Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2013 Contents A28
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, September 21, 2013
I have been listening on and off to
the budget debate over the past week.
While both sides were very vocal
about how many roads were or were
not paved, the Venezuela/TT gas field
and many other "spicy" topics, one
thing slipped by very quietly. The
promise from the Minister of Public
Administration of a transformed, ac-
countable and transparent public serv-
ice in time for T&T's Jubilee celebration
Other people may not have thought
anything about this, but having both
parents who were career public ser-
vants, who themselves complain
about the current public service as op-
posed to the public service when they
were still a part of it, this made an im-
pression on me.
The Minister went on about citizens
receiving the highest levels of service
from the service; about accessing serv-
ices online from your phone; about
new jobs in the service; and I have to
admit I was excited and I am looking
forward to it.
Transformation is integral to the de-
velopment of the country. By now
everyone has heard that we have
dropped yet again in our competitive-
ness ranking, and most of the reason
for this fall lies solely at the feet of the
It is for this reason that I wonder
why no one stopped to ask her one
question---why wait for 2022? Why
can't some of these things start hap-
pening now? How soon can she get
this done? When will we see this re-
It was indeed curious that
most PP Ministers made a
point in their 2014 budget con-
tributions of thanking all their
staff at length. But COP MP
Winston Dookeran s delivery
doubled the queries when he
concluded by reminiscing about
his years as an MP, projecting
he "didn t know what the next
year would be."
"He sounded as though he
was delivering his swansong...it
was an epitaph, an epilogue---
he s on his way, he s travelling
somewhere," PNM s Colm
PNM Senator Lester Henry
summarised it in yesterday s
Senate debate, "They re in the
twilight of their term."
If PP members sounded as
though preparing for something
momentous, the three-year-old
Government indeed starts the
new financial year with not just
one but two elections. It is the
UNC s luck (or curse) that it
attracts elections in multiple:
the 2000 general polls which
was drawn out into repeats in
2001 and 2002. All emanating
from splits in that administra-
tion that ended badly.
Now PP-incarnated, the polit-
ical tests which that aggregation
has so far failed in PNM-domi-
nated Tobago and (now former)
heartland, Chaguanas West,
make for an ominous staging
point for the October local gov-
ernment challenge across T&T,
and a St Joseph by-election in
the East-West corridor by
December. Hence, probably,
Dookeran s sombre perspective.
Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar who initially
"floated" the idea of postpon-
ing local government polls, then
committed to it after negative
reaction, is now also saddled
with PP s second by-election
propelled by the machinations
of ex-colleague Jack Warner.
Warner s desire for a St
Joseph by-election would have
been based on PM s admission
during the C/West by election
that she had not wanted an
election with local government
Armed with information of
vulnerability, Warner s utilisation
of Battle thru By-election (rather,
Vendetta Via Vote) has so far
been successful in keeping the
Government diverted from its
national agenda, continuously in
fight mode against "itself", heat-
ing the political climate and
making for unsteady T&T profile.
How much the PM s chal-
lenge for Herbert Volney to give
up St Joseph may have back-
fired, will unfold in that cam-
paign. To keep things boiling,
Warner wants a third by-elec-
tion in San Fernando East. But
MP Patrick Manning says he s
going nowhere til term s end.
Warner, in budget debate
occupied the St Joseph seat
telegraphing obvious intent. This
was reinforced by word of possi-
ble candidate Om Lalla, UNC s
frontrunner for the seat in 2000,
with deep constituency roots.
Warner, beyond devil s advo-
cate, trained debating guns on
the PP. Nary a word about the
PNM, which will also be tested
by the St Joseph exercise.
While most PNMites believe
PNM will benefit from a
PP/ILP split, they recognise if
PNM cannot win a seat in
those circumstances, it will
have serious issues to confront.
Unsurprisingly, few PNM stones
were pelted at Warner during
debate, though both sides
COP s Anil Roberts warned of
ILP flooding Diego Martin.
PNM s Keith Rowley remarked
of PP MPs attire: "They all
wearing green.." PNM s Amery
Browne s description: "PP, ILP---
two sides of the same coin."
Indeed, PP s latest challenge
includes shadows cast by the lat-
est revelations from Roodal
Moonilal as well as Warner, and
questions about the Cabinet s col-
lective responsibility on approving
issues Warner presented.
The pot-and-kettle scenario
which both sides are striving
for as cover from black marks
in such situations, and PP s
recent "Do the right thing"
mantra will not absolve the
Government of its responsibili-
ty. Or failed responsibility, in
acting on or speaking about
issues only after they emerge in
the public domain.
PP s local government per-
formance will naturally impact
on its St Joseph chances. That
election date isn t expected
until after Persad-Bissessar s
return from the US next week.
Last night, partners were
deciding if COP will contest St
Joseph, as well as negotiating
local government seats.
The COP has shifted from its
requested seven corporations to
four. COP gave up Sangre Grande
to NJAC which also wants to
contest Pt Fortin. UNC maintain-
ing Piarco and other seats, also
wants individual places in some
corporations, UNC officials said,
adding negotiations should con-
clude this weekend.
Why can't we have a
transformed public service now?
VENDETTA VIA VOTE...
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