There are a couple of truisms that are so basic, they hardly need repeating. And yet, sometimes it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of them so that we don’t forget them. The first truism that I thought of in this #@&*% ongoing scandal with the infamous Galleons Passage ferry is that there is only one reason for government; only one reason for politics: to make life better for the people! Full stop! There is no other reason!
The second truism is a little more nuanced: it is when a man is telling you something that you don’t understand, ninety-eight percent of the time it is because he doesn’t want you to understand. Two percent of the time it is because he doesn’t understand what he is saying.
So, I approach this ferry business again and ask myself what exactly is it that the various Government Ministers (Imbert, Young, Sinanan etc.) don’t want me to understand? I mean, their statements and those of their surrogates on the ferry just don’t make sense. Take, for example, the latest statement coming out of NIDCO (the Government entity that is supposed to be in control of the ferry and its operations. First of all, the newspapers reported that Minister Sinanan questioned the authenticity of a report from Lloyd’s Register that identified around 100 defects some of them quite serious) in the ferry. The statements from the various Government Ministers were to the effect that the allegations of Opposition Senators Mark and Hosein that Lloyd’s had put out a damning report earlier this month (July) were based on a fictitious report … a fake report. Aided and abetted by the three daily newspapers (who collectively seem intent on not reporting on this matter fairly or accurately and certainly have not seriously questioned the Government spokesman about it) the government spokesmen at first denied the Lloyd’s report completely. Then, seemingly out of the blue, The National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) then takes Lloyd’s Register to task saying that while the Lloyd’s report identified 92 non-conforming issues on the ferry, the survey which was paid for and delivered on July 11 was done without a physical inspection of the vessel by Lloyd’s.
To which I can only say “WHAT”?!?
What happened to the fake report? So there was a report after all? Why didn’t the Ministers say that there was a report but they considered it inadequate because of whatever? Why attack the Opposition Senators and their credibility?
And then we were told that the ferry would be in operation within two or three weeks of its arrival. But NIDCO’s chairman Herbert George is now being reported as saying that any delays resulting from making the vessel compliant in order to work the seabridge is “…not a consideration. Safety is more important to us, as long as it takes to get it right.” Which means what? Because the way I read that is that the ferry won’t be in service within two or three weeks of its arrival down here!
I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. There are so many other issues that it boggles the mind. For example, we were told that the ferry was going to Cuba for ten days to have a canopy installed and some other very minor works done at a cost of a little more than US$300,000. No explanation was ever given (and no newspaper ever asked) why these minor works could not have been done in Trinidad. As it is, the ferry spent more than five weeks in Cuba and eventually left there reportedly with certain other works to be done down here! Again, WHAT?
We have been consistently lied to about this ferry and about everything connected with it so that nobody knows the truth. Why? What is it that the Government Ministers do not want us to know or understand? Because when we don’t know or don’t understand very ugly and most unnecessary suspicions arise that there may be some sort of corrupt activity lurking somewhere in the background. As to who might have “dipped his hand in the cookie jar”, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even say that somebody did “dip his hand” in. But I can and do say that things are not at all clear … or put another way, this story is as clear as mud. I can and do say that alarm bells are going off. Is it a false alarm? Maybe, but shouldn’t we check it out? What if it isn’t a false alarm? Why can’t we get a straigt answer? Why is it that the newspapers are not asking the hard questions? Incompetence? Bias? What?
And to end up with the first truism with which I began this piece, a government can NOT make life better for the people if it won’t tell the people the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Obfuscations and outright lies on anything simply destroys the democracy.
THIS BLOG WAS CONTRIBUTED BY ROBIN MONTANO.
Robin Montano is a practicing and well respected attorney in Trinidad and Tobago well versed and knowledgeable in the politics and government of Trinidad & Tobago.