Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Political Lip Service or Divided Government‏?

The People's Partnership Government through the Office of the Prime Minister sought to 'appear to' condemn the highly inflammatory and racially divisive remarks of Chairman of the Police Service Commission Mr. Nizam Mohammed, a condemnation that no doubt sought to act as a cooling agent to soothe the public out cry against Mr. Mohammed's unfortunate statements and 'insinuations' made in no other place than our country's highest office the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. The release from the Prime Minister's Office describes Mr. Mohammed's statements using some very strong adjectives and phrases such as "reckless, senseless, divisive and serving no purpose." The release continued to state that Mr. Mohammed's views "run against the very grain of the philosophy that now governs this country", presumably under the stewardship of Ms. Persad-Bissessar and the new People's Partnership Government and further stated that Mr. Mohammed must be held accountable for his inflammatory comments because the mission of the government is to embrace everyone.


Arguably the release from the Prime Minister's Office used all the right words to condemn Mr. Mohammed's inflammatory remarks yet that release fell short of informing the general public whether the Government which fiercely defended the appointment of the goodly gentleman in the first place, an appointment that was vehemently opposed to by the Opposition benches, whether they will now be seeking to revoke Mr. Mohammed's appointment as he has demonstrated to the entire nation his unsuitability for the position. This Government should not wait on the President to revoke Mr. Mohammed's appointment. It was this Government that insisted Mr. Mohammed be appointed to this position and therefore they should bear the responsiblity for Mr. Mohammed's reckless conduct and not put that burden on the President. The Government's statement without action is tantamount to a parent spending enormous amounts of energy severely berating a child for a transgression yet failing to discipline said child.


Further to that one would have thought that if the Government was to issue a strongly worded reprimand such as this and in light of the potentially destabilising effect of Mr. Mohammed's comments not only to the Police Service but to the country as a whole, that they would have held an emergency caucus to address the issue and come to some form of unanimity in condemning the comments. This however does not seem to be the case because apparently before the ink can dry on the Office of the Prime Minister's release, we have contrary claims being made by two Government Ministers in the form of Dr. Roodal Moonilal and Chandresh Sharma. In the case of Mr. Sharma, he has taken a most curious stance of blaming the media for the dilemma Mr. Mohammed finds himself, saying "There are times when every media in many parts of the world carry stories that are inaccurate or carry stories that did not at all times reflect the views of the presenter, so that we must at all times listen and not shoot the messenger".


Mr. Sharma's comments are certain to raise eyebrows as Mr. Mohammed's comments were broadcast live on national television via the Parliament Channel, therefore the entire country for the most part heard for themselves the offensive remarks of Mr. Mohammed. For instance can Mr. Sharma explain what Mr. Mohammed meant when he said 'we need protection'? Who is the 'WE' that Mr. Mohammed was referring to and protection from whom? And if Mr. Mohammed is indeed the messenger from where did the message originate? Who's message is he delivering? In addition if as Mr. Mohammed claims that the police service does not represent the ethnic composition of Trinidad and Tobago because there are 41% East Indians (Mr. Mohammed erroneously claimed 50%) and 39% Africans therefore the police service should not have so many Africans, can both Mr. Mohammed and Sharma explain why we have a caucasian Police Commissioner when that ethnic group is not more than 1% and the fact that the Commissioner is a foreigner to boot! In Mr. Mohammed's eyes does Commissioner Gibbs represent the ethnic composition of Trinidad and Tobago? Furthermore was Commissioner Gibbs promoted through the ranks based on meritocracy? Why was he chosen over an officer like say Stephen Williams? It should be noted that it was the Government and not the PSC that was instrumental in the appointment of Mr. Gibbs as Police Commissioner. Mr. Sharma's claim that we should not shoot the messenger is directly at odds with the Government's message via the release from the Prime Minister's Office that Mr. Mohammed's statements run against the very grain of this government. How can Mr. Mohammed be a 'viable messenger' and how can his message be 'worthy of recognition' while at the same time running against the philosophy of the Government of which Mr. Sharma is a member?


Dr. Roodal Moonilal has indicated that Mr. Mohammed's statements can spark a healthy debate, but the question is a healthy debate about what? What was valuable of Mr. Mohammed's claims of feeling intimidated because there were too many 'Africans' in top positions of the police service, especially when Mr. Mohammed gave no credible reason for feeling intimidated other than the fact that the officers he was referring too were not of his ethnicity?. How can Dr. Moonilal say Mr. Mohammed's statements can spark a healthy debate when the Government's leadership via the Office of the Prime Minister has denounced Mr. Mohammed's statements as 'reckless, senseless, divisive and serving no purpose?' Both Sharma's and Moonilal's comments run counter to the sentiments of another top Government member in the person of Mr. Warner who's comments preceded the release from the Prime Minister's Office, stating that Mr. Mohammed's remarks has hurt him deeply and has caused much embarrassment to their Government. With all these different messages emanating from the People's Partnership it's almost as if parts of this Government exists in parallel dimensions, each entity distinct from the other with it's own agenda.


It would appear from the different sentiments being expressed by this Government that it is a Government speaking with a forked tongue, a Government with multiple heads, positions and agendas. It would also seem that the various heads of this Government are ignorant to the agendas of each other. As a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago I for one am dissatisfied with the release from the Prime Minister's Office and the position of this Government with regards Nizam Mohammed's statements and tenure as Chairman of the Police Service Commission. Until this Government takes collective responsibility for unleashing Mr. Mohammed on the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, revoke his appointment and speak in unison as a Government, I can only conclude that the release from the Prime Minister's Office is nothing more than 'lip service', a gesture of appeasement to calm the masses while not categorically condemning Mr. Mohammed's claims. The failure of this Government to surgically remove itself from the sentiments of Mr. Mohammed can only lead one to conclude that Mr. Mohammed's comments does in fact reflect the present agenda of this Government irrespective of whether all the key players are aware of what that agenda is. ©

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