Incompetence and Bad Judgment

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 20, 2017

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI had promised that I would not involve myself with the Ferry Imbroglio (an extremely confused, complex and embarrassing situation, full of trouble and problems) if only because the situation was/is so uncalled for and revealed such extraordinary incompetence on government’s part. The longer the problem persists, the more the government’s incompetence and the uselessness of its bureaucrats displays itself. I had hoped the government would remedy this situation by letting sunlight shine into the darkness.

There is no complexity about this matter. A ferry is contracted to take people back and forth to Tobago. Such movement of goods and people constitute Tobago’s lifeline to Trinidad and Trinidad’s connection to her sister isle. The authorities waited until the contract was about to expire before they attempted to renew it.

Two weeks before the contract ended, the Prime Minister (PM) pointed his finger at what he thought might have been “scampishess” in terms of the contract and the contractors’ behavior. Nothing was done to ensure that another ferry was put in place to pick up the slack. He declared that the situation should be investigated. His government employed unusable tugs to fill in the gap. The disaster grew.

The PM appointed Allison Lewis to chair the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. Part of her responsibility involved getting two ferries to ply the Tobago-Trinidad route. The newly constituted body rents a new ferry. No inspection was done on the ferries before the new contract was given out. Brendon Powder, chief engineer, who led a sea trial and inspection of Ocean Flower II, reported that “it was unsuitable and had technical issues” (Express, August 16). Rather than welcome the press’s initiative in getting the information to the public, Lewis’s board initiates an inquiry into why the report was leaked to the press. Was he suspended from his post for being forthright?

Such bureaucrats believe that democracy functions better when dark people are kept permanently in the dark. Sometimes darkness is invoked to prevent them from seeing the light which is always the prerequisite of corrupt governments. They seek to hoodwink them. Initially hoodwink meant “to cover the eyes of someone, such as a prisoner, with a hood or blindfold” so that they could not see, understand or anticipate their fate.

The PM has issued two apologies for the inconvenience this embarrassing situation caused all parties involved. He called for a meeting of the business stakeholders (not the people) and then appoints someone to investigate “the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower II and the entering into charter party agreement for these vessels.” He asked Christian Mouttet to investigate the matter and report to him in 30 days.

Questions: Does Mouttet have subpoena powers to compel people to appear before him? Does he have the necessary expertise to do a thorough investigation? Does he need a forensic specialist to assist him in performing his duties?

Mouttet is a white, Syrian businessman. The PM says he is “a seasoned and successful businessman with in excess of two decades of high-level experience in the business world.” He is also a very wealthy man and owns “several distribution companies which utilize the ferry service” (Guardian, August 16). Does he have an attachment to the one percenters.

Further questions: Why wasn’t someone from the unions or a Tobagonian added to this committee? Why does the interest of the business elite always take precedence over the interest of-or at least balanced with-that of the working people?

Mouttet says he will be fair. Why do we have to take his word for it? Why didn’t the PM build into the investigative team elements that would have ensured fairness and impartiality? Why wasn’t someone with forensic experience added to the team? The Americans say “Trust but verify”.

It is difficult for an autocratic government to remember that the site of power should not always reside in the hands of bureaucrats and business people. Wesley Gibbings reminds us that “since 1889 when the island became a ward of Trinidad, the most visible agitators for altering the terms of reference between the two islands have been leading activists in Tobago” (Trinidad Guardian, August 16).

Any investigative report about this fiasco should be conducted by people who respect the community and who the community respects. Mouttet may have the confidence and respect of the business world as Gary Aboud, head of DOMA, suggests (Express, August 16). It would have been nice if someone like Reginald Dumas, respected by Trinbagonians, was added to such an investigative team.

It appears that Lewis has been elevated to the center of this drama while Rohan Sinanan, Minister of Works, has eased his way out of what might be a criminal matter. His closeness to the PM should not hide him from the public scrutiny, nor should this investigation be seen as a case in which the PM selects someone to conduct an inquiry whose outcome he can control or influence.

Mouttet’s report must be made public. Citizens have a right to know his findings. Government and bureaucrats should stop taking poor people’s concerns for granted.

11 Responses to “Incompetence and Bad Judgment”


  • I will continually call out black leadership, you see, history has shown us that very rare that leaders in the capacity of Keith Rowley, work to advance the betterment of the poor. “EVERY COOK CAN GOVERN” but is ROWLEY a cook or stirrer of the pot? i asked this question, you see, it is always easy to oppose, while not putting yourself in a position to do better. The PM credibility is on the wane, while continuing faux pas after faux pas, Trinidad needs at this time, a leader with VISION and fortitude, not whims and fancy where mistakes are continual.The ineptness of KAMLA and ROWLEY, both UWI grads shows the level of leadership coming out of the campuses, no wonder, not one great thinker have been produced by this colonial planted institution.In a couple years time, the mauruding brigade will get their footing, believing that by continuously voting change is being created, but in reality? the same remains.

