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Govt blundered in failing to disclose Homestretch Development Inc. upfront

Viewpoint by David Hinds

After careful study of the statements from the President and other members of the government along with those of members of the opposition regarding what has now become the controversial Homestretch Development Incorporated, I have three interrelated comments.

First, why was this government or quasi-government company not made public at the time it was created? I am not charging any wrongdoing on the part of the company because what is in the public domain does not suggest any such thing. What I am suggesting is that government openness is a central aspect of accountable and democratic governance and the government did not observe this practice. It took the PPP, which has the worst record of accountable governance, to draw this information out of the government. I don’t think the president’s statement or explanation has addressed this central question.

The government should have revealed this information on its own and let the country judge whether it was prudent for the administration to create a company to oversee the project. There was not universal support for the project in the first place. So it was incumbent upon the government to ensure that there was instant disclosure. If there is nothing to hide—and I believe there was nothing sinister—then why to make the information public?

Like many of the problems this government has created for itself, this one speaks to a culture that privileges secrecy when openness is the wiser and politically sensible way to go. In the final analysis government, must have respect for the citizens and be guided by political morality. Mistakes would be made but a responsible government should not put itself in a position whereby its motives are constantly questioned and projected as sinister.

Second, the revelation that WPA co-leader, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, was a director of the company cannot pass without comment. I have not had an opportunity to speak to him personally on this matter, but as a public commentator who is Dr. Roopnarine’s comrade, I have to assert that I hold him to the same standardsof political morality as I do other public officials. The president has indicated that Dr. Roopnarine was the government’s nominee on the Board of Directors of the company and insisted that he did no wrong.  But I feel very strongly that given his own political tradition and culture, Dr. Roopnarine should speak for himself by explaining to the public his role in the company and why he was party to keeping that information secret.  My thinking is this matter will not go away tomorrow and I implore my leader, colleague and friend not to hide behind the President’s explanations, but to speak for himself.

While I do not speak for the rest of the WPA or the WPA Overseas Associates, I think our embrace of accountable governance and political morality compels us to ask our leader to in the words of calypsonian Chackdust to “Clear your name Doc/Doctor clear your name.” I do not believe that Dr. Roopnarine has engaged in any impropriety, but when his integrity is called into question, he owes his party and the country an explanation. Dr. Roopnarine has a history, political legacy and tradition to uphold.

Finally, it worries me that the government continues to get itself into these tangles which suggest, wrongfully I hope, that it has something to hide. These accumulated mistakes help to provide space for the PPP to project itself as the defender of political virtue. But equally important, it saps the energy of its supporters which in the long run could dampen their enthusiasm for the government.