Rowley govt’s haughtiness… The seven-month arrogant itch

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The Seven Year Itch is a 1955 movie starring Marilyn Monroe that suggests that happiness fades in the seventh year of a marriage.

There has been no analysis – that we know of – about when a government is likely to turn arrogant in public office.

But seven months seems quite premature for a typical administration to develop the undesirable traits of haughtiness and over-confidence.

Notably, United States President Barack Obama last year – in his seventh year in office – suggested that his biggest mistake in office was not quite keeping in touch with his country.

Obama said: “You can’t separate good policy from the need to bring the American people along and make sure they know what you are doing. And that’s particularly true now in this communications era.”

Much has been said in many societies about the temperament required to undertake public service without becoming conceited and self-important.

In Trinidad and Tobago, we have already witnessed some regrettable utterances from leading officials of the Dr. Keith Rowley administration.

Rowley himself has set the unfortunate smug tone.

Asked about the purchase of a luxury vehicle at taxpayers’ cost, he intoned: “Next time I will buy a donkey cart.”

He has delivered other intemperate remarks in and out of Parliament, leading to rebuke by newspapers and public commentators.

It recalls the historic psycho-analysis of Rowley in October 2009 by his then-boss Patrick Manning.

Manning memorably said: “The minute you oppose my good friend he gets very, very angry.

“And if you oppose him strongly, he becomes a raging bull…

“You don’t know the trouble I have seen.

“I have had to live with that for 12 years.”

Manning was certainly prescient in his scrutiny of Rowley’s temperament and disposition.

The current prime minister has been short-tempered at time, and flippant and dismissive on other occasions, both indicators of condescension.

In doing so, he has set the snooty tone for several of his Cabinet colleagues.

The repeated displays of brashness and pomposity by Finance Minister Colm Imbert have earned widespread censure, including a dramatic page one lead story in a daily newspaper this week.

Terrence Deyalsingh, the Health Minister, is particularly abrasive, especially when questioned on the fate of the Couva Children’s hospital, which set back taxpayers by $1.5 billion.

Deyalsingh addresses the nation “like an old schoolmaster, talking down to us, wagging his finger at us, bouffing us,” university lecturer Dr. Merle Hodge observed.

Hodge was particularly irked by Deyalsingh’s summary injunction to the media: “I am ending the discussion on abortion here and now!”

Works Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has been dismissive of public enquiry and the loquacious Attorney General Faris Al Wari is edgy and irritable to similar queries.

And Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie brands reporters’ probes as “opposition questions.”

A daily newspaper jibed this week that Cuffie’s “portfolio title is fast becoming ironic.”

Lesser lights, like Stuart Young, are following suit.

There is also an almost scripted Cabinet response to blame the previous administrations for all the current ills, from the crime horror to the economic crisis.

Hodge makes a pertinent observation: “The streak of authoritarianism, the dictatorial gene that has sunk the PNM before, will sink it again, unless it is nipped in the bud by those in the PNM who know better.”

She alluded to the “no damn dog bark” arrogance of first Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams.

But that was in an earlier era.

Today, there is an enlightened and confident populace, which has booted out successive governments.

There is also a viable Opposition and self-respecting and free-speaking nationals.

And, of course, we are in the “communications era”, as Obama noted.

The Rowley Government would ingrain its egotism and aloofness at its own peril.

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