  • A fair assessment and a pretty balanced view of what is required in these circumstances. The integrity of Dr. Rowley’s governance is under scrutiny here and we will see how all of this is played out and what competence it brings for the future. His influence among those who voted for him is waning, because he has shown a reluctance to be specific about corruption and how he is fighting it. While I still give him the benefit of the doubt, my confidence in him is also waning.

  • What we have here is an incompetent government led by an ambitious Prime Minister who probably had good intentions, but by now realizes that he is out of his league.
    Cooper touched on a very relevant but important point in his comment. UWI seems to be producing graduates who fail in the public arena of employment and expertise.
    The periodic accreditation of UWI by foreign entities and evaluators is a public relations and political exercise designed to avoid criticism and embarrassment. UWI continues to produce graduates who assume leadership positions in every discipline who are failing our society and institutions.
    It is time to focus on the reasons for this phenomenon.

  • Part of the problem with this government, is its timid handling of corruption by the previous government. Much was made by the PNM, during the last election about the less than accountable way in which the UNC was careless with the nation’s finances. There were many such reports of alleged mis-appropriations published in the media and Dr. Rowley promising to do something about it. In parliamentary sessions, I have seen and heard Attorney General Faris AlWari attested in some of his presentations that he kept the same staff, left behind by Anand Ramlogan to man his office.
    While things like this may give the air of fairness and good governance, I find it politically naive and unwise.

    In every sector of government there is suspicion that Kamla left a ‘plant’ or many ‘plants’ that would do her bidding. We see in so many cases the undermining of the PNM’s legacy of governing. Let us start with the problems with the boats that transport passengers from the ports of the city of Port Of Spain to San Fernando. The obstruction of engine performance of the ferry boats to and from Tobago. The stuffing of clothing in the waste plumbing lines of the Brian Lara Sports Stadium. These are NOT random acts of disruption. They are in fact acts of terror meant to embarrass the PNM government. The question is who are the culprits?

    In his speech on Tuesday night, Dr. Rowley informs us obout some of the tactics employed by unnamed sources to ‘cloud’ the transportation systems by air and sea with ‘reservations’ intended to show inefficiencies by the administrations of these essential services. I too was a victim of this practice. Recently, I and my four brothers tried unsuccessfully to book seats on the boats to Tobago for five consecutive days. Each time we tried to book, the system told us that ALL THE SEATS WERE TAKEN (or words to that effect). Traveling on those same boats were friends who witnessed trips that were barely 50 percent full. As Dr. Rowley stated in his presentation, there were 98,000 such reservations on Caribbean Air to Tobago and of course these seats were not filled. One would beg to question, who are the operators of such tactics? Any reasonable person would want to associate these random acts of sabotage, as matters that are strongly related to political sabotage.

    Faris AlWari has warned us many times, that his office would act to bring to justice many of the acts of corruption, that we experienced in the preceding five years of the PNM coming to power. As of today – NOT ONE CASE OF CORRUPTION BEFORE THE COURTS???????

    This along with many short comings by the PNM administration is frustrating to many who expected to see this government attack corruption in a big way, much to our chagrin.

    • In every sector of government there is suspicion that Kamla left a ‘plant’ or many ‘plants’ that would do her bidding. “We see in so many cases the undermining of the PNM’s legacy of governing. Let us start with the problems with the boats that transport passengers from the ports of the city of Port Of Spain to San Fernando. The obstruction of engine performance of the ferry boats to and from Tobago. The stuffing of clothing in the waste plumbing lines of the Brian Lara Sports Stadium. These are NOT random acts of disruption. They are in fact acts of terror meant to embarrass the PNM government. The question is who are the culprits?”—Kian.

      In a court of law he who accuses must prove. What proof do you have that those very silly often repeated accusation resonating with you and the PNM family are true? By that logic the Super Fast Galicia broke down 6 times during its tenure can we assume or draw the conclusion that it was the work of agents of the PNM deeply embedded in the ports who sabotage the Galicia? Please supply us with you information on these acts Kian.

      • Mamoo, I have no qualms in answering your questions:

        “In a court of law he who accuses must prove.”
        Yes, in a court of law he who accuses must prove, but you must first be abundantly clear about what the accusation is. Also in a court of law, definitions are important in establishing what an accusation is. One can imply without making an accusation. I know that you are very thin skinned when mention is made of Kamla. But there are many facts about her that can be verified, that you may not like to hear. For your questions to be valid you must first establish a clear definition on what the word ‘plant’ means. In this respect, I am not exonerating what I consider to be ‘plant’ but you seem to know exactly what it is. YOUR CALL MAMOO…..

        “What proof do you have that those very silly often repeated accusation resonating with you and the PNM family are true? ”
        You are asking a contradictory question Mamoo. Your question is asking me for proof about “those silly often repeated accusation resonating with you (me) and the PNM family”. Here you are implying that I and the PNM are authors of “very silly often repeated accusation”. I dare you to show me proof of that too, but then again, it is obvious that English may not be your first language, maybe, just maybe hindi is. Because you are questioning an accusation with an accusation. English language!!!
        We all speak it, but we sometimes don’t all know what it means.

        “By that logic the Super Fast Galicia broke down 6 times during its tenure can we assume or draw the conclusion that it was the work of agents of the PNM deeply embedded in the ports who sabotage the Galicia?”.

