TO BE FAIR to Minister of National Security Stuart Young, communications with senior diplomats – especially those representing a partner as vital to TT’s interests as the US – are governed by conventions of discretion and tact that hinder a party’s ability to speak. This is more so considering his highly sensitive and secretive portfolio. However, in his bid to refute allegations in Parliament about his handling of the visit of a sanctioned party to these shores, Young has compromised his credibility.
The minister’s background as a lawyer means he is accustomed to applying standards of evidence that would prevail in a court of law. But even he must sense that when coming to Parliament, the people’s court, legal sophistry cannot suffice. The very rationale for a Parliament, in which members are given powers to ask probing questions, is to foster transparency and accountability. Parliament is one of the few places where citizens may interrogate the country’s most powerful figures. Even a sitting Prime Minister must answer.
The National Security Minister’s belated appeal to technicalities of language is unlikely to win over any jury. And it does little to mitigate the troubling questions now raised by a notable escalation of developments. That escalation relates to the decision of US envoy Joseph N Mondello to break with his own practice and release a statement clarifying what was discussed in the meeting he had with Young on May 6.
“There was no raising of the breach of any treaty,” Young had said. The minister later clarified, “The only thing I said, in response to a question raised in Parliament, was that no breach of the treaty was raised; meaning that it was not positively put to me that TT has breached the treaty.”
It is true no one can talk of any “breach” in the sense that for a breach to exist as a fact there must be a determination by some court or authority. But then no one would ever be able to talk of a breach of the law – even if they witnessed a murder right in front of them – pending judicial ruling. And why would a diplomat point out a treaty but for the notion of a breach being active in his mind?
Also troubling is the minister’s posture of accusing his questioners, who have constitutional functions, of “attempting to create mischief and misinform” while withholding information. On top of it all, he has justified such through what the average citizen would regard as a sleight of hand. This is so unsettling it risks eclipsing the source of the imbroglio.
On party platforms, where MPs do not enjoy parliamentary privilege, politicians’ traffic in half-truths and pappyshow. Such a mode of relating to people they serve is best left to Woodford Square, not inside the hallowed halls of our newly renovated Parliament.