I honestly see no value to the society in holding events in which a Keynote Speaker is not challenged on own public records by the strength and competence of a moderator, who adequately gets prepared for before hand with collections of public policy statements by that particular speaker at table for the occasion, in order to be able to ask follow-up questions effectively and call out any obvious mis-statements and falsehoods.
I give you an example: President Deni and his Interior Minister Dhabancad have been issuing public statements long before the appointment of the members of TPEC on how they wanted to proceed with elections of local councils in a number of towns as pilot election projects in Puntland. Mind you, I am not saying the policy objective is good or bad. But the answer by the President not to own it up last night was incorrect because it wasn’t a policy that had come up originally from TPEC. The moderator should have had those records ready to challenge the President’s own mis-statements on the issue.
President Deni has been downplaying too the strained relationships and cooperation between Puntland and Farmaajo Administration, whereby the latter is quoted as “I had lost hope on the former” from reliable sources. There are serious Federal issues that require public address from Puntland Government. Abuses by the Federal Government in matters of public security, state jurisdictions (Federal and State Constitutions), Federal Elections 2020/2021, public education, equitable resources- sharing etc require Puntland’s public assertiveness, advocacy and leadership.
In doing so, there are cues to have from such well conducted interviews as BBC’s “Hard Talk” and Al-Jazeera’s “Face-to-face” programs.
Otherwise, the Centre or its moderator is simply providing a platform for the speaker’s unchallenged personal insinuations, unscrutinized statements, evasion to answer questions (there were many such evasions), using simplistic terms to dodge hard questions and twisting of facts to his/her own desire and convenience, and, thus becoming an accomplice in avoiding facts out as a matter of institutional policy, in which case there is no an independent research objective, or it could be a mere personal incompetence.
“Bringing people and government closer together” could be a noble cause, but it is not the job of a research Think Tank, which is supposed to study issues of socio-economic importance and lay out its findings in scholarly fashion publicly. Here credibility and impartiality are sine non qua of reliable assessment and genuine research prowess. The idea to invite public figures to such platforms is to challenge them on their public performance on issues of public interests and rate them on their public policies and records in advising them on best alternatives forward. It is never about providing voice and tools for their ill-conceived policy objectives.
People shouldn’t be treated as all suckers and flatterers. Their destinies and the future of their country are at stake.
One keen Puntland observer had notably remarked: “Odaga caawa waa loo camiray” ( the man has been entertained tonight).
In conclusion, it was a smart move on the part of President Said Abdullahi Deni to come out from his bunker to face the people and answer some sticking questions on where he wants to lead Puntland in this precarious political stalemate in Somalia and the role Puntland ought to play in resolving this dangerous governance gridlock.