        If by that statement you are insinuating that with each malfunction of the Galicia, (stupid PNM people) are saying that it is terrorism. Well, I do not think that you will find many people in public life (including the UNC) so stupid to connect malfunction with deliberate acts of terror. Acts of terror are deliberate, like stuffing cloth in the engine of the vessels, pouring sugar or salt into the engine of the vessel or pouring foreign substances into the engine causing it to malfunction. But, as usual you are a reliable UNC agent and will stupidly defend whatever is said as a good propagandist would. At least you are loyal to your political cause and in some quarters that is commendable.

        Look here Mamoo, you are no fool and know very well that there are acts of terror committed by individuals, terrorists, party hacks, party faithfuls or party supporters of those in opposition to this government. I am not here to speak for the government or anyone else. But I am a Trinidadian by birth, loyalty, tradition and beliefs. That loyalty is not split or even contested with any ancestral trepidations. So any acts that might cause disorder or mayhem to destroy our democracy I am against it. AND JUST TO ADD an insight into what you are trying to defend – when Kamla used the powers of the SOE to incacerate over four thousand black men and file no charges against them, that was both racist and undemocratic (maybe you might wish to tell me that is not truth also). HAVE A GOOD DAY!

        • The SOE came about as a result of 11 murders in one weekend. Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar sensed the unleashing of an out of control gang warfare that would have resulted in a blood bath in the nation.

          Many have argued that the SOE was unnecessary but I favoured it because the murder rate was the lowest since anyone could remember. How it was done is another question that requires a closer look. The police and military said they learned a lot from this excercise.

          A lot of those who were arrested were gang members, the police even provided video footage of them actually committing crime but no one came forward and reported these crimes for fear of their own safety. So the evidence was there but the victim not available. Based on that many walked, teaching the police a very difficult lesson. Nevertheless I am sure if Rowley decides to call a state of emergency the police should be much better prepared because the information gardered would have been part of their training.

        • Propagandists write in a way to convince the reader or listener to a line of reasoning, that requires at least a low bar of believability, while at the same time putting forward a persuasive arguments to support a case. When the arguments are not persuasive or believable, then the value of the propagandist’s statement become null and void. Such is the case with the statements put forward by Mamoo, to justify Kamla’s right to call a SOE during her administration. I have given up on challenging facts put forward by Mamoo because, it is never important when he wants to score points. The only things that matter is what he wants to say. I mention some of his unreasonable reasons why he supports Kamla’s actions:

          “The SOE came about as a result of 11 murders in one weekend. ”

          “Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar sensed the unleashing of an out of control gang warfare that would have resulted in a blood bath in the nation.”

          “Many have argued that the SOE was unnecessary but I favoured it because the murder rate was the lowest since anyone could remember. ”

          “A lot of those who were arrested were gang members”

          “the police even provided video footage of them actually committing crime but no one came forward and reported these crimes ”

          “So the evidence was there but the victim not available.”

          “Based on that many walked, teaching the police a very difficult lesson. ”

          “I am sure if Rowley decides to call a state of emergency the police should be much better prepared because the information gardered would have been part of their training.”

          All those quotes, sound like things an uninformed person would say without necessarily seeking truths.
          Based on his statements, one gets the impression that Kamla’s use of authority was no better than Joe Arpaio of Arizona. His reasoning supports one being rounded up and jailed for just being a gang member. If police have footage of crimes that should be enough evidence for conviction. He said the evidence but victims not available. He went on to bolster his reasoning by saying that the police gained special information Dr. Rowley would need, if he were ever to call a SOE.

          I thing Mamoo needs to start his stories with “Crick, crak, monkey break he back with a piece of pommerac”. Then proceed with “Brer Anancy”, that is more believable for me to accept.

  • The professor covers this topic very well. He touches on all the salient points of this debanacle.

    This whole fiasco is like the “chickens coming home to roost”. The PNM campaign at the last election was built on the central theme of the “Calcutta ship coming to Tobago”. All effort was made to drill this message through as campaigners moved through the island with hush tones “don’t vote for the UNC or else Indians would invade the island”. It was a racist, fear driven campaigning that succeed in winning the two seats.

    By the admission of Tobago hoteliers if the indo population did not come to Tobago tourism will take a nose dive because not many Europeans are coming. Since the sea bridge collapsed Tobago had lost $25 million in revenue with small mom and pop operations talking about closing. It is getting worst with the air bridge over crowded and just today TT spirit down with electrical problems.

    The best way forward is to grant Tobago full independence. They take Trinidad money but does not want to be accountable for spending citing “it’s Tobago business”. Under Orville they could not find a billion dollars, just disappeared like that. The island is riddle with smart men and THA thieves who full their pocket demanding more. Every project went way above budget and took years to complete. They are a strong homogeneous culture where the hot bed of corruption is kept within the family. Time to cut the umbilical cord and end this relationship.

  • Prof… Sat is ah expert on he back in time Hindu beliefs, buh like you is ah Expert on everyting……NOT!!!!!!

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