For as long as I have been alive, I have been aware of one fundamental truth, and that is during election you’re presented with two evils and are asked to choose the lesser to occupy the government benches in Parliament.
And while faces and party logos have changed in the sixty-odd years of Independence, the ideals and philosophies of both sides remained constant for the most part, and with that in mind, come election time we all know who we are going to vote for.
But that is the fundamental problem within our nation, in that we cannot effect institutional change if we are not willing to first change the way that we elect governments.
In the past week, we were faced with two similar, yet different points of contention; the first began when Stuart Young disclosed potential impropriety in the awarding of contracts for the highway extension project, and the second regarding the purchase of a new vehicle for use by the Prime Minister.
First of all, it seems highly unlikely that the first revelation wasn’t timed to coincide with the second, as a means of distracting the population, irregardless, both these issues warrant discussion in their own right as they offer insight into the position of the current government.
To find out on the heels of a mid-year financial review promised by the PNM, that during the current economic downturn the Prime Minister can somehow afford the luxury of a brand new Mercedes Benz would be comical in its own right, even if Dr. Rowley didn’t go on to explain that he is investing the TT$900,000 to avoid the smell of an irritating odour.
Mind you, that this is the same Prime Minister who opted to save the taxpayers money by traveling economy class to Miami last December while attending the second of three weddings since taking office.
Dr. Rowley has attempted to eschew responsibility for the purchase of the vehicle however, stating that the decision was made entirely by the staff of the Office of the Prime Minister, which may have been credible had it not been contradicted by Gary Griffith, who was ironically attempting to defend both the PM and the purchase.
Captain Griffith saw it necessary to intercede in the matter to add that the purchase of a new vehicle was recommended to the Prime Minister in 2012, but was inevitably rejected by Mrs. Kamla Persad Bissessar. This means that Dr. Rowley did have the ability to do the same, but decided against it, opting instead to indulge in the luxury and opulence he once chastised the People’s Partnership.
But while this is all occurring, on the other side of the country, citizens are still faced with dirt and gravel roads, or in better conditions, pot-holes and cave-ins, despite whatever vehicle they are travelling in.
Whether it is a brand new Mercedes Benz S-class or a thirty year old Datsun 280C, neither can prevent the discomfort and inconvenience of the terrible infrastructure that plagues the rural communities in our country. Which is why the highway extension to Point Fortin was a welcome relief to the residents of those areas and would have contributed to further improvements and development in the future.
While the cost of progress should be transparent to ensure that the procedures are held to the highest standards of ethics, it is difficult to get behind an audit that is commenced by someone who doesn’t even know who green-lit the project.
I agree that the People’s Partnership did not live up to the expectations that were hoisted upon them when they were given the chance at governance, and many persons were disappointed as a result. When the PNM was elected into government however, it was largely due to an onslaught of allegations leveled against the PP administration for impropriety and corruption.
But since then, the “Emailgate” fiasco was found to be a fraud by the Police Service, their own Minister of Housing was fired as a result of nepotism, they have offered legal reprieve to their associates without the need of any new legislation, and they have fought against journalistic accountability at every opportunity afforded to them.
So after only six months, I am left to ask the question to anyone who attempted to convince me that the PNM would be a better choice of government than the PP: Is the PNM still the lesser of two evils that they promised to be?