WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE PNM?
It appears that Dr. Rowley and his government are systematically dismantling all the means by which the people can advocate on their own behalf. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is something that allows any Trinibagonian – from President to cook to receive information from the government and government agencies which exist so as to represent and serve the people. The present Rowley led government has embarked on changes to the FOIA that would make access to information much more difficult for the average citizen. It not only recommends a 90 day extension time to the process but inserts the government’s effective legal advisor – the Attorney General – into the process. This could effectively add another 90 days to an already stretched out process - not to mention the conflict of interest that an attorney general will have.
The Opposition leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar has rightfully taken a strong position against any attempt to make this happen. So has other public voices and civil groups. The unfortunate reality is that the government only needs a simple majority – which the PNM has – to pass this very questionable bill. However there is some hope to stymie this in the case that it does get past the parliament. The way the system works is that the President, Paula Mae-Weekes, doesn't have to sign any bill that comes on her desk. She is another check, one of the few, on a government that appears to be pushing through legislation that would allow them free reign with no transparency on their actions.
Dr. Rowley’s inconsistency, and what is starting to appear to be hypocrisy on force-feeding a legislative agenda that’s not in line with what him and his administration committed to in 2015 is becoming worrying. The Clause 7 amendment to the Freedom of Information Act is, at best, a full toss to the Opposition, and easy target to bluster at a growingly dishonest administration. But, moreover, it is a blatant disregard to a commitment to transparency by the Dr. Rowley led PNM. Couple this with another recent bill tabled in Parliament that seeks to increase the pensions and compensation of MPs, Prime Minister and judges – especially in the context of a recession and average workers losing their jobs – and one has to question has Dr. Rowley genuinely lost his compass? This is very much unlike a 40 year political veteran who prides himself on being meticulous as it concerns the matters of state? None of these bills are in the interest of the common man, in fact they are all antagonistic to the interests of those who elected the PNM with a strong mandate. Add to all of this the very shady and questionable manner in which the attorney general's family was awarded a deal to lease city center real estate to the state (and was approved by Cabinet), and we're forced to ask the question: What has happened to Dr. Rowley and the PNM?