Amid renewed calls from public bodies for the Government
to re-introduce the Police Reform Bills, Opposition Leader
Basdeo Panday has re-affirmed his opposition to them. He is
objecting on the spurious grounds that the measures are designed
to put more power in the hands of politicians.
Too much power in the hands of politicians? Based on this
premise, Panday is demanding constitution reform as a pre-condition
for United National Congress (UNC) support for any such measures.
This is a mantra that the Opposition Leader has been repeating
ad nauseam. But he is always careful to avoid taking the people
into his confidence by providing us with details of his constitution
reform proposals. How else would the country be able to determine
whether he has the answers or even the insights that would
assist us in realising acceptable outcomes?
Mr Panday chooses instead to appeal to our fears hoping to
arouse the basest instincts of his supporters.
Thus, clearly hoping to inflame their emotions, Mr Panday
told his audience last Monday, at the Orange Valley Community
Centre, that constitution reform must address the countrys
problems of racism, discrimination, abuse of power, injustice
and integrity. I would rather die, Panday said,
than live like a third-class citizen in my own country.
If Mr Panday was seeking to goad his audience into some kind
of reaction, he did not succeed. Their deadpan facial expressions,
seen on television, suggested he was not reaching them. Therein
lies the true magnitude of Basdeo Pandays problem. He
no longer seems able to connect with his party supporters.
This was succinctly stated in a letter to the editor: I
represent a growing number of voters of a certain ethnic and
age bracket, namely 20-something to 30-something Indo-Trinidadians.
I have spoken to a lot of people in my age group, who say
they are all totally disheartened with the Leader of the Opposition
and will not vote for him or not vote at all in the next general
Mr Panday, are you so blind or too self-centered to
see that the people need a change in the leadership of the
UNC? Surely you have noticed the dwindling crowds and the
absence of younger people at your community meetings?
You see, Mr Panday, when I cannot walk the streets without
fear or drive my car without looking in the rear view mirror
constantly, it bothers me; and my hope of having this resolved
shrinks every day you remain at the helm of the Opposition.
I beg of you, do the honourable thing and discharge
(sic) your duties to a more responsible leader who thinks
with his heart and mind and not his mouth. Please give us
a chance. Do you love your country or just yourself?
Mr Pandays leadership is now being seen as tired and
exhausted, devoid of fresh ideas. He consistently rehashes
old vituperations. He is evidently prepared to sacrifice his
constituencys interests, his partys interests,
the national interest for his own selfish personal benefit.
By becoming so predictable, Mr Panday has become a boring
turn-off, who has no compunction about holding the country
to ransom. He is the opportunist politician sans pareil. This
is why he gloats over crime without feeling himself under
any obligation, whether as citizen or leader of the Opposition
(Parliamentarian), to be part of the solution.
Mr Panday can be expected to dismiss the letter writer quoted
above. Already he has ignored both Mr Yetming, who obviously
sees him as an albatross around the neck of the UNC, and the
business organisations, which have been publicly adding their
voices to the growing demand for Parliament to enact the Police
Reform Bills, so alarmed are they at the growing incidence
Mr Pandays response was to attack some of the businessmen
last Monday for being in league with the kidnappers, whom
he alleged they once hired as debt collectors to do for them
what they (kidnappers) are now doing for themselvesextorting
The public, quite correctly, is looking to the Government
for answers. Prime Minister Manning must never throw up his
hands in despair, as then Prime Minister Panday did when he
acknowledged his impotence to solve the crime problem.
Security Minister Martin Joseph is right. Citizens are making
tremendous demands on the Police Service as the institution
possessing the basic responsibility for protecting and serving
them. But the Service has to be reformed if it is to be made
more responsive. This is Parliaments responsibility.
When the UNC and Peoples National Movement parliamentarians
set the police reform process in motion, then PM Panday and
his MPs accepted this responsibility unconditionally.
Ultimately, the population, particularly those groups that
feel themselves specially targeted, will judge harshly those
politicians who are now deliberately frustrating an agreed
police reform process merely to satisfy the whims of a political
leader on whose career the sun is inevitably setting.
Pandays argument that the bills put too much power in
the hands of politicians seeks to justify his obstructionism.
This has not been an issue in T&Ts post-Independence
political experience. The countrys institutional arrangements
have always been able to address such concerns consistent
with our constitutional arrangements.
Our courts have always restrained the political executives
whenever they have exceeded their powers, whether deliberately
or inadvertently. Confidence in our judiciary has never been
a political issue. Even the current issue involving the Chief
Justice demonstrates the availability of recourse.
Nowhere is power absolute.
The UNC has no valid reason for reneging on its prior unconditional
commitment to Police Service reform. Bring back the bills
now. The people will judge their MPs commitment to nation.