The United National Congress (UNC) has taken note of a decision by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley to follow a model of governance established by our party in appointing to the Senate and the Cabinet members who were unsuccessful in the polls in the general election.
Following the 2000 general election our party nominated as senators members who ran as candidates but were not victorious. The leader of the PNM at the time, Mr. Patrick Manning, strongly objected to the move and President Arthur N.R. Robinson refused to make the appointments. However, the UNC stood its ground on the basis that the defeated candidates brought immense value to the system of governance and Mr. Robinson eventually made the appointments, which set the precedent that Dr. Rowley has now adopted.
We are still not convinced that the PNM team is ideally suited to governance in the context of our significantly reduced revenue situation and the policy framework needed in the circumstances, but we note this first move that shows that the PNM has accepted that the UNC has established a precedent of governance that is eminently suitable for our country.
We look forward to collaborating where we are convinced that the Rowley government is acting in the best interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and we intend to hold him to his word that he would be a Prime Minister for all without favour to anyone based on political or other considerations.
We have concerns about the ability of some personnel who make up the Cabinet but as always while we give them the benefit of the doubt we will scrutinize their every action to see if they meet the highest standards, which redound to our country’s future success.
As a matter of interest, we note already, talk about interfering in the operations of the state media and the Government Information Services Limited (GISL) and that the government is working on plans to bring back the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Agency (TTRA).
We would be deeply concerned if reforms at CNMG and GISL end up targeting journalists and other media personnel and if media freedom is thereby compromised.
With respect to the TTRA if it follows the formula that the Manning government sought to introduce we fear it would cause the loss of more than 2,000 public sector jobs without a guarantee that anyone currently employed in the Customs and Excise Division and Inland Revenue would be rehired in the new agency. Such a move would hurt thousands of families and create high unemployment.
The establishment of the TTRA opens the doors for possible discrimination and the review of GISL and CNMG may be just a start in this regard. We place the PNM administration on notice that we will be keeping an eye on every single appointment including the estimated 3,000 board, ambassadorial and others made by this new government. We, in our watchdog role, will ensure that all appointments are subject to the same scrutiny to which ours were subjected; and further that they meet all requisite criteria of transparency, accountability and meritocracy.
We note that former Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar set a precedent whereby those not meeting the high standards set were immediately dealt with. We hope that Dr. Rowley will be guided by this precedent.
Rodney Charles MP, Naparima | PRO United National Congress (UNC)