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Opposition must oppose

Published: 
Saturday, December 16, 2017

In the recent Parliamentary debate on ‘gang legislation,’ the Attorney General’s fashionable suit was worn with care. In hopes that the House Speaker soon would save them, the Government Members of Parliament were nestled snug in their chairs, while visions of 20/20 and ‘we red and ready’ probably danced in their heads. The Anti-Gang legislation was ripe with controversy, but nobody anticipated that its debate would be so fiery.

It is the Government that at different levels, initiates policy, formulates its policy on legislation and performs the governing role in the state. Both Houses of Parliament spend most of their time responding to these initiatives, proposals or executive actions.

However, it seems that the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government sees its role as simply blaming the Opposition, even blaming it on a daily basis, probably because it is the ‘rising sun.’

The classic definition of what is the function of the Opposition in the Parliament is: “The duty of Her Majesty’s official Opposition is to oppose Her Majesty’s Government.”

According to “Parliament-Functions, Practice and Procedures” by Griffith and Ryle: ‘The Opposition must also look critically at all policies and proposals brought before the House by the Government and then oppose and, if possible, delay or even prevent the implementation of those proposals it considers undesirable.

It will also take the initiative in seeking to bring to the public’s attention aspects of the Government’s policies and administration which would not otherwise be brought before Parliament. And it will present its own alternative policies and proposals in the most favourable light…”

It is therefore clear that the Government’s role is to govern and the Opposition’s role is to oppose. One would not think that this concept is beyond the present PNM Government.

After all, Tobago MP Shamfa Cudjoe was one of the first to get up in the Parliament and tell the rest of the country and the world that she was in charge now, the rest of us better deal with it! Hansard would record, “Les Coteaux, Les Coteaux, Les Coteaux!”

Prime Minister Rowley and Attorney General Al-Rawi were both members of the last Opposition and are experienced politicians. Certainly they both know that their job is to govern and not cower under the disguise that the Opposition is at fault for the lack of governance in the country. In the past, AG Al-Rawi predetermined which legislation would be opposed but ensured its passage through the Parliament by purportedly amending the need for three fifths majority to simple majority.

If the Government was serious about winning the Opposition’s support, one would have expected that it would extend its hand in a politically amenable way. AG Al-Rawi and Minister Stuart Young have been doing much the opposite, literally going out of their way to antagonise the Opposition.

Young has been speaking about warrant for arrest and court proceedings against Opposition Members (Should he be interfering in the processes of justice in the first place?). Instead of drumming up emotions over this particular piece of legislation, why didn’t the Prime Minister invite the Opposition Leader to hold constructive discussions?

Could it possibly be that the Government never intended to pass the Bill in the first place, but instead used it for political mileage to overshadow its own incompetence in dealing with the obviously massive crime surge? What better strategy than to sell the Anti-Gang Bill as the panacea for all crime and then persuade the population that the shortage of this remedy was the Opposition’s fault.

The fact is, the Government has been unprepared to deal with crime, and was simply using the Anti-Gang Bill as a plaster on a big gaping wound of crime. It was not meant to heal the wound but to simply distract from the massive flow of innocent blood whilst the Government shifted the blame to the Opposition.

At the point of writing, there are numerous complaints from public servants and other employees of the State, that they have not received their salaries or subventions. Rather than deal with these urgent concerns, the Xmas season of goodwill has been overtaken by political acrimony.

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