Keith Rowley’s failed leadership

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 01, 2022


Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn Friday, July 21, 2021, around 1.30 p.m., PM Keith Rowley was preparing for his golf game when a senior golf services coordinator sustained an ankle injury from a golf cart he was driving. Nothing untoward seems to have happened to the woman. An hour later, Rowley confirmed, “While I was playing golf I heard from my lawyer that the woman was taken to the hospital, was checked out and cleared to go… Nobody was ‘run over’.” (Express, October 27, 2021).

Everything looked above board. Accidents do happen, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Eric Williams, ANR Robinson, Patrick Manning or any senior ser­vant, for that matter, would be seen playing golf on a workday. Maybe work had ceased at noon and golf was the PM’s only respite. Perhaps such recreational activity is acceptable. It might have been that Rowley was working very hard to solve the crime problem and needed a break from his official duties, but it was difficult to countenance such a divergence, on a workday, especially in light of the fact that Trinidad and Tobago, in his words, is “a violent society” teetering on the brink of social breakdown and violent crime is a “public health” hazard.

There can be no doubt that the introduction of petro dollars in the 1970s (financial capital) began to deplete our social and moral capital, and that the introduction of the shift system at primary schools led to the deterioration of discipline in our pupils. And, as the prime minister correctly averred, the introduction of firearms in the wrong hands has exasperated the situation.

Much of the breakdown in the social order happened under PNM’s watch. It’s unfortunate that the various bodies within the party ­never sat down to discover what went wrong within our society. While the PNM Women’s League has been vociferous in defending their leader, it has never had a conference or a consultation on parenting, poverty, scholastic achievements, or any of those topics that go to the heart of what ails the society.

Rowley does not really possess a coherent view of his society. Or, if he does, he has never outlined it to the nation. In fact, he is betrayed by his own gifts. His followers generally laud him for his ability to speak extemporaneously. Indeed, preparing a thoughtful analysis of where we are has never been his forte. With power comes responsibility. With leadership come distinct obligations. Angela Merkel, the former chancellor of Germany, was one of the most successful leaders of the 21st century. A star student in mathematics and Russian, she studied physics at Leipzig University, earning a PhD in quantum physics. Like our prime minister, she is a natural scientist who ended up being an important ­political leader.

How did she do it?

In the words of Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (2011–2019), she was “measured, methodical, and well-tempered”.

Lagarde suggested that Merkel was especially skilled at practising the “Four Ds of leadership: diplomacy, diligence, determination, and duty”. In diplomacy, she sought “cooperation rather than confrontation”, collabo­rating with her opponents, even when she disagreed with them.

She was diligent. She was always “the best-prepared person in the room… She works methodically and patiently through a problem, splitting it into its various parts, weighing up pros and cons, and crafting a solution step by step, bit by bit”.

Merkel is also a determined person. “Her objective is always to reach that all-­important compromise which, by definition, leaves everyone a little bit dissatisfied but vastly better off. That spirit has helped us shape our world, especially over the last decade.”

Lagarde says determination, diligence and well-tempered diplomacy would have been insufficient unless Merkel possessed and cultivated a sense of duty. Every day, Merkel drew her strength from a “deeply felt sense of duty to her people” and what she called “matters of the heart” (“Angela Merkel–Striking the Right Note on Leadership”, August 31, 2019).

In terms of sheer natural intelligence, Rowley stands among the top three prime ministers of our country. However, he has failed to apply himself fully to his tasks and get the job done. He may have become disenchanted with his job or become so filled with hubris that he can’t be bothered to devote the sustained time and attention that his job requires. In other words, he hasn’t taken up his duty as seriously and assiduously as he should.

Many countries fail because of the lack of purposeful leadership. Recently, Haiti and Sri Lanka have proven that the absence of proper leadership leads to devastating consequences. Violent gangs rule Port-au-Prince, and the people of Sri Lanka had to remove its political leadership by force.

Rowley must be more responsible. He is the parent-in-chief of the nation but absents himself from the island for three weeks without accounting to the public why he was away for so long or why he missed the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Rwanda. Saying that he was gone for medical reasons is not good enough. Isn’t that the sign of an errant parent-in-chief? Leaders must always be respectful of the obligations that inhere in the social contract that binds nations together.

John Wooden, a United States basketball coach, suggested an approach to life and leadership. He warned: “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

In spite of his obvious talents, Rowley needs to attend to his duties in a humble manner. It might also be wise for him to practise Lagarde’s “Four Ds” of leadership.

4 thoughts on “Keith Rowley’s failed leadership”

  1. “Rowley does not really possess a coherent view of his society. Or, if he does, he has never outlined it to the nation.”
    Happy Emancipation Day to my black brethren, much love to you all. Freedom from the shackles of slavery, a bitter sweet reminder of the past.

    Rowley views and vision has been there for all to see “ah weaning Trinis off the government” boom laptops gone, jobs started disappearing, Petrotrin gone, Point Lisas going, WASA heading out the door…

    The PNM has not evolved over the years, but has mastered the art of winning/stealing elections. (The EBC is loaded with party hacks led by a minister niece. The same minister who once said Indians have their knee on the neck of black people). The PNM focus have been on their party supporters, their financiers, and friends and family. Hence PNM constituencies with the exception of a few receive funding to maintain roads etc. UNC constituencies have been under funded and denied funding. The roads are deplorable, as the Works Minister told UNC constituents allyuh didn’t vote PNM.

