ONE OF the jobs of any minister of communications is to bolster the transparency and accountability of the government by opening it to lines of questioning while also providing information about the work being done by the State on behalf of the population. In other words, the minister of communications is a conduit between the electorate and elected leaders. That is, at least, in theory. In practice, communication ministers have sometimes become more well known for putting a positive gloss on embarrassing events, and even beating down attempts to subject the executive to scrutiny.
In this regard, the removal of the communications portfolio from Stuart Young’s plate eliminates what was always an uncomfortable and unsavoury association. Fighting crime is not about grandstanding. It is about co-operation, focus and resolve. The Prime Minister’s reassignment, at the very least, acknowledges this. But is it enough?
Unlike new Communications Minister Donna Cox, Young is a sitting MP. This means in addition to being Minister of National Security, he also has a responsibility to be actively involved in his constituency and to be the voice of Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West in Parliament. Additionally, Young remains a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, though the nature of that portfolio is not at present spelled out. There needs to be clarity on this.
Meanwhile, the traumatic events of the last week were undoubtedly the backdrop to the Prime Minister’s latest move. But the spike in brazen violence, being conducted in the streets and claiming the lives of so many of our loved ones, has done more than affect the ruling government. It has undermined the very notion of law and order in the country as a whole, something that should be of concern to political parties across the board, as well as business groups and civil society.
No amount of political grandstanding can solve crime. That much is clear.
What is required is concrete action. There must be nonpartisan co-operation and a renewed focus. The time for playing the blame game is long gone. While the government of the day is holding the reins, Opposition entities must acknowledge that they too have an interest in defending the well-being of the country.
A state of emergency has been ruled out, but there are other options.
The current Parliament recess should be terminated. The Committee on National Security should be tasked with urgently reviewing the events of the last few weeks with a view to reviewing systems and recommending changes. This committee should also consider representations from the business community, civil society and those with proven crime-fighting expertise. Parliamentarians should listen to constituents and come together to debate and consider solutions on behalf of the nation.