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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Opponents of the government clicked their heels in glee with the revelation of Shamfa Cudjoe’s astronomical roaming charges.

The TSTT bill, just shy of $60,000, provoked gasps of incredulity. “Smh, big guvament minister don’t know about roaming charges!”

In response, the minister indicted her ministry has launched an investigation into the “abnormally high” roaming charges. The minister explained that the charges for actual phone calls, while on government business in the Bahamas, was paltry in comparison to the eye-watering roaming charges.

This middling scandal prompted Finance Minister Colm Imbert to conduct his own research into the affair, expressing his shock at the inordinately high roaming rates in the Bahamas.

So concerned is the Government, that the issue of extortionate roaming rates in the region, has found a place on the agenda for Caricom talks.

So in a way, we should really be thanking Shamfa Cudjoe for her sacrifice. Were it not for her baptism of roaming fire, the Government may not have been inspired to look into the matter on behalf of us all.

It’s easy enough to say that, as a minister, she should have been aware of the risks of roaming.

How many among us, though, are aware of those hand-held dangers because we have either been burned ourselves or heard stories from other travellers who received heart-attack inducing phone bills after their happy travels?

Several years ago, I was travelling to New York on a short business trip. I’d been warned about the usurious perils of roaming charges so I used WiFi where available to stay in touch using apps and email.

When a friend from Canada visited me some time ago, he asked me for my WiFi password because he needed to send an email.

I asked him about his roaming charges, and he shot me a look as if I have invoked the name of the devil. He explained that, on returning from a trip to Mexico a few years back, he got a bill from his cellphone provider that made his Montezuma’s revenge seem tame by comparison. And that is Canada, folks.

But this really isn’t about roaming charges, or what obtains in other countries vs the Shylock Bahamians. This is about honesty vs excuses. Ms Cudjoe could very easily have dissipated that storm in a teacup with five simple words: I made an honest mistake.

Any criticisms after that would just have been residual noise. Admitting to mistakes, owning fallibility, is beyond the pale for our political classes. The upshot of an inability to admit to our flaws, our unwillingness to accept our foibles, is that there is little possibility for improvement.

The Super Fast Galicia ferry debacle, the fallout of which still ravages Tobago, is a prime example of this. If the news reports are to be believed, there was ample notice of the impending end of the contract for this crucial lifeline between our islands. As such, it would seem the search for a replacement, given Government’s stated unsuitability of the Galicia, should have begun long before the situation escalated.

The departure of the Super Fast Galacia and its attendant disruptions is nothing short of a massive cock-up.

Yet all we can see is government officials performing contortions of every variety to absolve themselves of culpability.

Villains must be found to answer for this shocking exposition of incompetence; the former government, the port authority board, the Superfast Galicia, Poseidon.

Someone dropped the ball, but that someone wasn’t me.

To err is human, to shift blame is despicable. When ordinary citizens make mistakes, however, we don’t have the luxury of offering a panoply of excuses. We must admit our errors and face the music. Why is that so hard for politicians to understand?

On the last occasion my vehicle was towed (and it will be, forever more, the last time), I was parked on lower Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. When I emerged to find to my vehicle missing, I immediately thought theft because there is no way it could have been towed. I looked left and right just to confirm what I had already checked; there was not a single sign warning a prohibition against parking.

A passerby observing my obvious distress pointed out a sign almost a city block away from where I parked my vehicle. After having hoofed it to the impound lot at Sea Lots, I explained my story to the police. “There was no sign any where near to where I parked!” The police officer said, “Dat is nut my prawblem”

No, it was my prawblem. I made a mistake and I had to pay, in this case $500.

I am not a perfect person. This is precisely the reason I am willing to admit where I am at fault. Politicians, past and present, cling to the indefensible for fear of giving ammunition to their foes and critics.

Rather than admit to their mistakes, it must be someone else’s fault. Consequently, nothing gets fixed as no one is willing to accept responsibility for what’s wrong.


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