    But back to Rowley a man who fled Tobago because as a teacher he impregnated a 17 year old child. Her son he finally acknowledged along with few outside children. Carnival time he was seen whining on a 17 year old girl from south. Character matters, during his tenure so far Trinidad has sunk into the abyss. Debt is at a staggering $135 billion, he keeps borrowing from his Chinese friends. TnT is heading in the direction of Shri Lanka. Sadly the dragon has this nation locked in its jaws. As for those who vote for Rowley remember character matters and God don’t bless rapist, thief, serial adulterer, liar and generally skunky people. Rowley needs to repent so as to spare this nation further pain, perhaps then the good Lord will bless his hand.

    My personal view is there is a move to oust Rowley from the balisier brigade insiders. These articles are a push for an earlier leadership race knowing Rowley is not going for a third term. Put in new face and save the party from further embarrassment. However, no one can tell Rowley what to do because he has already done.

  2. “In terms of sheer natural intelligence, Rowley stands among the top three prime ministers of our country.”

    I must applaud this comment it is rich with a self belief that Rowley was at one time akin to the messiah.
    The goodly professor must note the words of another Prime Minister Mr. Manning. “My friend if you oppose him and oppose him strongly he turns into a raging bull”. The character of a leader must be carefully examined in the light of all that those who were near the leader speaks in a public setting.

    But back to the issue on intelligence. Rowley could only if at all beat Chambers on the running of TnT. I would say the most intelligent Prime Minister was KPB, she had a long list of experience and qualifications to prove it. When the UNC declared they built 106 schools whilst in office, even the intelligent Rowley stood up and said it was a fabrication, Tim Goopiesingh stood up and read the list. In addition to all these schools there were a lot of schools almost 90% completed and Rowley refused to complete it. So there was Ramai Trace students going to Morne Diablo to get an education waking up at 5:00 a.m. to make the commute. And they are still doing that. When it comes to the completion of the Point Fortin Highway out of spite he stopped it, everything was paid up for but his third rate “eat ah food lawyers” lost and TnT is now hook on paying over $800 million for breach of contract.

    The second most intelligent PM was Dr. Williams on the basis of taking TnT and setting the stage for success. Williams was one of the most inspirational leader whose leadership further divided TnT. But that aside oil and lots of money saw the trickle down economy flowing like a river. Of course there was the 10 % man, and the OHallaran debanacle.

    The third most intelligent leader was Basdeo Panday. He did a lot of good including building the national airport, immediately the PNM start the race for corruption. “In September 2000, the Attorney General of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago retained Lindquist to conduct an investigation into allegations of corruption and procurement fraud regarding the construction of the country’s Piarco international airport at a cost of some US$110 million. ($770 million TT).” Guardian An amazing 22 years later and that airport inquiry still going on. Some $220 million spent in legal circles to get the culprits to go to US to stand trial plus the inquiry itself must be over $400 million (22 year and counting). Altogether over $1,390 million spent…. and the airport cost $1,600 million.

    Panday built the airport and for 3 consecutive years rated as the best in the region “The Piarco International airport has topped the region as the Best Airport in the Caribbean by the Skytrax 2022 World Airport Awards. According to a press release from the Airport Authority, with respect to the Global Region the airport has also been ranked the Third Best Airport by Skytrax, edged out only by Panama’s Tocumen International Airport and Costa Rica’s San Jose International Airport.”(nothing near Piarco)..been there.
    Meanwhile no inquiry was made on the Brian Lara Stadium at the staggering overprice of $1.6 billon Or Shaw Park Tobago at over $551 million Cost of construction was originally fixed at $194 million.

    And so I challenge anyone to name in the past 7 years any project that ring with pride that the third most intelligent PM complete… I await the pen of many of the PNM and Rowley apologist. I know there are many out there.

  3. “Much of the breakdown in the social order happened under PNM’s watch. It’s unfortunate that the various bodies within the party ­never sat down to discover what went wrong within our society. While the PNM Women’s League has been vociferous in defending their leader, it has never had a conference or a consultation on parenting, poverty, scholastic achievements, or any of those topics that go to the heart of what ails the society.”

    Under the rule of Cosa Nostra they are impotent to act decisively in anything. The cult call the PNM is governed for their self loathing self interest and no one else. They operate under a strict code of silence and that was demonstrated with the current AG who went into hiding until the heat cool down.

    When the PM return after a long hiatus he bouff up a reporter and rambled on instead of answering any questions. The level of arrogance in that party starts at the head and like a poison flows throughout the body.

    As for the arms of the party nothing happens without the order coming through the PM office. So Trinis must continue to suffer from flooding, bad roads and high unemployment. Great is the PNM…

  4. Basdeo Panday, Patrick Manning, Dr Keith Rowley, Kamla Persad Bissessar etc. good or bad they are products of the Trinidad and Tobago society, the same goes for the Police, the criminal gangs etc. The question must be how to improve the society from the ground up. It must start with the education of children and teenagers as they are always the future. Thanks to the obligatory schooling the GOV has a unique opportunity to teach local history, to focus on instilling values and morals in young children that will stay with them for a lifetime and to directly teach anti crime classes that explain the consequences of crime to the kids. Imagine the mother of a murder victim going to a class of children and speaking about the consequences, or a convicted murder brought before a class in shackles by heavily armed prison guards and police to explain what he did and the consequences, surely a young person that sees and hears what they have to say will learn a valuable lesson. It will be much more effective than road blocks and house searches in the long run as it is prevention. TT is a country with leaders who think about 4 year plans so they can get reelected that is why the nation is squandering it’s potential for greatness. We need to supercharge our economy by adding new trade partners. There are hundreds of millions of south americans that need products and services that we could provide. Every nation must find purpose and work towards that purpose.

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