Editorial for September 6: 'Tara-ble' judgment

Let us begin by stating what this editorial is NOT about.

It is not about Premier Alden McLaughlin’s announced upcoming journey to Gibraltar with an onward meeting in Jersey. It is also not about his chief officer, Jennifer Ahern, accompanying him on this official and apparently important visit.

In fact, our only quarrel (too strong a word) with the premier is that we think he is being overly modest and appearing overly penurious by traveling “coach” or “economy” and, presumably, staying in second-class accommodations. We appreciate that he is keeping a keen eye on our national bank balance, but we are proud that he, as our premier, is representing our first-class territory to the international community. In that regard, we’d like to see him traveling in a manner which is reflective of his position and the stature of the jurisdiction he represents.

No, what this editorial is about is our discovery that Tara Rivers, the minister of education, appears (as one wag put it) to be “playing hooky” from her duties here at home – including missing the first substantive meeting of the Legislative Assembly since her controversial election in May.

We have learned that Ms Rivers is, in fact, currently in Johannesburg, South Africa, attending a meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Why?

We understand that Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly is also at the Johannesburg conference, but it seems that her attendance is justifiable since she is the chief parliamentarian of the Cayman Islands. (Representative McKeeva Bush, leader of the opposition, is also in attendance to chair a forum on taxation but apparently at the invitation of, and expense of, the association organizers.)

As a newspaper, we consider it our main mission to share with our readers what we know, but in this instance, the story is more about what we don’t know – and why we don’t know it.

For instance, Government Information Services, which is in the business of churning out press releases (most often about the good deeds of elected members) neglected to inform the public about Ms Rivers’s trip. Understandably, they couldn’t because, according to a spokesperson, they weren’t told either.

At press time, despite requests, there was no response from the premier’s office and only a brief statement with no real explanation from Ms Rivers’s ministry regarding why she is attending this conference, its relevance to her ministries, how long she’ll be gone and, not inconsequently, given the premier’s vow of parsimony, how much her trip cost – and who is paying for it?

There may be satisfactory answers to all of these questions – we hope there are – but the lack of forthrightness and the abundance of stealth surrounding this trip from the outset suggests otherwise.

Given this government’s commitment to increased transparency, increased scrutiny of all travel-related matters, and especially its penny-pinching approach to all public expenditures, we must question its sensitivity to the “optics” of the Tara Rivers trip.

Being generous, it appears Ms Rivers has exercised “Tara-ble” judgment.

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