Engineering Failure

According to the T&T Express of June 9, 2010, it was on June 8 that the AG called on the Integrity Commission to secure both the movable assets and the entire property at Guanapo because as he said "the assets may very well belong to the State and action ought to be taken to ensure the compound receives adequate protection." It must have been soon after this that the looting began, by locals anyway, because I am not convinced that those contractors' trucks that had already been briskly removing materials from the site were in fact really associated with that company or if they were, if there wasn't the possibility that contrary to what they were asserting, they were removing materials that had already been paid for by Phantom & Co.

I'd like to be able to blame the AG or the CoP or the Integrity Commission but I cannot. I have strong suspicions but I simply do not know enough about the chain of command, about the legislation guiding policing or about the powers of the Integrity Commission, to direct my accusations with any confidence at one of, or all the parties involved. Sometimes though, I suspect that things are made to appear more complicated than they are in order to deliberately obfuscate and discourage scrutiny by the general public.

I would be eternally grateful if an investigative journalist or an impartial expert would take the time to break it down for us. As regards the securing of assets in this particular case, tell us what the Attorney General can and cannot command. Tell us what the CoP can and cannot allow his officers to do. Tell us what the Integrity Commission is empowered to do. Tell us if the PM and the Minister of National Security were consulted. Tell us if these were extraordinary circumstances under which established procedures could have been altered by those who had the power to do so within the law.

It is one thing to disagree violently behind the scenes but it is really unfortunate that the AG and CoP should have had this brawl out in public where some strong and not easily retractable fighting words were uttered. Since the energy has been expended, let us see if it will amount to something useful. If nothing positive results from it, we are going to conclude that it was simply another diversion, two officials bellowing and locking horns without any interest in moving us as a nation closer to creating a system that defends accountability and transparency. Yesterday, Stephen Kangal in his article "Adopting a consultative approach to foreign policy." described Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Suruj Rambachan's adoption of "a consultative, transparency and accountability-based strategy." Sounds promising.

Public officials who are confident and have nothing to hide, do not avoid public scrutiny and have no need to bluster when the facts of the matter can be calmly presented with respect for themselves and the intelligence of the citizens that they serve.

So many Trinbagonians in public fora are critically assessing this situation, asking all the right questions and proposing intelligent guidelines for investigation. They were born and bred in this country and there are thousands more like them who are honest, intelligent and self-motivated. What I will argue constantly is that we absolutely do have the qualified and capable people right here in Trinidad and Tobago to do the work that is required, and to do it well. However, they do not exist or function in a vacuum. There is a "culture" that we have to take into consideration and that culture will also constrain the functioning of imported personnel.

The source of the problems with our public offices, including the Police Service, is not at the points where these ills are publicly manifested. The problems are enabled by the culture within which these officers exist, both internal to the service and that of the government and society. There is little accountability because this is what has been allowed by those who bear responsibility for holding public offices and officers accountable.

To take the example of the Police Service, I believe that it has been convenient for the corrupt at all levels to have a police service that the rest of us can blame. Apparently these officers' backs are particularly broad and well suited to the role of sin eaters in this society. Those with half a brain, however, know that they are not a law unto themselves and that if the political will existed, heads would roll, for example, when officers repeatedly fail to respond to calls for help from citizens in distress or do not show up in court to present evidence. The police officers who give the rest of the service a bad name, the officers who are inefficient or as corrupt as the criminal elements that they are expected to subdue, have clearly analysed and understood this society. Monkey really know what tree to climb. All law breakers, whether blue collar, white collar or platinum have discerned that lawlessness will be tolerated by the administration.

Perhaps the AG can explain to us, in the interest of transparency, exactly how public servants are held accountable for their misdeeds or plain criminal negligence. Perhaps he can examine his conscience and even if he does not share what he discovers there with us, he can still ask himself if he really made every effort, with firmness and respect for his equals, to have his orders enforced re the Guanapo site. Or, is it that it suits his purpose now to allow the present Commissioner to appear to have failed.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I have completely lost patience with hearing the list of suspects in this case. I want to know who had ultimate authority and therefore responsibility for ensuring after June 8, that the AG's orders were enacted. Has Calder Hart's property been secured by the way? We do know that he is the owner and that he is under investigation. AG, are you diligently pursuing this?

I do not believe that foreigners are necessarily more competent or honest than locals and they've certainly provided us with abundant evidence to the contrary, both within and outside of this country. I maintain that all public officials (specifically those who cannot be relied upon to police themselves) will be only as honest as the climate within which they operate. The leader bears ultimate responsibility for the actions of his/her subordinates. In the framework of organisational performance assessment, the buck stops at the head.
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!