Govt overrides public opinion on SSA

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On the day the much-disputed Strategic Services Agency (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Senate, the country’s major business organisation raised concerns over the legislation.

A few days earlier, the media fraternity asked for consultations.

Frank-talking Fixin’ T&T voiced skepticism over the legislation.

Commentators, including on government-leaning radio stations, urged a re-look at the provisions in the amended law.

The political opposition raised an alarm more than a month ago, seeing nefarious designs in the measure.

Most notably, seven independent senators voted against the legislation.

Senator Ian Roach – whose pro-government vote TTWhistleblower had predicted a week earlier – and temporary member Senator Justin Junkere supported the amendments.

Previously, 18 of 41 members of the House of Representatives gave a thumbs-down.

Clearly, the government merely eked out a victory on this matter.

Even more critically is that Trinidad and Tobago is heavily divided on the wisdom, value and appropriateness of the amendments to the “spy agency” law.

Good sense would have advised consultations before putting the revised law to a vote.

Maybe the government could have set up a bi-partisan team to consider proposals from the opposition and other stakeholders.

After all, most agree that the amended law is not especially urgent, especially with the SSA’s lame track record of performance.

In addition, the ruling party campaigned politically on as promise of political consultations.

Instead, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi adopted his now characteristic bull-in-a-china-shop approach, glibly articulating the urgent need for the measure and sidestepping all recommendations for change.

Every one of the opposition’s proposals was summarily shot down.

Al Rawi further ingrained his hardline image as someone focused purely on his agenda and unwilling to accommodate any alternative views.

We previously noted the diverse nature of political views in T&T and the fact that the opposition represents a large bulk of citizens and commands a sizable number of constituencies.

Al Rawi and the Rowley government won the battle but may yet lose the war.

This headstrong approach could cost the ruling regime valued support among conscientious people who discern single-mindedness, detachment, and indifference to other shades of opinions.

The government would do well to recall the fate of previous administrations that did not heed the voice of the people.

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