David Abdulah's resignation as a Government senator and the withdrawal of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) from the People's Partnership Government has signalled a division within the labour movement. Abdulah's credibility was also stretched to the point where he had no choice but to make a decision.
Political scientist Dr Hamid Ghany said yesterday while there were some labour bodies which sided with the MSJ others were not in support of the party's policies. "For instance president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke has publicly called on the Government to institute the property tax, while in 2009, Abdulah was carted off by police as he protested against the proposed property tax outside the Red House.
"So clearly some labour leaders are not in support of the MSJ's policies while other would certainly want to make a detachment from the party," Ghany said. Abdulah's resignation, he added, signalled that the "time had finally come," for the former senator. "Ancel Roget is the president general of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) and David Abdulah is the general secretary so the OWTU was facing a possible split if Adbulah did not take a position.
"Abdulah's credibility was also stretched out on the one hand by his position as a senator and he calling on MSJ members to resign from State boards while he retained his senatorial position. So it seemed that his time had finally come...it was inevitable," Ghany said.
On whether this was a clear signal of a weakening of the People's Partnership Ghany said it was difficult to tell. "It's early days still. We haven't heard from much of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers, Trade Union (ATSGWTU). James Lambert, president general of National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) has also made statements and expressed views which are different to that of Abdulah's. "So there is definitely a weakening of the labour movement."
Ragoonath: No impact on the Government
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath is predicting that Abdulah's resignation would have no impact on the Government. Saying he was not surprised by Abdulah's decision Ragoonath added, "the Government will go on as usual. It means absolutely nothing."
He said the resignation "simply meant" that Abdulah and the MSJ had decided to go their own way. "This will have absolutely no impact on the country and it also does not mean there are cracks within the People's Partnership."
Dumas: I'm not surprised
Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas said he was expecting Abdulah to quit the Government. "I'm not at all surprised. This was what I expected because Mr Abdulah has been making his position clear for sometime," Dumas said yesterday.
With the resignation, he added, pressure would be placed on the Congress of the People (COP) and the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) to publicly state their respective positions. "Since the MSJ said it pulled out based on principle because it had given the Government until May 24 to deal with certain issues which were declared in the manifesto, and this was not done, then this leaves the two major parties to declare their position," Dumas said.
But this is not a sign of the Government's collapse. In fact, he added, the Government would continue to function. "The Government is not going to fall because of this and it will have no effect in terms of the Government's ability to govern. Mr Errol McLeod was elected on a UNC ticket," Dumas added.
However, Abdulah's resignation would have a "political and psychological effect" on the general population. Dumas said people would be looking at the COP and TOP and wondering if, and when, they will withdraw from the coalition. "There is now a wait-and-see attitude as there is an obvious loss of faith by the People's Partnership Government because this has said the coalition Government has not lived up to its expectations."
"NJAC (National Joint Action Committee) is not a major force. The pressure is now on the COP and TOP as people would want to know Mr Ramadhar's and Mr Ashworth's positions and they have to declare their hand."