TP SARAN

The reflexive recourse to foreign expertise

“In the matter of the Michaela Harte murder, a commonsensical query has been raised: will the country call for investigating teams from different countries each time a national of a given country is concerned? The obvious answer is that this is neither possible not acceptable; after all we are a sovereign country, and after over 40 years of independence surely we have to stand on our own feet?”

 

— TP SARAN

In this globalized world, it would be ridiculous to think that we can always go it alone and that we can altogether do away with any inputs from foreign sources for running our affairs. We are a small country, and by virtue of this very fact we have certain limitations of capacity – but that in no way means that we cannot keep building capacity to optimum levels, with foreign help if need be, and retain the option of the latter in operational matters subsequently only when this is really essential.

Each situation has its specifics, and these must be carefully considered before any announcement or decision is made, so as to avoid embarrassment at either the national or sector level concerned. In the matter of the Michaela Harte murder, a commonsensical query has been raised: will the country call for investigating teams from different countries each time a national of a given country is concerned? The obvious answer is that this is neither possible not acceptable; after all we are a sovereign country, and after over 40 years of independence surely we have to stand on our own feet?

And similarly for other sectors in the country: should we keep calling experts at the drop of a pin?

What is more needed in this country – a President with more powers or a workforce with more powers, i.e. more capacity? Clearly, we must get our priorities right. It will be no use having a second republic with powers concentrated at the top rather than devolved to where it’s genuinely required: at the ground, operational level where the actual work of the country takes place.

And to reach that state we must train the appropriate human resource in adequate numbers, and equip them with whatever they require in terms of infrastructure and equipment for their proper functioning. Right now this is not the case in our country and, further, we make the easier choice of shooting the messenger whenever attention is drawn to shortcomings.

There are also issues of setting up the required structures and systems, which concern memberships/headships, lines of command and reporting, financing and so on. There are enough brains in this country to analyse, synthesise and make cogent recommendations. However, more often than not, such recommendations are not even given a hearing or disappear during ‘processing on file’ for reasons best known to certain perpetrators.

On the other hand, there are also cases where officers appointed in positions of responsibility use their connections with overseas contacts to have the latter come over to do work which the officers are supposed to do in the first place, and through their occult local leverage at higher levels they manage to make the ‘experts’ get alluring contracts. And since appetite builds up, especially when one comes from colder climes and a free holiday in the C’est un Plaisir island is so desirable, the trips multiply at the country’s expense. When the actual contribution of the expert is assessed, it is then found that the cost-benefit ratio is negative.

It would be interesting to conduct a proper audit of such advisory inputs in the name of transparency and accountability. There will surely be surprises.

More concretely, as a country we must genuinely have faith in the intelligence and know-how of our countrymen/women, and give them all the support and backup that they need to perform to international standards. This is not impossible, but leaders must start by having a minimum of capacity, and of faith in themselves so that they do not cry ‘wolf’ every time there is a problem to solve and then outsource to bigger wolves…

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Will Syria go the way of Libya?

The rapidity with which events are unfolding in Syria, especially over the last few days, does not augur well for its immediate future not to speak of that of its leader, President Bashir El Assad. Religious custom, in the form of the onset of the Ramadan, does not seem to have influenced the opposing parties in the year-long internal conflict to better sentiments vis-à-vis each other. On the contrary, the violence has escalated, and the scenes of destruction and mayhem in the streets of Syria’s second city, Aleppo, are painful to watch. Instead of helicopters, it is now fighter jets of the government that have rained down on the city’s localities. Although the government denies that there is a civil war, reports emanating from the region aver that for practical purposes there is indeed one going on. With thousands of Syrians crying their way to the already crowded makeshift camps in Turkey, heavily guarded by its armed forces, for Turkey is not overly keen to have brotherly aliens on a permanent basis on its soil.

What is more worrying is that now there are divisions even in the President’s ethnic group, the Alawites, and there are security concerns for this group as well as for other minorities such as the Christians, the Kurds and the Druze. Further, with the support that the rebels are getting from other Arab countries in the region, it is feared that there may be a takeover by radical Islamic forces, complicating the situation. Moreover, given this ‘foreign’ involvement, President Assad has threatened to use chemical weapons against the outsiders.

The rebels are determined to get at President Assad, and if the recent experiences in the region are any guide, his days seem to be numbered – but let us hope that they will not come to a brutal end, as happened to Colonel Gaddafi, though this looks increasingly likely.

TP SARAN

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