There is enough blame to share liberally amongst all in the Parliament for the Section 34 fiasco, not least amongst those with major responsibility – Justice Minister (Herbert) Volney, Attorney General (Anand) Ramlogan, the entire Cabinet and the official who cannot shirk responsibility, even if she were to try, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Yet only one of the 72 parliamentarians, Independent Senator Helen Drayton, has offered an apology to the country.
No one in Parliament or in Cabinet has accepted responsibility and attempted a plausible explanation as to why, individually and collectively, they passed Section 34 into existence.
Attorney General Ramlogan has refused even to admit that there was anything wrong with the clause. Justice Minister Volney – who piloted the bill through Parliament last year – has complained that his Cabinet colleagues are blaming him. He has said that he has not even considered resigning. Yet the fact is that Volney must be responsible for his own actions. The discovery of the implications of Clause 34, revealed in a Sunday Guardian story two weeks ago, has caused huge public outrage. It has been interpreted, at worst, as evidence of a conspiracy to free certain people accused of major fraud; and at best as proof of incompetence. Yet other than Drayton – whose role in bringing about this state of affairs was minuscule – none of those responsible appears to feel an iota of regret, guilt or shame.
The Clause 34 fiasco is the latest in a long string of political controversies that have involved a lot of finger-pointing and accusations – but no one actually accepts any culpability or is made to take responsibility for the blunders, bad decisions, or deliberate missteps.
Various administrations have happily taken credit for fortunate turns of events in which they have actually played no part. But the picture is very different when it comes to embarrassing errors or disgraceful incidents.
The pattern in recent years, no matter who has been in government, is that grave wrongs, some deliberate, some inadvertent, have played out without anyone either stepping down or being made to step down. The cry “heads must roll” goes up: but how many people really believe that anyone will be actually be brought to book and pay any penalty?‚The People’s Partnership Government can point to ministers Mary King and Collin Partap, who were fired almost instantly as their offences were unearthed.
Yet on a matter of far greater import and gravity of wrongdoing, those with authority and power have done nothing. After an earlier major “misstep”‚by the current administration, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar made the infamous call: “Let’s move on.” This time it is Attorney General Ramlogan and Justice Minister Volney who are seeking to determine the matter “resolved,” with the Justice Minister calling it a 10 day (sic)‚wonder.
These are incredible developments, considering that the People’s Partnership came to office after the country had a nightmare of a time with the People’s National Movement under a leader whose arrogance and self-righteousness led to his downfall.
The PP, in its campaign for office, in its manifesto pledges, in its rhetoric and in statements to the Parliament, pledged that it would be different; that it would be transparent; that it would consult widely and act only according to the highest principles.
In practice, however, the Government, like its predecessor, seems to believe that once its members are satisfied with their own performance, it does not matter how the public feels or how shoddy, inadequate or underhanded that performance may be.
The last Government paid the ultimate price for ignoring the wishes of the people. The current Government may yet follow in its footsteps, in more ways than one.