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Wednesday 15 August 2018
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Terrified? We too!

Prof Ramesh Deosoran writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

Terrified. This is described as “to be filled with terror; severely frightened.”

Answering the last question in the six-minute interview allowed, President-elect Paula Mae Weekes said: “I can tell you, apart from feeling honoured and humbled, I felt completely terrified. And that terror has not yet abated. (Newsday, January 30)” Given her judicial stature and civic experience, hopefully, her “terror” is not a matter of timidity or fear of high office, but more likely about the anticipated work schedule and public expectations anxiously coming after a bruised presidency. It calls for courage. The seas are rough.

The daily news reveal the many things that need fixing have themselves become so rooted, nurtured by patronised resistance to change. Loud noises for change but the timidity to do it. Loud noises but little or delayed action. Endless excuses from fractured or overburdened constitutional bodies, shameless denials and obfuscations — even when the evidence is clear. Within presidential power is the need for a balanced review of the membership of all service commissions, primarily to see if the experience and qualifications properly fit the job at hand. And make recommendations, where necessary, for executive action.

The nation’s tasks are now too demanding to place integrity and ability behind other considerations. Wrestling with such governance imperatives and with fresh moral authority, the new presidency warned: “I don’t know how far moral suasion will go. I have been known to turn an arm or two and if I need to turn an arm or two to get the best persons for the best fit, I am going to give it my best effort. (Newsday, January 30).”

The daily news, various committee reports, police investigations and joint parliamentary select committee hearings do not present a pretty picture of this society. The revelations on corruption, public sector under-performance, vast expenditures without public value and of more immediate concern — the fear of crime — all help to create a terrified society. Terrified for personal safety and terrified about the country’s future.

For example, every day, page one to page 20 in each of the three dailies attract public scepticism and fright. “Murder toll for 2018 now 60,” said one newspaper. “Murdered man’s watery grave,” said another. “School violence has remained the same,” said yet another.

Then we had two teenagers, 14 and 15, charged for murder. But the early-page headlines were, and still are, not only about murders and violence. They are also about the ineptitude and waste of several state companies, an exposed trend that contributes to the scepticism and fears of the population. Yes, for reasons different from those of the new President, the population is also terrified.

To be frank about it, my own dilemma as a professional and columnist is that while I feel obligated to point out the various challenges facing our country, I strive to do so within boundaries.

That is, without creating a climate of hopelessness or surrender but to help encourage all concerned to work harder at it, to avoid making the same mistakes and to be of brave heart to make the radical changes necessary today if this terrified country should be further decolonised.

In particular, evidence suggests that many of our constitutional bodies have grown to be rather ineffective and inefficient, leaving the population not only distressed but also with feelings of helplessness. This must be corrected mainly by bringing the population more fully into decisions that directly affect their safety and welfare. This means a fuller share of direct democracy.

This is part of the political therapy required to bring relief for the population’s terrified state.

We can no longer says democracy means “power of the people” as drawn from “demo”and “kraetin,” and yet keep the people far from the decision-making that affects their welfare, especially when the evidence suggests that some of the executive and representative bodies have been failing. To “fix” some of these is like trying to fix an old car when a new car is really required — if it is not one part, it is another, etc.

Our laid-back acceptance of Westminster style representative government has left the population too far behind — and now terrified, severely frightened.


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