Kangaloo calls on business community to offer themselves for national service

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Kangaloo calls on business community to offer themselves for national service

President Christine Kangaloo has appealed to the business community to offer themselves for national service.

She said she knows it can be an onerous task and quite invasive – as public officials are required to declare their income, assets and liabilities – but she is finding difficulty in filling board positions with experienced and skilled individuals she is required by law to appoint.

Kangaloo made the plea while addressing the Couva Point Lisas Chamber Dinner and Awards function on Wednesday night.

She applauded the business community for its role in the social and economic development of the country, but urged them to go one step further, “to serve on the wide range of boards, commissions and tribunals that have been established by Parliament and other authorities, to perform regulatory or similar functions”, as they are specially equipped to do so.

“I am beginning to discover it is not always easy for a President to find the required number of persons, with the required skills and experience, to serve in those capacities on occasions when a President is required by law to make such appointments,” Kangaloo pointed out.

She encouraged the business community to encourage more of its members than currently do to serve in these capacities.

“Serving in these capacities is very much a means of serving the wider society. At this juncture in our country’s development, I believe that it is a critically important means of national service.”

Kangaloo told the audience, which included chamber president Mukesh Ramsingh, and three Opposition MPs Ravi Rattiram, Barry Padarath and Rudradanath Indarsingh, that she understands very well the challenges of serving in these capacities.

One of them is filing annual declarations, and earlier this year, the IG published the names of over 500 defaulters in public life of their failure to file their declarations of income, assets and liabilities and statements of registrable interest. The release came with a reminder of legal action, plus a hefty $150,000 fine under Section 11(8) of the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) if found liable.

“Believe you me – I understand only too well the challenges of serving in these capacities. Those who do so expose themselves to the risk of being criticised, often unfairly, by the very public whom they serve.

“As members of that very public, we might sometimes seem to such persons like ungrateful children in this regard. Like good parents do, persons who answer this particular call to serve the greater good, bear it all – with love and with patience.

“In some cases, service such as I am making a case for brings with it the obligation to avoid engaging in other activities that we might love (in order to preserve the appearance of impartiality).

“In other cases, such service brings with it the burden of having to abide by certain regulations which can seem onerous and that might feel quite invasive.

“If service were easy, it would not be called ‘service’ in the first place. I do appreciate that what I am calling upon members of the business community to do, in addition to all that they already do, is not easy.

Kangaloo said the type of service she was asking the business community to engage in was no more difficult or riskier than their other endeavours.

“By virtue of your experience as businessmen and businesswomen, your members are, I believe, uniquely poised to answer the call to do even more with the same finite resources.

“You find ways to use the finite resources you have in order to add greater and greater value, and you take whatever finite resources are available and find a way to use, and to stretch them, for the good of the community.

“That, I am suggesting, is precisely the task involved in national service of the kind for which I am advocating.”