Every passing action of this PNM Administration is cause for great trepidation among the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs recently announced that former Vice-Chief of Defense Staff Brigadier General Anthony Phillips-Spencer has been appointed as this country’s ambassador to the United States. An innocuous enough decision on its own, however when one considers the significant number of military and quasi- military members of the executive, we begin to see a disturbing pattern.
Currently, the Executive consists of a Major General, a Brigadier General and a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police. The current Director of the SSA, an appointed position under the sole discretion and command of the Executive, is a retired Colonel. And now we have confirmation of the former Vice-Chief of Defense Staff being placed in one of the most critical diplomatic posts. When all these actions are taken together, there seems to be clear evidence of PNM mandate to militarize public posts.
While we appreciate the particular skill set that these military officers bring to the table, one must also consider that military training teaches an unquestioning respect for rank. Do we want an Executive and persons in critical public offices accepting orders without question? Certainly not, especially in light of the PNM’s continuous granting of power unto itself with no regard for checks and balances, or the rights of citizens.
The PNM’s rush to enact the controversial SSA Amendments, which gave sweeping powers to what is essentially an Executive controlled spy agency, which the Attorney General attempted to justify by denying that citizens had an enshrined right to privacy, remains one of the most startling and boldfaced power grabs by the PNM, in less than one year in power.
Now in the wake of the Minister of Finance’s refusal, until pressured, to account to the public on the withdrawal of $2.5billion from the HSF; the citizens are entitled to express concerns on what appears to be a creeping PNM dictatorship. The warning signs are becoming clearer and more frequent.
As James Madison warned centuries ago, democracy is threatened not by major acts of the executive but by small increments of encroachments.