Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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PP Stocktaking Required Immediately
May has been declared the “Month of Delivery” by the People’s Partnership Government as it celebrates one year in office. Ministries, state enterprises, and boards are expected to highlight their achievements since assuming office and also have some activity of delivering during this month. It is the opinion of many that the Government should also seize this anniversary event to reflect on its performance in a meaningful manner. The Prime Minister cannot continue to ignore the open criticism of her Government by members of her own Government or the open disagreement between government ministers on government policy.
It has happened many times that officials of the State are publicly in conflict with themselves. To the disbelieving public this difference in policy and political position is cause for concern as it telegraphs a signal of instability within the coalition. Recently the nation witnessed the Minister of Agriculture and Food Production, Senator Vasant Bharath and the Minister of Housing and the Environment, Dr Roodal Moonilal, at different political and policy ends regarding the issue surrounding farmers squatting in D’Abadie and Endeavour. If there was any difference, why could it not have been discussed internally rather than have the public spectacle of two government ministers at loggerheads?
Were this the first instance of such difference it may have been excused but sadly it is not. The nation also recalls the difference between the Minister of Works and Transport, Jack Warner, and the Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, regarding the Carib-bean Airlines board. Warner is the line minister, but Dookeran announced the airline board should be dissolved. Even among the political parties that comprise the PP there appears to be a rift that is not closing to comfort level. The Movement for Social Justice senator marched against the Minister of Finance regarding the labour movement wage negotiations, and more recently the political leader of the MSJ publicly declared that the MSJ was “unhappy with the relationship with the Government.”
Senator David Abdulah has contributed very little to the political victory of the Partnership, but is now contributing to the Government’s instability. More often than not, he is marching with the anti-government labour forces. Abdulah and Minister of Labour Errol Mc Leod must decide whether they wish to be in government and chart the nation’s future or be in opposition in perpetuity. Surprisingly, the Congress of the People appears to have settled in government after a stormy beginning. The nation remembers the very public outrage against the Government by COP deputy political leader Robert Mayers, and a similar dissatisfaction by COP chairman Joseph Toney.
Even some of the personalities that emerged out of nowhere during the 2010 general election supporting the People’s Partnership coalition also broke ranks with the Government shortly after assuming office. Verna St Rose came out against the Government regarding the death penalty, and the slow implementation of the Children’s Act. She started to lay conditions although she brought nothing to the victory of the Partnership. It appears that only the Tobago-based political partner, the Tobago Organisation of the People, appreciate and understand political power and office. TOP leader Ashworth Jack has been openly supportive of the PP Government and its efforts to govern the country within the philosophical framework of “serve the people.”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been engaging in a tenacious balancing act among the various members of the coalition. As the first female to lead a major political party in T&T, many expected a new approach to politics. Indeed, the coalition Government has led to a more consensus-based approach to politics, in that a government comprising differing parties (often based on different ideologies) would need consensus regarding governmental policy. Instances of “friendly fire” from within the Partnership and clear mistakes by the Government, such as the Reshmi Ramnarine affair, have begun to erode the goodwill that brought the People’s Partnership into office.
The Opposition would have us believe that a coalition government in T&T is doomed to collapse. But there are examples all over the planet currently where coalition governments are in place and they are working. Countries include the Nordic states, the Benelux countries, Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Israel, New Zealand, Kosovo, Pakistan, Kenya, India, Thailand and Ukraine. Switzerland has been ruled by a coalition of the four strongest parties in parliament from 1959 to 2008 by what is called the “magic formula.” It is time that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar imposes some sort of governmental discipline among partners and work out a “magic formula” for T&T.
There are clear signs that the Opposition PNM is quite unable to capitalise on the divisiveness within the Partnership Government. PNM political guru, Prof Sewlyn Cudjoe, in the Guardian of April 21, wrote:
“Rowley (Opposition Leader) is turning out to be an inefficient and perhaps uninspiring leader for which the PNM will pay dearly if he does not get his act together. Rowley believes that leadership consists in attacking continuously and vehemently everything the Government does (and does not do).”
Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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