Exploding the Myth of Meritocracy

By Stephen Kangal
July 08, 2008

Trini PeopleI was in employment in the Public Service during the period when the meritocracy factor slowly and surreptitiously began to assert itself as the preferred alternative criterion to seniority as the determining consideration to effect promotions. This development constituted as an aspect of Performance Management in Public Service Reform.

That reform was driven by Gordon Draper’s “Management by Objectives” proposal designed to upgrade the Confidential Reports of public servants.

I was convinced then and am more convinced now that the façade of “meritocracy” was intended to be a convenient tool in the armoury of the nepotism- dispensing PNM Administrations to enable them to indulge in delivering political patronage irrespective of the potential harm that could accrue to the national community. At that time too many Indians had attained high seniority in the Public Service and were threatening to upset the post-independence prevailing ethnic “balance” that was skewed in favour of the urban elite. Whatever aspirations and reasonable expectations I harboured then of achieving mobility had to be scaled down because meritocracy posed a subjective bar. That was also the time when there was an abundance of High Court judicial review applications from Indian officers.

I came to the conclusion that the application of the standards of “meritocracy” like beauty would always be conceived exclusively and secretly in the mind and eyes of the promoter.

CoP nominee Stephen Williams after having undergone and triumphed over a most rigorous and forensic evaluation and scrutiny of his outstanding policing and management credentials to assess his suitability for the top cop job won the nod of the Police Service Commission (PSC). The new Police Act has indeed replaced seniority by the meritocracy factor in finalizing appointments. Meritocracy can and should take into account seniority because according to the late Albert Gomes “…there is no substitute for experience”.

But the Manning Administration has demonstrated time and again that it is pathologically unable and indeed unwilling to act outside of the political patronage box. Their mantra that crime is national problem that demands a politically non-partisan approach is invoked when it suits them. It is spin (the doosra) and deception pure and simple. T&T could implode under the stress of the crime pandemic but the PNM will not break away from its reward- the -supporters moorings. The party’s support- base agenda takes precedence over the welfare of the state of T&T. The PNM is congenitally unable to awake itself to the urgency of appointing a Police Commissioner and therefore extended the appointment of former CoP Paul.

“L’etat c’est PNM” is the prevailing practice.

Now that the façade of meritocracy has failed to deliver the political patronage to the favoured ones, the PNM wants to make a pathetic and unconvincing convenient return to according overriding importance to the stagnating seniority factor. They do not trust the independent PSC process. And this in the face of the independent and objective selection criteria modus operandi applied by the Police Service Commission in the selection of the nominee, Stephen Williams who incidentally hails from rural Talparo that is located outside of the East-West Corridor.

The members of the Police Service Commission must now tender their resignations because they have lost the confidence of the Manning Administration and have been subject to vilification and ridicule in the highest court of the land by a pathetic “dwen” posing as a Minister of Government.