31 Jul 2012

“Square Peg in Geneva”

After reading this in the Express this morning, I was struck by the precise truths stated therein, and wanted a reprint in case it got ‘lost’.

Former minister of health and our country's current Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, was to give a presentation on cultural relations at Geneva, Switzerland.

For the first 20 minutes of the speech, however, listeners were treated to mostly personal anecdotes, such as her stint as Health Minister, how she rose to that position and how she was laid off; how her Internet handle played a part in meeting her husband; her own inexperience and difficulty handling her responsibilities as a diplomat; and how she placed images of Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her university lecture Powerpoint as a way to endorse the candidate, which struck me as subliminal messaging.

My main problem here is not the disorganised content of Baptiste-Cornelis' farrago she deemed a speech, her own injection of her personal life into it, her blunder of fusing our National Motto with our National Anthem, or even her unpreparedness at the microphone, but of some of the individual stories in it. All of this was punctuated by reminders of how much she loathed politics, and how she had told our current PM this, and each time she would mention this, I could only think, "Good going, Kamla, you made a woman who hates politics a health minister and sent a woman who confesses her diplomatic inexperience to Geneva."

The speech, and Baptiste-Cornelis' confessed ineptitude, clearly shows the negative impact of nepotism in our Government.

One cannot help but recall the Reshmi affair. Our Government has a tendency to feel sorry for people who once played a part in its ranks and always wants to guarantee them some job or form of position, whether they are skilled or not. This has to stop. This will get us nowhere. The bottom line should be: if a person has no skill in a field, do not shove them into that field. Find someone who has more training, experience and inclination towards that field and put them there.

Why was Baptiste-Cornelis, whose fields concern management and branding, given a surprise phone call by our current Prime Minister, urging her, "I need you to be my Health Minister."

It makes me wonder about some of our other ministers, especially after the dual reshuffles. For example, what experience does Jack Warner have in the field of National Security? While people might brand him as "the man who gets things done", should not some form of experience be taken into consideration for the post? Clifton De Coteau was not even aware of what the portfolio of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration would entail. The migration of Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan from the Ministry of Energy, of which she had experience, to an almost unrelated field such as Public Administration was also suspicious.

In any organisation that embraces indolent seniority, partisanship and ignorance of true skill, results will always only be done by half.

Ms Baptiste-Cornelis may have been a successful university lecturer, a contented veteran at her field, but that clearly did not show when she was dragged into the Health Ministry.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, "Work is love made visible." And that if you can only work with distaste and difficulty, you should pass on that post to someone who would love it more, and be better at it.

When individuals are being shoved into fields, positions and ministries that they have had no real prior experience in, how can we expect the results we were promised? How can we expect to reap the yield of any labour of love, if there is no love of the labour?

Kevin Jared Hosein