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Where are our nation’s gatekeepers?
When people tell me there is a dim future for race relations in Trinidad and Tobago, I always tell them I am eternally optimistic about the young people of our nation and their ability to override and overcome the hang-ups, phobias, stigmatisation, negative pre-conceptions and antiquated ideas, attitudes and biases of their parents and elders. I am confident that they will be able to show the way to enlightenment in this regard.
In a similar vein, I wonder if it will have to be left to the young people to show the way to political maturity in this country. As you look around you see so many leaders and supposed exemplars who have failed in the duty to protect and marshal the patrimony, assets and goodwill of this nation from nepotism, hegemony, wanton squandermania and a haemorrhaging of the Treasury.
Who are the ones willing to stand up and speak out for the good of the nation? Who are the few who are willing to step up and put country first before narrow party lines or partisan interests? Who are the gatekeepers of this nation?
Putting country first
Public opinion is often shaped and heavily influenced in this land when persons with credibility and authority stand up and speak out on issues. This is not to discount the effect of talk shows, opinion polls, the views of the man in the street and public discussion groups. However, there can be an added element of strength, influence and authority when powerful, respected voices stand up and speak out on issues, putting country before political interests or personal or financial gain.
A martyr for a cause
The problem is this is a lonely place to be and a thankless, difficult road to walk because you often end up being a martyr and the very persons you are sacrificing for don’t seem to understand or appreciate the sacrifice you are making for the greater good of the country. The reason why this is so fraught with danger and difficulty is that we are locked in a combative style of opposition politics a-la-Panday style, where you oppose for opposing sake and object just because it makes the other side look bad.
By and large we as a people have not been able to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make the distinction between what is good for the party—translate this to mean personal interest, gain, or enrichment—and what is good for the country.
When the two are aligned we are the most patriotic and loyal citizens. Where, however, there is a divergence, our history is always to put party before country and this has been the root cause of our inability to successfully tackle and deal with many major issues and crises.
Crime has been the prime victim of this partisan politicking where we have seen our leaders shamelessly playing football with major issues. They will stand up and speak in favour of crime– reduction legislation when they are in power and when they lose office, brazenly stand up and condemn the very legislation because they are no longer the government and they now wish the government to fail.
It should have been clear to us decades ago that our politicians are not mature enough to handle these responsibilities of office and they are not the only ones to blame. The entire nation has to take responsibility also because we have allowed politicians to misrepresent, suborn, subvert and misappropriate what should be for the greater good of Trinidad and Tobago to narrow parochial, partisan party and personal interests. We are desperately in need of gatekeepers.
We need some powerful, independent supervisory body that can be like a commission comprised of persons who have demonstrated independence, impartiality, fairness and most of all fierce loyalty and patriotism and dedication toward the greater good and upliftment of this country.
It will have to be a constitutionally–composed body with oversight reference to the Parliament, the Senate, the Service Commissions and state boards and enterprises, because we have seen that our parliamentarians make mistakes, our Senators make mistakes, our state board members make lots of mistakes and our Service Commissions also make mistakes.
Its members must not be active politicians or openly affiliated to any political party. They must be financially independent and insulated from the normal pressures, influences and suasions of lobby groups or personal favours or nepotism. Their deliberations and advice must be totally confidential with reporting responsibility to the President, who then can decide what should be made public.
They must, of course, be very well compensated for their time and talents and while their advice and recommendations will not have coercive force, they certainly can have a very strong persuasive effect once the President presents their report to the public. This may have to be an interim solution because sadly it appears that so few of our current politicians and leaders recognise or accept their roles as gatekeepers.
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