How AG Al Rawi bungled SSA issue

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Hopefully, Diane Seukeran served humble pie when Faris Al Rawi visited on Mother’s Day.

Because humility – or, rather, the lack of it – is at the centre of the political woes Attorney General Al Rawi is now facing with the much-disputed Strategic Services Agency (Amendment) Bill.

His headstrong approach to passage of the far-reaching legislation led him to shut out passionate voices expressing concern over the extensive authority and politicisation of the agency.

Al Rawi’s response fitted into the mould of his colleague Shamfa Cudjoe: “We in charge now! Deal with It!”

The Attorney General and other government spokesmen – notably Stuart Young – have sought to demonise critics of the proposed amendment, portraying them are scare-mongers and ill-informed.

“There is no right to privacy,” Al Rawi said in a nerve-jangling analysis.

Concerns about the legislation are “baseless,” Young dismissed.

Belatedly, the government brought out heavy-rollers to defend and analyse the amendment, but distress remains raw and real.

Even reticent media publishers and broadcasters raised their voices.

The middle road proposed by several commentators was a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament.

Apart from the pointed and broad reach of the law, there are relevant subsidiary issues.

Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir noted that the 20-year-old SSA has played virtually no role in curbing drug trafficking.

Opposition parliamentarian Dr. Roodal Moonilal said the scrutiny of the agency – by a committee headed by a government minister, no less – was “ludicrous.”

Civic activist Kirk Waithe said the government has its legislative priorities wrong.

Al Rawi was unmoved.

That is, until he faced the real prospect of a humiliating defeat in the Senate, where independent minds hold the balance of power.

He called private meetings to lobby senators.

Al Rawi’s initial dogged and unabashed approach fits snugly with a government that has steered away from its manifesto promise of consultations.

And it ties in with the archetype – best exemplified by the unbridled arrogance of Colm Imbert and Terrence Deyalsingh – that might is right.

Imbert, Deyalsingh, Al Rawi – Maxie Cuffie, Fitzgerald Hinds and others, too – remain oblivious to these enlightened times, in which citizens’ power has already brought down a government minister and the mayor of the capital city.

They ignore the fact that the political opposition represents a sizable number of people.

They sidestep the dynamic – best portrayed in the United States presidential stakes – in which people are shaping their own futures, discarding the status quo and spawning their own leaders.

The Keith Rowley administration has seemingly not internalised that the authoritarian “not a damn dog bark” era is long gone.

Al Rawi bungled the SSA issue by ignoring moderate voices and by becoming emotionally attached to the legislation.

It is understandable that he would want to get off the mark with the amended law, since the government – now in its ninth month – has not yet passed any fresh legislation.

The whistleblower legislation – which, according to Rowley, was ready before the PNM got into national office – was discredited by the chief parliamentary counsel.

The Attorney General would find that much of Trinidad and Tobago supports his goals and policy positions if he adopts a more measured and conciliatory approach.

Such a method could build national consensus and personal accord and portray Al Rawi as even-handed, restrained and deliberate.

That’s why the Mother’s Day menu by mom Diane was so important.

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