Watson Solomon Duke, in his capacity as political leader–and his other capacity as Deputy Chief Secretary, before his resignation– believes that the political leader of his party, the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), should be instructing Chief Secretary Farley Chavez Augustine, and not the other way round. Another way of saying this is that the party should be instructing the Government in the THA.
But he has not set out for us how the political leader or the party can do that. So in the absence of procedural details, his suggestion comes across as a pipe dream and, if he means that the suggestion should be enshrined in law, an invitation to legal tyranny.
We have enough examples in the world to have been informed that, if we are to have the best government, an Executive or a Cabinet or a Government needs, after the general vote, to be influenced as a matter of course by the views of the people, including–some would say, especially–the party that put them in power. And the party can best guide the Executive by democratising itself into action groups that would sound out the views of the various communities and reporting these views to a central policy-organising committee of some kind. There should also be party institutions and organs that are empowered to oversee the work of the party executive.
As I suggested in my previous column, as part of the solution, the competing egos of the leader of the party and the leader of the Government are best moderated through democratic institutions of popular oversight. Such institutions include, apart from those identified above, petitions and hearings from officials in the party, including the political leader if s/he chooses.
Routine, informal private instructions from a political leader to the head of Government simply wouldn’t work.
The conundrum that has in part generated the governance crisis in the island arose out of the PDP adopting a model of relationship between the party and the Government in which the political leader, Watson, is different from the Chief Secretary, Farley. All over the world, the preferred model is the same person holding both offices. In Britain, the US, France, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and even Communist China.
The cases of China and France perhaps require a little clarification. In the case of China, the Central Committee of the Communist Party runs things, and the head of that Committee is the General Secretary and President, who is the political leader and who nominates a premier to run the day-to-day affairs of the country. In the case of France, the President is the political leader of the winning party, who appoints a Prime Minister to run the day-to-day affairs of the country.
But the PDP feared, rightly in my view, that they would have lost the elections if they had proposed Watson as leader of the campaign and Chief Secretary–or as he might prefer, if he had proposed himself. As it turned out, the PDP won 14-1 and Farley became Chief Secretary while Watson remained as political leader. And now we have a situation in which Watson, as political leader, wants to instruct the Chief Secretary, presumably to correct the anomaly of the latter holding the ascendancy over the political leader.
Perhaps we should ask whether Watson couldn’t have ceded the political leadership to Farley and taken one of the posts of deputy political leader. But then that would not have solved the problem of Farley having the ascendancy over him in the public space, would it?
But whether or not one person or two different people hold the posts, there is universal recognition that there is a need for democratic arrangements of popular oversight if a territory is to achieve good governance.
So let me sum up. In a society like Tobago, the Watson Duke solution could only work politically in a context of sweeping popular empowerment–pervasive democracy. Which suggests the following on the party side, at least:
Within the PDP, institutional arrangements must be established and nurtured by which party members are empowered to oversee the work of the party executive, led by the party leader, while actively promoting community and country development.
Institutional arrangements must be put in place to empower the citizens at large to routinely petition the THA as legislature and thereby influence the policy choices of the Executive Council, when considering proposals coming from the public service.
Both devices are needed since it is through the party organs (like the action groups) that party members can best influence THA-level institutions and hence mobilise public support for particular government policies, while shaping the actions of their party executive from within.
It should go without saying that these arrangements are needed in the wider country.