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Another case of callaloo versus cou-cou

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. 

–– Max Lucado

By no means is the Trinidad and Tobago prime minister a man; but last night Kamla Persad-Bissessar waved her baton, and with a stroke described by some as masterful and by others as questionable, she fired two of her senior government ministers embroiled in controversy, and rearranged her ministerial team.

To say she stirred up fresh bacchanal at a time when Trinidadians are in full Carnival mode would be an understatement. Calypsonians were served up plenty, fresh material to add to their contributions –– or possibly transform to even more biting social commentary for eager fans. Trinidad’s National Calypso Monarch competition really ought not to be missed.

The sweeping cabinet reshuffle was the fourth for Mrs Persad-Bissessar at the helm of the coalition People’s Partnership government, swept to power in May, 2010. Over the last four years, at least 18 ministers have been axed. This time around her actions came after a series of complex political developments in the wake of the publication of a newspaper article.

The article implied that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had attempted to induce David West, an attorney, to withdraw a statement in defence of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in defamation proceedings brought by Mr Ramlogan, in exchange for accepting the post of director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). Mr West was sworn in as PCA director last November, one month before his statement was filed in court by attorneys who act for Mr Rowley.

Said Mrs Persad-Bissessar: “I cast no aspersions on the capacity or performance of those that hold these positions, but cannot have these offices be so embroiled in conflict and controversy, eroding public confidence in the institutions which they lead . . .”

Her actions are now on trial in Port of Spain, with some quarters blasting her tongue-lashing of Messrs Rowley, Griffith and West, while apparently staying clear of criticizing her former attorney general. We won’t poke our noses too far into the domestic and political ferment of Trinidad right now, but from across the waters it would be hard to turn a blind eye to this decisive action from a CARICOM leader whose coalition party is just mere months from a general election. And whether the electorate will reward or punish Mrs Persad-Bissessar for her stern action is anyone’s guess.

For us in Barbados, the political manoeuvrings next door do stir some interest and no doubt debate at a time when our House Speaker Michael Carrington is in the hot seat after a High Court recently found he had failed to hand over to John Griffiths an additional $210,000 remaining from the sale of his late aunt’s property at Dayrells Road in Christ Church. The judge had ordered Mr Carrington to give an account of the funds and pay what was due, with interest.

After walkouts from the Opposition Barbados Labour Party as part of efforts to press the Speaker to step aside until the Committee of Privileges had dealt with the matter, and public cries for him to explain his actions, Mr Carrington this week settled his outstanding debt. And while we are happy that Mr John Griffiths now has what is rightfully his, we cannot help but observe the handling of the matter by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was as far as the east is from the west as it related to that of his Trinidadian counterpart in her circumstances.

Mr Stuart advised the House Speaker to remain in the chair and hire a lawyer.

We concede the Speaker’s issue is different; but what is undeniable is the shadow cast on the public office Mr Carrington holds. Our public figures, who are entrusted with the nation’s business, can only expect that their conduct will be held to the highest scrunity. And failure to ostensibly preserve these standards will be found wanting in the court of public opinion.

Again Prime Minister Stuart could be judged –– rightfully or wrongfully –– as the leader devoid of bold, masterful strokes, in the preservation of his his own political interest –– a  stark contrast to the position of Mrs Persad-Bissessar, whose very action may yet yield a heavy price at the upcoming polls.

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