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When is scrutiny unpatriotic?

The trinidad Guardian / Last Monday a daily newspaper reported that “Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young yesterday described former minister Devant Maharaj’s complaint about the proposed Sandals Beach Resort in Tobago to the Integrity Commission as unpatriotic and ‘even traitor-like’ from someone who claims to be a patriot.”

This was a most unusual comment from Minister Young and seemed really to be unreasonable.

When is scrutiny unpatriotic? There is absolutely no aspect of public policy that must ever be deemed to be a sacred cow that it cannot be scrutinized.

The fact that Minister Young was so sensitive about the query made by Devant Maharaj about the impending Sandals project in Tobago makes it all the more imperative that there should be even closer scrutiny over every step of the project.

To demand information on, or an investigation of, a mega public policy project, regardless of what it is, can never be classified as unpatriotic.

The demand for scrutiny and transparency has no boundaries.

However, this is not the first time that Minister Young has adopted this line of attack in responding to queries about certain public policy projects.

Answering a question from Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee on March 17, 2017, in the House of Representatives, this was the exchange between Minister Young and David Lee as recorded in Hansard :

“Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuela (Dragon Gas Agreement) Mr David Lee (Pointe-a-Pierre): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

“To the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries: Was the recent Dragon gas agreement signed by Minister Stuart Young and the Venezuelan Government approved by the National Assembly of Venezuela?

The Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister (Hon Stuart Young): Madam Speaker, standing in for the Acting Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, I have already answered a question that has made it very clear and it should be abundantly clear, at this stage, that no agreement was signed by me nor was any agreement signed by Minister Martinez.

It was NGC, PDVSA and Shell. Madam Speaker, I will use this opportunity to state, however, that whilst this Government is working hard to ensure the future and for the future generations of Trinidad and Tobago that a gas industry is kept alive by this Dragon initiative, what is going on, and we are seeing it clearly and let the citizens mark it right now, is a complete lack of patriotism by those on the other side, [Interruption] and I will lend a dictionary to them very shortly for them to look at it, because they keep trying to throw spanners into the wheel of what is doing, [Desk thumping] and they keep trying to call something that does not exist, and one must question why it is that they keep trying to do this and talk about approval by the National Assembly of Venezuela. Both this Government of Trinidad and Tobago, under this administration, as well as the administration that exists in Venezuela, are ensuring that every step of the way, everything that is being done is being done in accordance with the respective laws. [Desk thumping].”

This new line of attack to use patriotism as a defence against any attempt to get information or to scrutinise government policy is an unhealthy development.

It suggests that whatever the Government is doing is so right that no one should dare seek to question it because it is sacred.

That is a dangerous place to go and it would be best for Minister Young to withdraw from this line of defence as it is totally unjustifiable.

The Opposition must press even harder on these two items (Sandals and Dragon gas) for further details. Scrutiny can never be unpatriotic.

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