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This must end

Published: 
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sunday’s chaotic scenes at Immigration in Piarco were truly shocking but unsurprising. After all, every citizen knows how contemptuous many in our public service are towards those who pay their wages.

In reality, what happened at the airport was a perfect microcosm of all that is wrong with T&T: an inefficient state, lack of accountability by those who were supposed to be working, lack of leadership in the public sector and a weak government, more afraid of union leaders than the taxpayers.

It is also telling that the blatant disregard for employment discipline by Immigration staff and lack of preparedness by their managers in Piarco took place just as, at the PNM’s convention, the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was going out of his way to promise public servants that his administration would try to keep state job losses to a minimum. That despite the poor state of the government’s finances.

A braver government would have been promising exactly the opposite, especially given how poor the services are and the decades of losses by state-owned enterprises. Governments, past and present, had plenty of opportunity to fix the state and failed. There’s still time in Dr Rowley’s current term in power to do something about it.

The fact that, we are told, only two immigration officers out of the 15 rostered for that shift turned up for work shows where the problem lies. Normally, there are no consequences to those who are paid to but fail to serve the public. And no consequences to those who are supposed to be managing them, either. This must change and fast. Dr Rowley has a perfect opportunity to show clearly who is in charge.

Remembering

Remembrance Sunday is always a poignant moment, when people across the Commonwealth mark the sacrifices made by those who fought at wars to keep us safe.

Critics may highlight the fact that even during major conflicts, like the two Great Wars of the 20th century, Britain stuck to its colonial policies, normally treating those coming from its empire as lesser soldiers.

There might be some truth in that but what is important is to remember those who, irrespective of ranking or nationality, went to battle on our behalf. And to remember true heroes like the late Justice Ulric Cross, who was also a much-decorated RAF Squadron Leader.

Generosity

This newspaper recently highlighted the charitable work done by Mr Ashmead Ali and his wife, Nadeira Khan, including their efforts to help those affected by the October floods here and those hit by hurricane damage in Dominica.

Their actions are to be commended. They also highlight the considerable charitable work and fund-raising done by the Muslim community in T&T, not always widely recognised but much appreciated by those who receive their help.