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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

T&T government picking Ministers out of a hat

Allow me to to take a break from legal rights to indulge in some politics and give my view on the recent reshuffle.

“This is not a fete in here, this is madness!” The lyrics from David Rudder’s 1987 road-march runner-up entitled “Madness” is the most apropos encapsulation of what happened last Monday night when the Prime Minister made a myriad of changes to her Cabinet for the fourth time since winning the 2010 election. For those of you who’ve lost count, we’ve witnessed the removal of eighteen Ministers and a few other non-cabinet appointments during this administration, but none more drastic than the last few. Judging from the comments of political analysts, columnists and callers to various talk-programmes, the entire country was shocked by some of the “resignations” and dismissals, but the appointments left me even more bewildered. Clearly, anyone with a pulse has an opportunity to be appointed as Minister of, or Minister in a Ministry under the PP government.

The PP’s farcical selection method for Ministers is the main reason for the government’s constant failure. This administration has put a calypsonian as the Minister of Arts and Culture, a trade union militant as Minister of Labour, a television presenter as Minister of Sport, a gynaecologist as Minister of Education, and a dj has had the most varied experience as Minister of Public Utilities, Works, National Security, and then Justice. Although my focus is on Ministers, I must mention the most ridiculous appointment of all, which involves a woman with a basic information technology certificate being made the Director of the Security Intelligence Agency.

Despite this, the incongruous appointments continue with the new Sport and National Security Ministers. Firstly, the PM’s initial appointment of “Brent Sanko” [sic] makes me wonder how much was known about this man besides what was pulled from Wikipedia; and secondly, how does being an average (at best) footballer qualify a man to oversee all sports in a country? Yes, he was the only Soca Warrior to score a goal at the 2006 World Cup, but even then he didn’t know what he was doing because he actually scored for Paraguay instead. For copious reasons (which I won’t get into here), comparisons to the PNM’s 1991 appointment of Eugenia “Jean” Pierre would be illogical -- 20 years removed.

Then, we have an elderly soldier as the 5th Minister of National Security, in as many years. Carlton Alfonso has been given a job at an age above the highest retirement age in the world. And what ever happened to “learning from your mistakes”? The PP has tried three soldiers and yet (arguably), the most effective period in crime-fighting was when a FIFA executive was at the helm. We had a glimpse of a soldier’s mentality from speed-talker, Gary Griffith, when he advocated for more citizens to be armed, in order to bring a “sense of security”, and then the importation of armoured personnel carriers. Had he made a more sagacious investment, last week’s fiery domestic violence tragedy would not have happened because the Brasso Police Post would’ve had a vehicle to respond to the victim’s calls.

The government needs to start treating a Ministerial appointment like a real job as opposed to “ah wuk”, and the PM needs to understand that her role is similar to that of a Human Resource Manager in this regard. As the HR Manager, proper recruitment procedure should be followed; i.e., identify, interview, investigate, and offer (if suitable). Many are called, but few are chosen and this is what the choosing of Ministers should entail. I was seriously perturbed to hear Brent Sancho admit that he was vacationing in New York when he received a random call offering the ministerial appointment. Is that all that goes into selecting someone for a position in our parliament -- a long-distance phone call?

A Minister has the same responsibility as a CEO of a company; therefore, diversity of knowledge and the ability to lead are most vital. Knowledge of a single area (the army or football) is almost irrelevant in a multi-faceted government ministry. CEOs focus on developing and implementing high-level strategies and making major policy decisions; which is exactly what government ministers are required to do. Are these skills that a soldier and a footballer would’ve acquired before appointment? Or are we hoping for on-the-job-training?

As someone said, the next reshuffle might see “Saucy Pow” as Minister of Gender Affairs, Machel Montano as Minister of Road (and Works), and Lurbz may get the call for Minister of Affairs. With this government, I feel like we’re playing football and we keep bringing on players in the 89th minute just to give them an opportunity to play for the final sixty seconds. Back in my school days, we called that a “corbeau-sweat” (pronounced “cobo”). Coach PM is giving everybody “ah sweat”, so let’s see who’s coming off the bench next!

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