ONLY HUMAN – We expect more from politicians
WORDS TO A politician are what guns are to a soldier – they are the tools of his trade. As such, their mastery of the language and style of delivery is what projects them above their peers.
Through the years we have had some politicians whose clear diction, wide vocabulary and ability to mix in biting quips when necessary stamped them as debaters and platform speakers who commanded your attention.
These individuals spoke on matters with a sense of authority and brought forth well reasoned arguments, even if their content was later shown to be factually deficient. But when they were on solid ground they were awesome.
I speak of people like late Prime Ministers Errol Barrow, Tom Adamsand David Thompson, Sir Cameron Tudor, Sir Henry Forde, Sir Branford Taitt, Dr Don Blackman, Sir David Simmons, Dame Billie Miller, Neville Boxhill, Burton Hinds and Lionel Craig.
These politicians delivered thought-provoking speeches on weighty matters with a flair that encouraged listeners to think, while maintaining their interest with jibes at their opponents. But more often than not, their message was on point without the need to indulge in language unbecoming of their status.
Today, however, the public is often treated to rambling, long-winded diatribe by politicians from both sides. Many of them, I am sure, make teachers of English cringe when they mispronounce simple words, like dropping the ‘h’ in three.
What makes this dismantling of the language even more unfortunate is that it comes from individuals who have attained high office.
Then there is the substance of their speeches. Intellectually stimulating debates are rare. Rather, the public is more likely to be offered poorly constructed arguments in defence of positions taken, spiced with blame games and delivered with invective.
The public should be able to learn from these debates how their country is being run. Increasingly though, it seems that politicians today cannot separate being on the campaign trail from being in Government or being a member of the House of Assembly.
No wonder debates in the House no longer captivate the people.
Another worrying aspect about the manner in which politicians here speak is the increasing trend to relate to each other in a negative, often dismissive, disrespectful way. This situation has reached the point where politicians on both sides also refer to members of the public in the most disparaging manner, completely ignoring the substantive issue.
Examples of this include former Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s reference to former NATION Editor-in-Chief Harold Hoyte as a “negrocrat” and to journalist Terry Ally as an “indentured servant”.
More recently we had Minister of Housing Michael Lashley’s howler on the matter of the contractor Al Barrack’s dispute with the National Housing Corporation. He called it “frivolous and vexatious”.
And last week, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler termed Arthur’s concerns that Government had broken the law by increasing bus fares, as well as by allowing the Transport Board to sell petrol to private concessionaires, as “just a touch of childishness”.
All of these demonstrate a lack of tact and are offensive. A skilful speaker should be able to whip his detractors without descending to these depths.
Another point that needs to be made here in relation to the last two is that as these relate to the rule of law, they should never be trivialised.In the first, Barrack won a $34.4 million plus interest judgment against the National Housing Corporation in 2006 in a matter having to do with the building of the Government’s Warrens office complex. He won the subsequent appeal in 2008. However, due to non-payment and interest, that amount has risen to nearly $70 million.
To date it is uncertain when he will be paid the compensation stipulated by the court.
In the second, Sinckler acknowledged that Cabinet was preparing the necessary instrument for the bus fare increase, and sought to show that Arthur’s administration had done the same thing on a number of occasions.
Then he sought to trivialise and dismiss the matter by saying that Arthur was behaving like a child.
Sorry, Mr Sinckler,but two wrongs don’t make a right.
Words have potent power and politicians need to be able to deliver their messages without being offensive, even if with a sting. It’s high time you raise your standards.
I live in hope.