The Opposition: Drag effect

By TP Saran

In line with a practice dating from its origins, that of doing everything to obstruct the development of the country — as was the case with the strike in the port in 1971 to prevent the timely export of sugar from the island – the Opposition has resorted again to similar tactics and, one must agree, rather successfully. As an editorial in this paper pointed out two weeks ago, using all the means put at its disposal by friend-in-arms who have always been on its side, the Opposition has managed to keep attention on a few topics at the centre of the stage: the Medpoint affair, Neotown, the Bagatelle Dam. It has cleverly exploited all the extra-parliamentary means put at its disposal by willing, independent collaborators who are only too happy to sap confidence in the authorities and in the government of the day.

Again, in both editorials and in relevant articles, this paper has regularly brought attention to the fact that there has been a lack of proper communication on these subjects to the public at large. This gives an advantage to the Opposition, which exploits the exposed flank. The government relies only the answers given in the National Assembly, which clearly the Opposition is not prepared to be satisfied with, and resorts to a complementary crusade in the public sphere which has a national aim and outreach.

What has been lacking, as has been pointed out before, is a robust strategy in place to clearly articulate all the facts and figures relating to the matters under reference, as there is – we presume – nothing to hide, in which case it makes even more sense to disclose whatever details are pertinent to the transactions being debated. This would supplement what is given by way of replies to the parliamentary questions, and if done regularly through communiqués or by whatever means specialists in mass communications advise, there is no doubt that such an exercise would dispel much of the lingering doubt that the Opposition wants to perpetuate in the public’s mind.

Take the Neotown project, for example. Singapore has already successfully completed similar projects in comparable physical locations, and at the last count another plot of land situated near a waterfront was to be the site of a high-rise, modern construction project based on green technology. But there has been transparency all along, with the government firmly in control of all the information given. And there has been no occasion for any adverse exploitation of the idea of the proposed development.

Why is this not being done here? What is preventing the authorities from formulating and implementing a robust communications strategy? There is an urgency to do so, otherwise the hole into which the Opposition has put the country will continue to grow deeper, entrapping both the government and the people, and from a development perspective we will slip backwards instead of rolling forward.

 * * *

Preparing our future human resource…

In last week’s issue of this paper, TD Fuego makes some interesting points about eligibility to pursue higher studies and the rigidities inherent in the Public Service Commission’s rules and regulations that allow for no flexibility in interpretation and hence application. He bases his observations on his experience and knowledge of cases that he cites in as many words, and points out that the PSC thus denies opportunities to late developers to serve the country.

Every country has had a different developmental timeline and history, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula that will allow countries and peoples to instantaneously leapfrog to higher levels of achievement. However, there are certain fundamental principles about education and training in relation to the individual’s capabilities that must be respected. They can be summed up in late Ranjit Foogooa’s words: ‘It is not a star school that makes star pupils – it is star pupils that make star schools.’ He was an excellent educationist and teacher of English at Bhujoharry College, and he created some very bright stars who have done quite well for their country, so he surely knew what he meant.

We sincerely hope that the Ministry of Education has made a serious analysis of all the aspects and implications of allowing students with less than the conventional requirements to proceed to do HSC. Once again, no details have ever transpired, so this leaves the public in fear and in doubt. As this concerns the future not only of children but of generations to come and the country, nothing must be done lightly in this respect. It is not enough just to allow a change for the sake of change: there must be all the necessary accompanying measures to allow this change to fulfil the goal it is intended to do.

While agreeing that we must make provision for those who have aspirations but are prevented from doing so because of certain archaisms and rigidities, we must make sure that we are not at the same time preventing the emergence of others equally deserving who will have a pull-up effect on their peers and take the country forward.

With so many educated people running the country, why are they so fearful of open debate, discussion and frank dialogue? This goes in the same line as in the first part of the article – and would make things so much more transparent and acceptable. We reiterate that there is a real great need for serious and structured strategic thinking at the highest level to guide policy and actions. There is no other way that any country can move forward, develop and make progress.

* Published in print edition on 3 June 2011

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