WHEN, IN mid-June 2015, I launched Resett1962 (some questioned the “1962”), I titled my remarks “Towards participatory democracy.” Given our traditional environment of obsessive, top-down political control, with occasional window-dressing attempts at “public consultations,” that democracy is something we’ve never really enjoyed in this country. Good governance is its bedrock. In my previous article I gave some recent examples of improper governance. There are others.
The police, for instance. When I was a child we had a game called “police an’ t’ief;” the two roles were very distinct from each other. Nowadays, however, many police is t’ief, and t’ief even t’iefin’ from police. Who now is protecting whom? Who is serving what interest?
A former Cabinet minister explains hesitation over his Gary Griffith parliamentary vote by saying that Griffith is his “friend.” Should I therefore conclude that personal friendship is a priority criterion in the choice of people for sensitive national office?
As for violent crime, we seem to be fixated on considering it only from one end of the spectrum: law enforcement. Yes, you do have to seize guns and ammunition, and arrest people (who take years to face the courts, which might well be a violation of their human rights).
But, important and necessary as law enforcement is, it concentrates almost exclusively on effects. Is such an approach, essentially Victorian in its emphasis on punishment, likely to put a long-term dent in violent criminal activity? Or will more and more malefactors be churned out from our factories of social exclusion? Do recent events in the Beetham tell us anything? What might be the underlying causes of certain conduct and worldviews? How much attention have we been paying to these, and doing what we can to mitigate their impact, or even in part eliminate them?
And if we are doing anything positive in that regard, to what extent are our policies, programmes and actions coordinated for maximum impact?
It was reported that the recent government retreat dealt among other things with inter-ministerial coordination. But the retreat was not the first of its kind. What happened between events? If crime has basic socio-cultural triggers, what relationship has there been between, say, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services? Or between the Government and the UWI and organisations in the field, and affected people?
What about education? Public consultations were held in 2015 and 2016. What was their purpose? More window-dressing? To what end are we providing education? Indeed, what do we understand by the word “education”? Exam successes and the number of those who didn’t achieve X per cent in this or that subject? What of critical thinking towards innovation, of values, and of life skills such as cooperative effort to replace the silo mentality that holds us back? With all our elitist talk of “prestige schools” and the like, have we been unwittingly helping breed the very social exclusion whose manifestations now haunt our society?
Have we made any serious effort – or any effort at all – to determine the country’s present and projected development needs, and structured our training programmes accordingly? Or is it that the output of the Central Statistical Office has descended into unreliability? Good governance would never have allowed that to take place.
For example, what has been happening over the decades that now obliges us to import health specialists and – even more scandalous – recommend that our young medical graduates look abroad (you know to which countries they will gravitate) for employment? A small developing country like ours providing assistance to the developed world? Is this serious?
I nonetheless support Terrence Deyalsingh in his decision to have GATE-funded medical graduates repay the monies (I assume contractual) they received, if they take the position that they will work only in certain parts of the country, in certain institutions, because it suits them so to do. I can understand security and other valid considerations, but you cannot with impunity take the taxpayer’s help and then selfishly thumb your nose at the taxpayer.
I also support Marlene McDonald in her crusade to expel unentitled people occupying government accommodation. I read that some of these people have spoken of their “legitimate expectation” to purchase the properties. Their what? Thirty years ago, as head of the Public Service, I had the same problem. The more things change…
Whatever the occasional blips, however, the overall quality of our governance has steadily and palpably declined. It’s no good pointing fingers at this or that one, as we’re so skilled at doing. Each of us (the newly-minted doctor included) has a responsibility to the nation. As my friend Kelvin Scoon says: “It’s up to me to help make T&T a better place.”