IT was supposed to mark a grand juncture for the present and future image of T&T. At the UN General Assembly in New York, Prime Minister Rowley would lead the way, striding the world stage, addressing international concerns, and identifying T&T with a forward-looking projection.
Back home shortly after, National Security Minister Stuart Young would himself take to a local crime battleground, in step with the Police and Defence Force leaders, for “Operation Strike Back”. Its budget presentation set for days later, a government could profile as straddling the commanding heights of endeavours in fighting crime and in directing the national economy.
Something threatened to slow the momentum of an administration convincingly advancing into its final year. That eventuality was some outspoken somebody calling a radio station to counter claims made by Dr Rowley at the UN. He described the nameless somebody as “very irate and very upset” that the Prime Minister had credited his T&T government with a “poverty eradication programme”.
He claimed to have expected such a response, but he did not take it lightly. “Many of us don’t know where we came from, (are) vex about where we are, and vex like hell about where we going,” he vented. Such people fail to realise that “we are doing a whole lot better than a whole lot of people in this world.”
The nameless caller could have been harmlessly ignored. The PNM leader felt obliged to headline an aggressive attitude of scold-for-scold: “Cut out bad-talking the country as if you are living in a hell hole!”
This country is doing damn well: so goes the reigning doctrine of spirited readiness to take on naysayers. Look, it’s a time when ground has broken for at least two new hospitals in Point Fortin and Sangre Grande, with another due to open just now in Arima. A Diego Martin Health Centre is to be ready by August 2020. Work is to be inaugurated this month on a 540-bed Port of Spain General Hospital Central Block… and more.
Meanwhile, 2019-2020 Budget projections are yet to be advertised, even if potentially overshadowed in advance by local government election legislation. For the start of the Rowley PNM’s climactic final year in office, government and politics are conjoined on a rampage, all the way to general elections 2020.
So the crime-fighting forces are clamorously on the march. Dr Rowley holds forth: “Problems with respect to crime and criminality…(are) a major challenge for the Government and the people. “We will… never concede that we are a failed state and (that) we are not able to deal with our circumstance.”
Anti-gang legislation has yet to prove its effectiveness. But “Strike Back” operations are underway “that would either eliminate or minimise…crime and criminality and gang leaders… We’re on the right track. The police is doing a better job, they have more resources, they are having more successes.”
A Rowley rhetorical field day seems promised as the security forces appear being drilled toward at least mental battle-readiness. Investments are being made in equipment, staffing and/or training; candidates for Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner positions will henceforth be required to have Master’s degrees. CoP Griffith appears to specify that such postgraduate qualifications must be “in a discipline related to security”. Curiously thereby discouraged is timely top-CoP training in psychology, sociology, communications and management…but we have to start somewhere.
Presumably, the Government will do what it can with such (diminished) financial and management resources as it can draw upon. For one, dangerous prisoners keep escaping. For another, it’s been proven that nothing this or previous administrations can do gets around dread arrangements by which desalinated water is for weeks entirely withdrawn from the WASA supply lines. When can this annually predictable vexation be corrected? Not before the next election: that’s the best bet.
Reinvigorated fight-back and promotion of results are more and more to be expected. Chief Justice Ivor Archie can demonstrably count upon allies in the executive, and vice versa, as he cites the judiciary and the JLSC among “institutions of the state” being attacked or facing contempt and “vitriol”.
He flings in the face of would-be masters, magistrates and judges an external examiner’s assessment that “no candidate met our stringent requirements”. Examinations proved up “weak writing and analytical skills”, reports the examiner, without notably suggesting how such skills might be suitably improved.
Legal profession and other critics will reaffirm hostilities, even if the vast majority of Law Association’s members decline to rally round the urgings toward anti-Archie solidarity. Under his own direction and affiliated support, the CJ’s improvement programmes appear to move forward. He cites a 43 per cent increase in judgments, and promises “imminent” elimination of preliminary inquiries.
He shrugs off concerns by those irritated by his travels. Casually, he mentions that, shortly, he flies to Zambia.
About his role, the CJ says: “The job is not about profiling in the media or storming big people party.” As an invited guest to one such party, he was photographed doing the Electric Slide!
The stage is being set for pre-election drama and dance.