No pens, no paper, no accountability

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -


“IN THE country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Jerome Lynch KC will find there's no coronation for seeing what seems glaringly obvious to him but remains unseen to those in his temporary orbit.

As the commission of enquiry (CoE) into the Paria diving tragedy sputters to a disgraceful start, the commission chair bristled at the slackness of the State in this high-stakes probe.

Likely a stranger to the term “pappyshow,” it might be difficult for this esteemed jurist to understand that the Government has already done its part.

In the interest of shushing the public, the Government established the CoE only to rely on the public's generalised apathy to consign this appalling catastrophe to the depths of our selectively short memories.

Commissions of enquiry are political instruments. They're either used to lance political opponents or elicit answers no government wants to hear. More often than not, the CoE is a theatre of distraction, creating the illusion of action.

Such cultural and political proclivities Mr Lynch must find bizarre given the scale and horror of the calamity he has to unravel. Perhaps he didn't get the memo, but then who would have sent it? There's neither staff nor internet!

If you thought the debacle couldn't get worse, that just shows your lack imagination. Following the commission chair's excoriating remarks, the Attorney General shifted focus on the blunderfest over to the Office of the President. That's a hard sell, even in a country filled with eager buyers.

Reginald Amour, himself embattled, told the media there was nothing he could do about Lynch's problems. He passed responsibility for the matter onto the Office of the President, one of the largest, most expensive rubber stamps on Earth. Paula-Mae Weekes, for her part, wasn't having any of it. She pointed out that her office appoints commissioners and conveys any ensuing report to the Government. It turns out there is a limit to how much tea she will drink for this administration's fever.

Minister of everything Stuart Young has now added to his portfolio: the minister of furnishings. Mr Lynch thanked Young for his intervention, seeing to the seconding of furniture from the Office of the Prime Minister to SAPA where the commission is meant to deliberate.

In belatedly addressing the poor provisioning of the CoE, Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga dodged ascribing responsibility to anyone for the staggering failure. He seemed more wrapped up with responsibility being interpreted as blame by the public. How could this misinterpretation be avoided? Through effective communication, perhaps? Who knows.

This is, of course, why nothing ever changes. No one is accountable. Responsibility is never pinned on any offending or deficient party. Consequently, incompetent people, agencies, departments and, ultimately, politicians are neither censured nor removed for their shortcomings. They live to fail another day and are rewarded handsomely for it.

Many state and public officials continue handing their responsibilities onto others like a baton in a relay race to last place.

If commission chair Jerome Lynch is this frustrated right out of the gate, he'd better pace himself. In the words of noted local scholar, Crazy, “De party now start”'

PM Rowley waved away the chairman's complaints about poor resourcing at a post-foreign gallivant briefing. "I wouldn't pay attention to that at this press conference this morning...I'm sure there are enough people on the government payroll to ensure that doesn't happen." But it did happen! That's how you came to be asked the question in the first place! And so we skip gaily from outrage to absurdity.

Fits and starts notwithstanding, Mr Lynch is hoping to keep the commission on track with its agenda. He's determined hearings should start no later than November 21. That would be fine if this goal weren't so reliant on others with demonstrably less determination and mixed agendas.

Four men died under the most horrifying circumstances imaginable. One man survived only to walk the Earth in a purgatorial haze with no definitive end. The lives of victims' families have been permanently upended; shattered.

This commission is burdened with finding out why this happened and, where necessary, identifying the parties responsible, either through action or omission.

The purpose is to learn from this tragedy so everything within our power is done to minimise the risk of a repeat.

The Government must do the unaccustomed – treat the commission's mandate with the urgency and heft it deserves. If the word “blame” troubles you, then take responsibility instead.


"No pens, no paper, no accountability"

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