As we celebrated International Women’s Day this week it was my intention to comment on why it is important for us, as nation to continue to #PressforProgress. I intended to acknowledge how far we have come as a country, with more and more women holding leadership roles, a consequence of which is greater representation and mentorship for young women.
However, as I spent the week thinking about representation and what leadership looks like to the next generation of Trinidad and Tobago citizens, on Friday I was confronted by the very essence of the crisis we are facing.
In the Senate on Tuesday, during a debate on Parliamentary Autonomy which centred around how we can strengthen our democracy, I made the point that this Keith Rowley Administration does not understand the reason for and importance of parliamentary question time. Their actions indicate that they do not believe they need to answer questions posed by the Opposition. I reminded them that question time is an opportunity for them to account to the public, it is an important part of our system of checks and balances and scrutiny of the Executive.
The arrogance and scorn with which this Administration treats question time was brought to a head on Friday during Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQT). Whether or not the Rowley misheard the question is irrelevant because the response would still be callous and disrespectful, no matter version he heard. Imagine the Prime Minister can ignore repeated calls from the Speaker of the House and then when he eventually stands it is to say if the Member wants the answer to “meet him outside on the pavement.”
One of the reasons I have seen being proffered is this idea that he wanted the MP to repeat the question without the benefit of parliamentary privilege. This holds absolutely no water, as the video is widely circulated and the Prime Minister’s demeanor is clear, those were fighting words, additionally, there was nothing remotely defamatory in the question. But this is not surprising coming from the same Keith Rowley who when segments of the society disagreed with him, he told them to shut up, the same man who has refused to answer questions on Government policy and who quite frankly does not understand what it means to be Head of Government and Statesman.
So as Trinidad and Tobago, joined the rest of the world in the celebration of International Women’s Day- as we discussed our progress and what representation meant for development, the Prime Minister showed us just want a crisis in leadership we have on our hands.
A Government that does not understand that it is its duty to account to the people of this country, an administration who believes that they can get away with saying and doing anything- without thought for setting an example, without for the next generation, is a danger to our future.
If we cannot count on our Head of Government to set an example, who can we count on? To those who still find themselves making excuses, or laughing off what we are witnessing, don’t you believe we deserve better as country?
The next generation is looking on- they are looking for mentors, opportunities and hope. They will model their behavior after ours, they will respond to questions and critiques using the bar their leaders set.
To the young people this country, the task of national development will fall to us, in our small ways we must play our part in making our country better. Mrs Kamla Persad- Bissessar has called on all those willing to serve to come forward, so that we can increase the number of voices and ideas as we seek to move Trinidad and Tobago into the future. There is a space for those who do not feel adequately represented to come forward and be the voice for your community.
Despite the lack of leadership, recycling of scandal riddled politicians and disrespect for our seat of democracy we have seen in recent time, if we stand today for what is right, things will get better.
Senator Anita Haynes,
PRO for the UNC