Wednesday 4th May, 2008

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No appreciation for views

  • In a democratic society everyone is entitled to their views.
  • Newspapers replete with sug-gestions/advice on problems and challenges facing nation.
  • Silence from segments of State to public airing of views on the affairs of country.

I don’t know if many politicians truly appreciate the raison d’etre of a newspaper columnist.

I take this responsibility very seriously and do not vent my opinions for personal fame or self-aggrandisement.

Through our daily, weekly or monthly expressions, newspaper columnists are making our contribution to national development by proffering our views on diverse subjects.

Of course this is not to say we are the repositories of all the right views and opinions on the various topics on which we expound.

As such we can be wrong in many instances but in a democratic society, such as we are, everyone is entitled to their own views.

I am however a bit perplexed over the apparent indifference shown by officialdom over what columnists by and large have to say and, indeed, have been saying since the advent of the Fourth Estate. Especially when the commentaries are opposed to what theirs might be.

It is often depressing having to comment on serious national matters which unfortunately are in the negative, for instance the crime scourge.

There is nothing pretty about that scenario so naturally the picture would not be a pretty one.

What is irking me is that it appears that governments, whichever party is in office, do not pay sufficient attention to the pleas, views, admonitions or what have you of the general population as expressed in the pubic media.

It is a fact that the people elect governments to office and that they would have their own plans and policies on how to achieve what they pledged in their contract. This is “signed” on Election Day.

I kind of like the terminology adopted by President George Maxwell Richards some time ago, when he said it was time the people called in the IOU given to the authorities by the electorate.

Why is it that governments believe that they do not have to share with the people how they propose to achieve goals they say are on behalf of the people?

Take this 2020 thing for instance. This PNM administration is saying that it is on course to achieving for T&T developed country status by the magical year of 2020.

The regime has not acceded to the requests by the people, columnists included, to give citizens a road map to reaching that laudable goal.

Such refusal and/or neglect must lead citizens to be sceptical about the soundness, genuineness, feasibility, possibility of such an aspiration.

Newspapers are replete with suggestions or advice from us and readers on the myriad of problems and challenges facing this nation.

But what do you get? Apart from the almost dutiful letters to the editor by Works Minster Colm Imbert, there is studied silence from other segments of the State to the public airing of views on the affairs of the country.

At least Imbert is showing that he cares about the public image of his ministry and himself. Although the results of his stewardship, particularly as they relate to easing the traffic woes, are yet to be fully seen.

I am not in any way suggesting that governments ought to run the State by collecting their inspiration, policies or ideas through the newspapers.

I can however claim that governments can do no worse if they, from time to time, would take cognisance of the suggestions emanating from the public via the news media. Columnists included.

Contrary to what they may believe, we do have the nation’s welfare at heart.

We too have children, grandchildren and are concerned about the kind of country they would inherit from us.

We too worry about the crime situation, the inadequate health services, and the chaotic education system.

We too are affected by the marauding bandits and the consequential feeling of insecurity even in our homes.

We too—and our children—are also affected by the intolerable traffic gridlock which is playing havoc with our general tolerance levels.

National Security Minister Martin Joseph is at his wit’s end trying to get a firm grip on the criminal elements and I am sure he will readily admit he alone cannot do the job. As he has admitted.

I wouldn’t call for his resignation as so many others have done and are doing. My advice would be to send his foreign “experts” packing and just tune in to what our local scribes and other citizens are saying every crime-riddled day.

If we are good enough to be canvassed for our votes, our political leaders ought to take the free advice from the people. Columnists included.

And they include those columnists who may be “playing politics”—something I have no problem with as long as it is fair and balanced.

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