may have been, they have been allowed to proceed devoid of the type of care and understanding which we were made to feel underpins our labour relations environment and our Social Partnership.
We are not even going down the Opposition line of whether the Minister’s brother, nephew and niece are still employed at the NCC. To do so, without being properly seized of the facts of their qualification and standing, is to jump on the nepotism bandwagon.
This for us would be just as “indecent” as any responsible Minister simply ignoring the plight of the recently retrenched, and seeking to change the public focus to perhaps more palatable issues at a time when the disposed are most in need of solace and comfort.
However, it must be said, based on what we already know about those who have lost their jobs – some with more than 10, 15 years of service have been sent home in favour of many in a particular constituency who have barely cut their teeth in the public service – that there does seem to be some ‘hanky panky’ at play and of the worst kind.
Furthermore, that which has been allowed to transpire so far at the NCC has been fraught with an untenable and unbecoming level of political interference that does not engender confidence in that which is to come.
We therefore believe that as the Minister in charge of the NCC, Dr Lowe is not without blame and that a no comment by him at this stage simply will not suffice.
In fact, it is not decent, especially knowing the type and frequency of personal hardship that has ensued.
The Minister therefore owes a full and proper explanation of his behaviour in this public sector retrenchment exercise.
As frustration builds, we also have to question the Prime Minister’s remedy for adjudicating public disputes, but that is for another time and another editorial.
For now, we will continue to focus on Dr Lowe who, while standing in the precincts of the church yesterday, should have been moved to bare his soul and focus on helping to restore confidence in the operations of the NCC, whose reputation as an employer with clean hands is now severely tarnished. Indeed, the state agency has become the poster child of all that has gone wrong on the national labour front.
Perhaps the Minister heard but refused to listen (a tendency which seems to bedevil other Government ministers as well) to the words of the powerful sermon delivered yesterday by Dean of the Cathedral Dr Frank Marshall, in which he warned that humans were not without some blame for some of the fallout, disorder and chaos that occurs from time to time.
The Anglican cleric did not make any specific reference to the NCC situation but, moved as he was by the Holy Spirit, he pointed out: “There are actions and behaviours which easily contribute to the disequilibrium [of the Earth].”
In the presence of the Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave and other officials, the Dean stressed that humans ultimately were accountable to God and that their efforts must be to cooperate with nature rather than be in conflict with it.
“There is an absence of a general sense of appreciation and gratitude, an unruly will, which translates to actions which are inhumane, not only in terms of human to human, but in relation to nature and towards Mother Earth,” the Dean said.
“We must not treat unkindly and callously the natural order, for it becomes evident when the environment is raped and left to bleed, we suffer with it.”
Take heed, Dr Lowe take heed!