The domestic confusion involving National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, a prime New York apartment and Neville Piper came to an end last week when it was announced that Dillon had sold the apartment back to Piper for US$10.
“It was a gift to me and, therefore, I returned the gift,” the Security Minister said last week. “Simple as that.”
Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Throughout the life of this story, Dillon sought to diminish its importance or refused to discuss the issue entirely, but that evasiveness only managed to give the whole affair a frisson of scandalousness through his inability or unwillingness to be clear about the issue from the start. The gaps that Dillon left in this narrative have been filled with speculation and mauvais langue that could have been managed more efficiently if he had chosen to be transparent with a rightfully curious public.
This opened an opportunist door for Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal to call for the resignation of the Security Minister.
“The issue further defines Mr Dillon as weak, lacking leadership skills and [is] unsuited for national office,” Moonilal declared in Parliament on Friday.
The Opposition MP might have been reaching a bit for political gain in his denouncement of Dillon, but there’s no question that the Security Minister thoroughly mishandled the issue, allowing a shapeless narrative to unnecessarily suggests shiftiness for no apparent good reason.
Perhaps the National Security Minister saw the issue, which involved a childhood friend, as a personal one with no bearing on his substantive post in government, but it’s hard to imagine how he could have held onto that illusion after stepping into a US court to answer questions about a property worth millions in TT currency. He may also have misunderstood the extent to which transparency in public office defines the perceived quality of leadership, particularly in an era in which secrets are routinely revealed and broadcast.
If Edmund Dillon and his colleagues in Cabinet are still operating with any level of confusion on that score, they should now stand reminded that their right to privacy diminishes as the relevance of disclosures to their official role as leaders increases. The ethics and conduct of our elected representatives in their personal lives offer the public useful indicators of their approach to governance matters, to which the public often has less access.
The National Security Minister may well have been accustomed to his officers following his commands in his defence force career, but the public and the media representing them operate on democratic principles.
Those who accept the responsibility of office also undertake the burden of reasonable transparency in their actions. Doubly so in the sensitive role of overseeing national security.