OPINION: Minister Benn and his charges: umbrellas, parachutes, pay, and badges

Last Updated on Thursday, 5 January 2023, 8:36 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

I always had the eerie feeling that Hon. Minister Robeson Benn is American; or at least a broad streak of American in him.  I received confirmation in spades the other day when I learned that Minister Benn refused an umbrella and braved the rain.  Bareheaded, too.  Now, in my book, that is leading by example.  I have always been amazed at how Guyanese, with the slightest rainfall in the air, rush for the nearest cover.  That is, if they did turn out for duty that day, and did not call in sick in a preemptive move.  Way to go, minister.  There is the byproduct of shaming (rain?) the juniors for their fear of a little cleansing water from the heaven.  Sorry about that reference to heaven, for I believe that the Hon Minister is not inclined to look in that direction, or give it much standing.  Must be godless something or the other in this capitalist haven.  This is the best that I can do.

Minister Benn may disdain the saving utility of an umbrella, but he has not one, but two people who are going to need them.  In fact, they need more than an umbrella; what their circumstances call for is a parachute.  One man is on the solid ground, while the other looks a tad on the shaky, slippery side to me, though he is safe, ultimately.

The Commissioner of Police (ag) does not need anything or anyone.  Best that I rephrase that: the acting CoP is sitting pretty.  The PPP High Command via the channel of Minister Benn has sent the clearest signal yet: he is the man for the job, having endured the crucibles that came his way.  The endorsement I read in Demerara Waves on January 4th is among the best I have come across in recent times.  Thus, this little inconvenience about retirement age is nothing but a bureaucratic nuisance, which would be overcome in short order.  In fact, it is accurate to assert that it has already been considered, and does not mean a thing.  The acting CoP is the man to have around, and he will be come hell or highwater, or rainwater (there we go again).  The current officeholder does not need any umbrella to weather any storm, he is a force of nature himself, according to the PPP Government, as faithfully conveyed by the Hon Minister of Home Affairs.  This is what is found appealing: information that is clean, crisp, straight, and true.  All of that can be put in the bank, for it is a guarantee that the acting CoP will be on the job, possibly until the end of the decade.  I would have liked that kind of job security during my time, but I erred.  No corporate or political godfather of clout to speak about; or staying power in a crunch.

Regarding the other public service actor, I am not so sure.  Things have already taken on a hazy, crazy complexion.  Must be the time of year, where everybody is still bleary-eyed from the holidays.  I write of the Chief Fire Officer (ag), and his own upcoming retirement date.  To put matters unsparingly, it does not seem to me that the acting Fire Chief’s presence causes as much thrills as that of the acting CoP.  Let me put this another way.  If the acting Fire Chief is a favored presence, he is not in the category of the ‘Golden Child’ that is the acting CoP.  I mean there are children, and then they are children.  Incidentally, I hope that neither of these two very senior public servants, grown and mature men I may add, are so thin-skinned as to take offense at being referred to in such rarefied terms as ‘Golden Child’ and fair-haired warrior.  I assure them that it is merely a figure of speech, and there is nothing infantile about this writing.  The problem for the acting Fire Chief is that he is the best that is around, but that never counted for much with the PPP Government, or its big bosses.  As proof, I hold aloft the exhibit of Dr. Vincent Adams, late of the EPA.  Nevertheless, the acting Fire Chief has something else going for him, which is trumps.  It is not that easy to replace him, given what is available down the line.  My advice to the acting Fire Chief is to cross his tees and dot his I’s, and not appear to overly want the job. Or to stay beyond his time.  Meanwhile, he should take a page out of acting CoP’s book, and read the riot act to the Fire Service ranks.  Sheltering in place will not do; so, too, is all this scurrying around to evade the rain.  I am certain that Minister Benn will notice, and it may be worth something.

Last, what’s up with those EMTs?  Yes, those same Emergency Medical Technicians, the Guyanese engaged in lifesaving heroics on an almost daily basis.  Not only are they without a month’s pay; now they are without their Joint Services ID card.  Was this really necessary, folks?  I speak not to the EMTs who spoke to the press, but to the higher ups.  To take away pay and badge sounds extremely low to me, very meanspirited also.  We are not going to break the budget to pay 60-70 EMTs a month’s salary.  I recommend Minister Benn fix this seeming  vindictiveness with the stroke of a pen.  Approved.  What is the PPP going to do?  Fire him?  I don’t know why, but I have some regard for Minister Benn, and he appears to have things purring along sweetly.  Just look and listen.  The Police Communications Unit (all of two) have no work to do these days.  Now that is the results of good policing.  Possibly good Ministering; extremely good ministering.