Normalising failure and callousness

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 21, 2024

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeQuestion: Would you select someone to lead a company or an organisation where, previously, that person had failed in that position and shows no sign of improving his/her leadership skills or comprehending the job-challenges that lie ahead?

This question arose last week when National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds explained why his Government retained Erla Christopher to lead the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for another year even as crime and disorder worsen and every sign suggests they will get “worserer.”

Hinds justified Christopher’s extension by saying: “Erla received a good rating from the Public Service Commission…The law says you have to review the Commissioner’s extension for a maximum of three years, but it is reviewable every year. So it is a year-by-year for three years maximum. We are following the law, as I told you.” (Express, May 15).

Not content with such pablum, he concluded: “The Commission came back telling us, having looked at a number of different criteria, they came back telling us her overall rating was good, so we knew the Police Service Commission, which appointed her, and we extended and now want to consider a further extension, they having assessed her performance in the last year and found that it was good. And with that in mind, we were more emboldened to act in accordance with the law and public interest expectations.”

Apart from the nauseating repetition of the word “good,” Hinds intensified the mumbo jumbo: “He (Hinds) noted a few serious and imposing conditions influenced the decision, saying, ‘The first and foremost is the law, the Constitution and Section 75 of the Police Act, which permits the extension of an officer, along with of course I think Section 15. Anyway, Section 75 was the provision that our granting Madame Erla Harewood-Christopher the extension for the past year was challenged in the court and the court had to interpret that law, Section 75 of the Police Service Act, as against the Constitution, and eventually found that…it was quite proper, nothing irregular, not unconstitutional, but in keeping with the law.”

While Hinds was uttering his irrelevancies, the people of Laventille and Morvant (his constituents) were voicing their feelings and experiences within their community. Their lived experiences bore no resemblance to what Hinds was saying, whether it was Section 75, Section 15, or BS 121.

A few examples will suffice: “Many residents of Morvant and Laventille say they continue to watch their friends and relatives get murdered while there seems to be no intervention by the Government to stop the bloodshed.”

Student Ezekiel Lesley said at 11 years old he had witnessed a murder near the community centre: “I can’t even walk down the road without being scared for my life.”

A woman who identified herself as Joy Winn said her son was gunned down on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, on April 2. She expressed disappointment in the treatment by police and the lack of opportunities for young people.

She said the boys in Duncan Street had told her “the Government” say they not giving them work because “they will buy guns,” to which she retorted: “They ain’t working and they getting guns! They ain’t even have a job, can’t spell gun, (yet) have a gun. So they ain’t have no work to get a gun.”

Another woman who gave her name only as Ayanna said her brother was murdered outside the Brix Hotel, St Ann’s, on January 28. The scars were still fresh: “They kill my brother because he was from an area. Gang warfare. Up to now, nothing has been done,” she said.

Another woman said that within the past two years, “over 25 people have died in the community, families have been wiped out and no Government member has visited the people or offered counselling to those in grief.”

One day later, a citizen wrote in a Letter to the Editor: “The extension of the Commissioner of Police (CoP) contract is not only a slap in the face of every law-abiding citizen in this country, but shows that our Government cares nothing about its citizens.

“How can you justify keeping a CoP who, by all accounts, has failed? Is this a caring government?” (Express, May 16).

Meanwhile, the Leader of our Grief keeps gallivanting in India at the people’s expense. Citizens ought to look, listen, learn, discern, and then take the necessary action. Such callousness isn’t good for our society.

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