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Prime Ministerial Paradoxes

Published: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Press Secretary Arlene Gorin-George, right, photographs Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during his appearance on CNC3's Morning Brew with show host Hema Ramkissoon in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

It is one of the striking paradoxes of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that sometimes it can be perceived that he is beyond the boundary and at other times he is very much the captain on the field, directing his players on the appropriateness of their positioning and making intelligent changes in his bowling attack.

Interestingly, this apparent dichotomy in the Prime Minister was on full display in an exclusive interview he granted to CNC3’s Morning Brew programme yesterday.

Dr Rowley spoke for the entire country when he said he views as unhelpful and does not endorse the inflammatory posturing of the president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, Ancel Roget, who last week said that global energy giant, BP, should take the Angelin platform and go.

More than unhelpful, Mr Roget knows full well that such a prospect would hurt the workers he represents, and therefore jeopardise his position as the head of T&T’s most powerful union.

Dr Rowley also seemed comfortable and in command discussing the praiseworthy work he and Minister Stuart Young did a fortnight ago when they met with top executives of BP, Shell, EOG Resources and ExxonMobil to develop or deepen relationships with those energy executives, whose companies currently play, or may soon play, a role in T&T’s future.

Those meetings in Houston are likely to bear fruit in securing better prospects for the energy sector in this country, but also opens up opportunities for T&T’s energy services and construction sectors in Guyana.

On the issue of state-owned Petrotrin, the Prime Minister was right to acknowledge the importance of the company to the country’s future. It follows that the decision-making process on Petrotrin’s future must be alert, flexible and deeply in touch with what is in the nation’s best interest.

While the proof of the Prime Minister’s intent is in how the Government follows through with the required actions, it was prudent for him not to show too much of his hand until the committee set up to come up with options for the energy company has reported to Cabinet. That body, however, must deal with the committee’s report with much more urgency than it has dealt with the Natural Gas Master Plan, which is equally as important, if not more so, than the future of Petrotrin.

On the issue of crime, the sense of helplessness displayed by Dr Rowley was worrying. While it is clear that his position as a leader in a democratic country limits both his actions and his words on this crucial and worrying issue, Dr Rowley must know that the nation is looking to him to show leadership in the fight against crime in general and murders in particular.

There did not seem to be much of that on display.

On the other hand, it was good that the Prime Minister highlighted corruption as one of the key issues to be solved in the country and it is noteworthy that he has led a Cabinet that has been relatively scandal-free in comparison to some administrations in the past.

On the issue of the cargo arrangements between Tobago and Trinidad, which he linked to corruption or low value to taxpayers, Dr Rowley was not as forthright as he might have been.

It is true that the Government needs to make sure deals include value for money and graft-free contracts. But the issue is that the Government has been sitting on this matter for months knowing that the Super Fast Galicia was committed elsewhere.

The exasperation by Tobago is not that the Government is doing something above board, but is the fact that this crisis was telegraphed ages ago and they did nothing.

This is what the Prime Minister should have owned up to instead of skirting the issue.