Analyst, politicians warm to President’s call for political openness


Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. –

POLITICS lecturer Dr Bishnu Ragoonath on Sunday told Newsday he supported President Paula-Mae Weekes in her call in her New Year’s Day message for politicians to show more engagement and openness towards citizens.

Weekes had said the public is fed up of inaction, unfulfilled promises, secrecy and aloofness by politicians across successive administrations.

Ragoonath said, “Her comments demonstrate that she is hearing the concerns of the citizenry at large. She is looking on at what is happening.”

He reckoned Weekes had detected more and more distrust by citizens of the manner in which the Government was acting.

“She is taking it upon herself to say that I am limited in what I can do, but that does not mean I cannot add my voice to the concerns the citizens have about governance and the poor governance in TT.”

Asked if Weekes had struck the right balance, in her call, between openness and secrecy by politicians, Ragoonath offered a personal view.

“It is a concern I would have had personally speaking. In the governance of the country we don’t seem to be getting adequate accountability and transparency.”

He deplored occasions of government action which were then announced simply by a press release sent to media houses.

“I don’t think that is the way the Government should do things.

“That’s my personal opinion, and basically I think she was just expressing that.”

Ragoonath agreed with Weekes saying this non-accountability had persisted from regime to regime.

Due to this, he said, TT had passed a Freedom of Information Act to boost accountability and transparency.

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, who often acts as Senate Leader, supported the President’s call as “a welcomed reminder of our obligations to serve.”

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat. –

He told Newsday that Weekes’ call for more accessibility was important, even amid covid19 restrictions.

“I have taken on board the call and will do more to ensure that we do more to serve and service the need of our citizens,” he said, seemingly of his ministry.

“The lockdown, reduction in the number of employees who can turn out to work, the reductions in some service offerings which involve congregation have certainly led to a reduction in the quality and timeliness of the Ministry’s service delivery. We have been able to switch to online service and other means by which we compensate for times when we operate without full staffing levels. Her Excellency’s call is a good call to do even better.”

Opposition Senator Wade Mark told Newsday he supported the President’s remarks, which he viewed as being a criticism of the Government.

Opposition senator Wade Mark. –

“I’ve come to the conclusion the President is very concerned with the behaviour and conduct of this present PNM administration now in its second consecutive period of office.

“The PNM has engaged in secrecy and lack of transparency. They have not been engaging the public in the way they ought to have, to look after their interests and well-being. So clearly Her Excellency must be very concerned about the direction of the PNM government has been traversing, being less than truthful with the population.

“The gutting of the procurement law was another manifestation of what the President referred to. The PNM has always been opposed to accountability, transparency and good governance.”

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