An unstoppable force meets a movable object

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

THERE'S A lot to unpack in the strategically-leaked PSC letter detailing reasons the PM lost confidence in the CoP.

In a public spat gone nuclear, both men were concurrently right and wrong. The blast radius of their kerfuffle, however, would go on to shatter the gossamer veneer of political independence of state offices and statutory bodies.

As Dr Rowley and Gary Griffith crossed swords, their clash drew other actors into the fray, forever staining their already shaky reputations. The blowback undermined public confidence, such that it was, in the offices these marionettes occupy at the pleasure of the governing political party, rather than in the interest of the people.

The Government was under intense pressure over the seemingly disproportionate application of the covid19 public health regulations – the zessers vs wessers. Griffith felt he was being prodded to find a legal remedy for a political problem, one he said couldn't be accommodated under the law.

If political maturity were more common, the divide between the PM and CoP might have been bridged. The public could have benefited from a frank and thorough discussion over conflicting interpretations of covid19 regulations. It was a conversation that needed to be had.

This isn't our way, though. So what began as a difference of opinion devolved to a clash of personalities – an unstoppable force meeting an object who hadn't realised just how movable he was.

This clash of the titans was inevitable. When the Government cosigned the appointment of Griffith, they thought they hadbought a cow that could be led by the nose. What they got was a voluble bison with a history of charging his master.

For all the copious itemisation of reasons the PM lost confidence in the CoP, there was no discernible reference to Griffith's actual performance. The PM's discomfort hinged largely on peripheral concerns and perceived slights to "his office." He bristled at the effrontery of a CoP giving him backchat, interpreting Griffith's insufficiently deferential arguments as an insult to all that is sacrosanct.

Intelligent leaders are able to discern disruptive behaviour from truculent but productive minds. Yes, it can be argued that had Griffith focused more on what he committed to do in the police service, rather than running an overwrought sideshow and chasing after every car on social media, his position today might have been unassailable. When you make yourself the lightning rod, you call down the lightning.

However, this situation is far bigger than the former CoP. It isn't about Rowley either.

The Police Service Commission scandal spotlights the cult of maximum leadership that smothers the divergence of views that often drives advancement. The reality is, no progress can be delivered by a culture of yes-men and women. They bring the least to the table as they're usually there to get what scraps they can from it. Transformation tends to be led by outspoken people who buck convention and are willing to fight for change, even if it means ruffling a few feathers.

Maximum leadership isn't a PNM thing, either. Under the UNC government, former PM Basdeo Panday warred with the media in much the same way the PNM does today.

Silencing opposing voices is a fundamental feature of our politics. Outdated governance structures brook political interference at all levels, nurturing an underclass of yes-men and women who deliver no productive results. Speak up, and you're out.

In every newsroom in which I've worked, there was always spirited discussion. By spirited I mean blistering cussouts between heads of news and reporters. Additionally, reporters often referred to their bosses by their first names. There was no atmosphere of serving in the presence of divinity. Clashes stemmed from varying perceptions of which stories should get news coverage and how they should be covered. Underneath it all, there would be either compromise or the stronger argument would prevail. Sometimes a subordinate was overruled, but the opportunity to challenge was always there.

Life isn't black or white. Paths to solutions for complex problems are rarely linear. Differences in the way people interpret the best course of action bring strong personalities into conflict. Answers don't come from avenging bruised egos or flexing a god complex. They only come from an acceptance of wisdom, expertise and good ideas, regardless of the source. The term "meeting of the minds" doesn't automatically infer that those minds are always in sync.

Griffith may be gone, but the crater left by the impact of his collision with the PM remains. Soon enough, though, it will be filled in by pliable plebs keen to bow to the bidding of the supreme "intelligence.”


"An unstoppable force meets a movable object"

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