We have all long accepted in this land that no one is required to bear responsibility for anything.
This is not just a political thing, like who is in or out of office while failures and disasters drift along our social landscape; this is an accepted form of existence, in business, labour, policing, judiciary, everything. The condition has become, over the past 55 years, so all-encompassing that we no longer understand that we spend our lives suffocating from the stultifying hand of incompetence and corruption.
From the collapse of the Clico empire ten years ago to the current inability to pay student nurses their stipends for over a year, from massive dishonesty and fraud to wilful petty incompetence, we the people accept our fates without even the bleating of a single lamb. The student nurses protested this past week, and brought to shameful light an issue which might seem petty compared to what is not happening at Clico, what is not happening regarding transport to and from Tobago and how Petrotrin is allegedly paying party hacks for non-existent oil.
It is easier to understand the massive corruption and frauds which drive the upper ends of our corruption and feigned incompetence than to understand the motives—other than gross, uncaring, cruel slackness—that denies young people the pittances due them as they study nursing. This slackness would hardly have been conceived in the large homes of Goodwood Park or Palmiste. These venues and their inhabitants discuss how to get paid millions for oil never produced, how to re-acquire one’s insurance conglomerate without policyholders getting paid, and how to totally destroy the Tobago shipping arrangements so that some friend could make money supplying unseaworthy ships.
It would take a whole column or more to try to discuss any of the crimes plotted and hatched in the homes of our rich and powerful, but it makes little sense doing so. Whether we discuss these here in the media, over drinks on a Friday lime, or through a formal commission of enquiry, nothing—absolutely nothing— will ever be resolved.
The “missing” oil would have been presumed to have leaked out of Petrotrin’s porous tanks, or its broken pipes. The money paid for the missing oil would never return to Petrotrin. Any inquiry will, like the inquiry into the collapse of Clico, will be declared secret, in order to prosecute someone someday... maybe.
Will we ever again find suitable ships to serve Tobago? We are seeking ships which we want to manage when we should be seeking shippers who know their business, and let them run the service. That is what shipping people do—that is how goods come to Trinidad. If the costs of travel or shipping do exceed what people are paying now, then we can consider a subsidy to the shipper.
Do you know that there is nothing magical about shipping and ferries? Do you know that ferry services operate between tiny St Kitts and Nevis? And that people and goods get shipped up and down the Caribbean island chain? It is only us... the crooked and wilfully incompetent governments of TT who cannot operate a shipping service between our islands.
But let us leave those and other major issues to the “Big People” so that lawyers can rake in a few more unworthy millions of dollars while nothing gets resolved and the guilty get richer.
Let us return to something which should be easier to resolve: the non-payment of stipends to student nurses. Let us try to imagine how this sort of cruel failure occurs. And remember, this sort of thing—payments of allowances to trainees and students—occurs fairly regularly. Why?
Monies are being paid, and then payments apparently just stop! No reasons are given and months are allowed to pass with no one held responsible. What happens in these matters? Does the person responsible go on leave, quit the job, or die? And there are no systems for anyone else to pick up the slack?
Listen, someone is responsible, and they just abdicated that responsibility, and people suffer, but the person or persons responsible just carry on—they go to work (or to their jobs—not necessarily to work) and they get paid, while others suffer.
If this was your business, would you allow this ongoing failure to pay your employees to continue? Then why, as a government minister, a permanent secretary, a department head, whatever, do you allow this to continue?
When the people who are paid to manage our affairs begin to do their jobs from the ground up, then the major corruption will have less manure to feed upon. But that is not going to happen in a society where no one is ever to blame for anything.
For as we all know, “This is not my fault!”