The timely submission of the report by the Cabinet-appointed investigator into the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 vessels for the domestic seabridge is welcomed indication that this matter has received urgent attention. However, businessman Christian Mouttet’s presentation of his report to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must not be the end of the matter.
Earlier this year, when asked whether Mouttet’s report would be released to the public, Rowley said he had no doubt that it would be. But in Parliament on Friday, Rowley said he would, “make it available to the committee that is taking a specific view on this matter.”
The national community deserves to know what happened in relation to this fiasco and so this report should be made available to the members of the public who – in both Trinidad and Tobago – have had to contend with the malaise surrounding the seabridge day in and day out. Transparency will allow persons against whom adverse findings may have been made to respond.
Given that the Prime Minister has already concurred that there may be something “crooked,” it will be for the Parliament’s committee and several State agencies to determine what lessons can be gleaned in the long-run from any specific findings.
One thing is clear, however. The report serves as only one part of the overall deliberations by MPs –and possibly other institutions. The Parliament committee system must be allowed to continue its deliberations thoroughly and in a manner commensurate with the principles of fairness.
Already, the proceedings before the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee which is examining this issue have been revelatory. While those proceedings remain ongoing and while it is for the committee to make findings and come to its own determinations, the evidence heard thus far has painted a picture that leaves a lot to be desired. We have been left with the impression of constant tension and in-fighting at the Port Authority, a key State body which has oversight for a range of crucial matters that affect commerce, security and infrastructure. This is an authority that affects the lives of thousands daily.
Within any organisation, there is expected to be a certain degree of politics; of tension; of disagreement. If such were absent, then serious questions would have to be asked as to whether the organisation is healthy.
However, things take on a different tenor when the normal hustle and bustle of an organisation becomes tumultuous. Such a breakdown is rarely the action of one individual but rather a sign of deeper dynamics.
Whatever the source, internal problems should not be allowed to undermine the ability of state enterprises to function efficiently and above board.
And furthermore, the precincts of Parliament should not be used simply as a sounding-board for a continuation of boardroom banter and disagreement. A Parliament committee is a place regulated by the rules of fairness in which persons are made to comply with orders but are also allowed to reply to adverse matters raised.
This has long been our Parliament’s tradition.
In this regard, we look forward to continued hearings of this Parliament committee which is due to have further witnesses this week. One scheduled to appear is Dr Rowley himself.
But other probes into this matter persist and whatever Parliament concludes, it will be for the Port Authority, investigating agencies, the Public Service and the Cabinet to act.
One report has been submitted, yes. But let us continue to get the facts.