20 Mar 2012

Errors of Commission(s)

This is such a good article, I wanted to repost it:

The very public drama surrounding the Integrity Commission, the Police Service Commission and the revelations of the Commissions of Enquiry into 1990 and the failure of Clico and the HCU might appear to be unrelated, mere distractions to an already distracted people in need a regular dose of excitement.

They are far more than that. They are evidence of how far we have yet to go, and point to a leadership deficit which is at the root of the problems of our society.

In every case, the clear learning from these "Commissions'' is that we have been let down by those who should have known better, who should have acted more maturely, who should have remembered that their duty to country is greater than to their own image and sense of power.

For example, there is no reason for the troubles in the Integrity Commission to be played out so publicly. This does nothing but undermine an already tarnished institution which has an extremely dubious record for preventing or prosecuting corruption. What instead seems clear is that towering personalities cannot get along, and in the elephantine jostle for power, citizen ants have to run for cover, their interests forgotten or subordinated by those who, perversely, claim to want to serve the people.

This would be a distraction, albeit a sad one, from the work of building a nation. But it is far more powerful because it does not represent the exception. Consider the Police Service Commission and its questionable appraisals and public statements. It was in extremely poor taste to remind the population and the Commissioner of Police of the PSCs power to fire him. There is no reason for the PSC to be humiliating the CoP. By so doing they have undermined him and made his job almost impossible.

Reading the Hansard of the PSCs report to the Joint Select Committee in Parliament makes one cringe. I would be very surprised if their appraisal methodology withstands objective professional scrutiny.

And on to the third "Commission'' — the 1990 coup enquiry. If you can tear yourself away from the inconsistencies of politician's testimonies, you may find the Police and Regiment explanations extremely unsatisfactory.

The Regiment in particular stood out by the testimony of some of its officers, who at critical points appeared more interested in asserting their authority than in helping their colleagues. With all the ego jousting going on, one has the distinct impression that the outcome might have been very different if they were faced with anything more than a mediocre band of stupid boys, incompetently led. This is almost as amazing as the breathtaking lack of remorse demonstrated by the violent assailants.

Yet there is more. The Clico/HCU enquiry has shown how some of our finest financial minds failed us. These matters should be in a court and those who acted improperly or didn't understand what their governance duties were should be put in jail. We have mortgaged our children's futures to repay noisy and desperate depositors who were chasing rates. I feel for them, and the people responsible for this mess should pay.

At the very least they should be given the opportunity to explain themselves in a forum where there is some consequence instead of a talk shop. Once again we have been let down.

But let down by whom exactly? In all four cases, we have been failed by the very best and brightest in our society. The most educated. The best trained. And in every single case, greed for power, the dominance of the ego or the elite protecting the elite have subordinated the national interest.

This country is how it is not because of the poor man. It is the rich and the educated who have it so, and a conspiracy of silence keeps it that way. And we don't ever face that truth here. So we blame everything and everyone, but never do we shine a light on the people running this society and confront them.

That is how a banker can say, with a straight face we have $5b in excess cash and nobody to lend to, never acknowledging that the cartel of banks in this country routinely gouge the small borrower. They make more money than most of their clients! And nobody says a word. Sycophantic silence reigns.

Perhaps Brinsley Samaroo, Hamid Ghany and the COP are right. The constitution is to blame. I wonder how many people who say that ever read the Constitution.

What in it is so discriminatory? To be sure there are things to be improved and changed outright, but there are mechanisms for doing so, and if this government or any were serious about changing the Constitution, it surely could. But the Constitution is not to be blamed for our current situation. We are.

We have a major leadership problem here, and no clear strategic grasp of where we are going. So we wander from crisis to crisis, drama to drama, searching for something meaningful to hold on to as a nation. It is yet to be found.

Our strategic decay is hidden by money and oil and gas, all three of which are running out. We are in trouble and don't know it, because it's easier to borrow and give away than to make a real dent in productivity and build competitiveness.

The failure of our leaders, political, business and academic has impeded progress. If we do not remedy our leadership deficit, things will get bad before they get better.

• Rolph Balgobin is an Independent Senator