This blog is excerpted weekly in the Trinidad Guardian. The paper requested that this week’s entry, Post 150, be re-written because it didn’t fit a ‘Diary of a Mothering Worker’ topic. Below is the revised entry.

I write as a mother, wife, political scientist, feminist, activist, citizen and voter. We are not simply Indians or Africans, or women or men, or workers or parents, but a mix of all, and our perspectives on the world come through these intersections.

Across these identities, I’m unimpressed at the lack of forthright honesty being shown by a government that it’s our job to continuously hold accountable. It’s our job because we are parents who value setting a good example for our children just as much as we are citizens who have a right to legitimate exercise of political power.

If I ask Ziya for the truth and she refuses to answer, is that okay? If teachers ask students for the truth, and they dismissively deflect, should these big adults walk away? Do we let our leaders do the very things we teach our children not to?

Public officials cannot refuse public questions.

That Anil Roberts remains a minister means that the legitimacy of the government has gone up in smoke. Roberts alleged behaviour in a recently leaked video means zero to me. What is intolerable is his, the PM and the Cabinet’s failure to choose truth. I’ve tuned off UNC paid political broadcasts once they give him tomfoolery time on their platform.

Cowering behind Ministry of Communication propaganda while shouting from the safety of hustings is devious. It’s smartman politics to refuse for weeks to answer a straightforward public question, to deflect from personal responsibility by pointing fingers in every pointless direction, and to boldfacedly try to impose the pretense, like the emperor with no clothes, that everyone can’t see your backside.

A government who will let a cabinet member avoid answering an easy, small stakes, yes or no question, will also let all its ministers avoid honestly answering hard, deeply accountable questions about expenditure of state funds, disbursement of state contracts, and signed deals for infrastructural projects. These are the big stakes that will push the same people shouting ‘ray ray’ in today’s rallies to someday switch parties, then later burn tires in the road, and finally make their living by the gun once oil and gas money is inexplicably gone. Then what place will this be for my family?

When I could talk about the experience of mothering a mixed race little girl, I write instead about lack of governmental transparency because we must change the world for our children. This is feminist motherhood from day one, which is why mothers have taken on everything from literacy to work-family balance, media sexism, development models, disarmament and political leadership. The hand that rocks the cradle has always also re-envisioned and mobilized the world.

Even if Roberts is finally fired, for me, it will be too late, reflecting political expediency, calculated timing and public pressure more than any principle. If he’s left at the helm of his ministry, Cabinet might as well wrap the concept of integrity in some paper and strike a match because Campaign 2015s real politik is fire bun honesty.

Expensively packaged rallies cannot hide repeated turns away from transparency when I can watch shiftiness on the news for free.What politicians often don’t realize is how much petty corruption, mismanagement or scandal backfires because voters don’t like to be treated like fools.

It’s too bad. The government has attempted to answer every question put to them in Parliament, something that the PNM not once in three decades managed to consistently do. The best way to turn that widely hoped-for legacy to ashes is an ongoing, parallel failure to earn my and your vote through truth.


 

Advertisements

Post 150.

That Anil Roberts remains a minister suggests that the legitimacy of the government has completely gone up in smoke. That the UNC continues to give him tomfoolery time on their platform explains why there is so much Cabinet skin teeth glinting through their paid political broadcasts. The joke is obviously on us.

Roberts, who for years never stopped yapping at full attack and pitch, suddenly has no comment, and no balls. No lawyers are required to admit to or deny what are plainly his own actions. The Ministry of Communication should never have provided a façade behind which he could cower. His spineless silence to the media should not have be filled by his shouting from the safety of hustings. The PM should have handed him the press conference mic instead of defending nonsense about one-year old videos. Everyone knows that is not the issue. Neither is it small time marijuana use.

It is the failure to choose truth.

It’s one thing to admit to wrongdoing, like for example rolling ganja while in official clothes and on state business. It’s another to lie. It’s an entirely additional category of smartman politics to refuse for weeks to answer a straightforward public question, to deflect from personal accountability by pointing fingers in every pointless direction, and to boldfacedly try to impose the pretense, like the emperor with no clothes, that everyone can’t see your backside. Dat is truth.

A government who will let a cabinet member avoid answering an easy, small stakes, yes or no question about a roll on, will also let all its ministers avoid honestly answering hard, deeply accountable questions about expenditure of state funds, disbursement of state contracts, and signed deals for infrastructural development. Dat is truth.

These are the big stakes we face, the ones that will push the same people shouting ‘ray ray’ in today’s rallies to someday switch parties, then later burn tires in the road, and finally make their living by the gun once oil and gas money is inexplicably gone. Party supporter or not, that’s why this matters for you.

Even if Roberts is finally fired, it will be too late, reflecting political expediency, calculated timing and public pressure more than any immediate principle. If, on some surreal basis, he’s left at the helm of his ministry, Cabinet might as well wrap the concept of integrity in some paper and strike a match because Campaign 2015’s real politik is fire bun honesty.

Anil Roberts himself is abundantly irrelevant, but corruption under his watch is not, and be absolutely sure that the failure to choose truth is also happening in bigger, and more costly and consequential situations. Responsibility lies fully with the PM and the Cabinet. Undeniable truth.

The UNC will invest in expensively packaged rallies to hide such repeated turns away from transparency, forgetting that watching shiftiness on the news is free. What politicians often don’t realize is how much petty corruption, mismanagement or scandal backfires when they hope these will pass unnoticed or forgotten in relation to the billion dollar issues. Voters also don’t like over the top attempts to treat them like fools, a lesson that should have been learned from Tobago, Chaguanas West and St. Joseph.

Public officials cannot refuse to answer public questions. Ask Roodal, champion of answering every question put to government in Parliament, a man who can boast of success at something that the PNM not once in three decades managed to consistently do. The best way to turn that widely hoped-for legacy to ashes is an ongoing, parallel failure to earn our vote through truth.