Open your eyes, ears and mouths


THE HEADLINE instruction reads a bit like something you’d hear during a visit to the family doctor, but it could be worse. OK, it is worse. Enduring this Government feels like an unending visit to a knobby-fingered proctologist.

TT is a difficult place to tolerate if you’re overly sensitive to injustice, corruption and hypocrisy. It’s intolerable to suppress feelings that the Government is allowed to get away with murder. This is made possible not merely through the support of PNM minions who would follow their leader into the fire only to realise he’s not with them.

Our Government can commit the worst crimes of incompetence, malfeasance and political self-interest because of a complicity of silence among members of the public who know right from wrong.

It is certainly not for lack of information. Columnists, journalists, fair-minded commentators and activists have all worked overtime to expose acts of deliberate sabotage, shady dealings and gross negligence.

Notwithstanding public reticence over the scandalous stillborn HDC sweetheart contract with Chinese firm CGGC, columnists like Mariano Browne, Ralph Maraj and others have kept the issue alive. This is important because the complexity of the moving parts involved is tough gristle for ordinary people to digest.

Even so, there’s a sickening vibe that the public is willing to give the Government a pass on the HDC China contract. Other writers have explored the details extensively so I won’t retrace their steps. My concern is the apparent ease with which the society is consigning the Government’s role in the HDC scandal to file 13.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume the public accepted the PM’s story that even as he held the ministry of housing portfolio at the time, the preferential HDC contract was “just an administrative matter.” Just like stamping a document or ordering bulk paper clips.

At the very least, this demonstrates shocking negligence and failure of fiduciary duty on the part of Dr Rowley.

As Prime Minister, he needn’t be a great orator, or progressive thinker (good thing too). However, the bare minimum expected of him and his cabinet is the aggressive defence of the interests of the people of TT. Not even this, it seems, could be mustered when it mattered.

In referring to the cancellation of the HDC/CGGC contract conceived on a bed of nails (you can guess who was on the bottom), Dr Rowley summed it up as the system having worked. He is right about that. The system is media oversight exposing the madness and forcing the cabinet to “discover a problem” with the contract. But it only worked to a point.

Notwithstanding media vigilance, coverage hasn’t triggered accountability. The PM pointed out that “many, many people” were involved in the contract’s preparation. He, however, neatly plucked himself from any responsibility and made room in his absolution raft for HDC chairman Newman George. Thus we find ourselves in a curious state of flux in which “many, many people” were involved but no one is responsible.

Then came news of the “sale” of the Petrotrin refinery to the OWTU. Anyone raising questions about this astonishing development is either unpatriotic or racist. The Government redefined the meaning of upfront payment and has the nerve to tell us we shouldn’t talk about the deal.

Energy Minister Franklin Khan congratulated the OWTU for honouring a non-disclosure agreement. When asked where the funding was coming from for the purchase and start-up of the refinery, Khan told reporters to ask the union. This happened at the same news conference, people.

The OWTU, once champions of government accountability and absolute transparency, has itself become a practitioner of opacity. How the tables have turned when it suits the union to hold its tongue on matters of public importance. Is transparency optional when it doesn’t serve its interests?

From the deliberate sabotage of the sea bridge right up to the deeply worrying Petrotrin catastrophe, people fail to realise that decisions made on our behalf affect all our lives. Avoidable mistakes and self-inflicted wounds will create bleak outcomes from which future generations will struggle to escape. The cost of our silence is incalculable. We will be paying it decades after all the players in this theatre of the bizarre are long gone.

Citizens must once again find the fire in their throats used without hesitation against the PP administration and turn it on the PNM Government. No administration must be allowed a sanctuary of silence as it leads this country to hell.


"Open your eyes, ears and mouths"

More in this section