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Thursday 15 November 2018
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Quiet service

WE’D LIKE to congratulate Dr Marjorie Thorpe on being sworn in on Tuesday by President Anthony Carmona as the new chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the first woman to hold that post. She replaces her long-serving predecessor, Ambassador Christopher Thomas, who held the post since 2004, during which time he had also headed the Police Service Commission, now chaired by Prof Ramesh Deosaran, and to whom the nation’s thanks must go. Under section 121 of the Constitution, the PSC acts as a “buffer” to insulate public servants from any sort of undue influence from various quarters such as direct political influence, serving the Public Service, Fire Service and Prison Service. It carries out appointments, promotions, transfers, and disciplinary action.

The name of Dr Marjorie Thorpe is surely one that rings a bell somewhere in the minds of each of us, even if each of us can’t quite put a finger on the exact context in which we have heard of her. This unconscious but doubtless familiarity is the very definition of the quiet service without any big public fanfare by which persons such as Dr Thorpe have beavered away in the background for so many years to build this nation.

Dr Thorpe’s list of achievements are varied and impressive.

Academically, she holds bachelor, masters and PhD degrees in English, plus a post-graduate diploma in Mediation, being a graduate of Mc Gill University and Queen’s University (both of Canada) and the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Her academic career includes service as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and General Studies at UWI, Head of the Department of English, and Coordinator of the Women and Development Studies, in addition to being Lead Consultant for the establishment of COSTAAT’s Division of Humanities. She has served on UWI’s Strategic and Planning Committee.

This 23-year-long career in academia is distinguished enough in its own right, but even more so Thorpe had opted to serve beyond the walls of the university in the public arena.

Professionally, she has been a member of several constitutionally-appointed boards. These are TT Defence Force Commissions Board (of which she was the first-ever female chairman), Police Service Commission, Salaries Review Commission, and Judicial and Legal Services Commission. Thorpe is a former director of the Republic Bank Limited, and a board member of Cabinet’s 2012 Youth At Risk Committee.

Dr Thorpe has also served beyond the shores of Trinidad and Tobago.

She was TT’s Ambassador Permanent Representative to the United Nations, helping establish the International Criminal Court (ICC) mooted by former President Arthur NR Robinson. Thorpe was deputy director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), was a top executive at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and was TT’s Resident Representative of the UNDP. Herself the author of papers on gender, development and West Indian Literature, in the creative sphere Dr Thorpe has been regional coordinator for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, chairman of the Fulbright Scholarship Awards Screening Committee and vice-chair of the judges panel of the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

We certainly think this is a rich background of both academic foundation and real-life experience both in TT and abroad, to put Dr Thorpe on a solid footing to head this office of major responsibility.

Further, we like what we are hearing so far from Dr Thorpe’s initial words to Newsday after her swearing in last Tuesday about her plans for her post.

“One of my primary tasks would be to work with my colleagues to ensure our decisions are transparent and easily understood particularly by the President to whom we are accountable,” said Dr Thorpe.

“So many of our established and traditional institutions are now being subject to public mistrust. It would be important for me to work with my colleagues to ensure our decisions are transparent. It is a great honour to have been asked to serve”. So we wish Dr Thorpe all the best going forward as she continues along her path of humble, quiet service to her country.

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