ALL AH WE IS ONE: Scapegoated
Following the press conference and the update on the economy by the Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler last week, and coming closely after the failure of his parliamentary colleagues to speak in his defence during a recent Opposition-led no-confidence motion in his stewardship, it has become clear that Sinckler is being scapegoated during this period of adjustment.
Whilst it has become normal practice for Caribbean prime ministers to deliver New Year’s State Of The Nation addresses, it was notable that the first act of public policy discussion by a Government official for 2014 in Barbados was undertaken by an unaccompanied Sinckler, who was left with the responsibility of owning, explaining and defending the decision by the Government to lay off public sector workers.
His isolation as the bearer of bad news stands in stark contrast to his previous Press conference which was called to announce a Sandals investment, during which he was accompanied by a beaning minister of tourism jostling for ownership of the project.
Prior to a belated meeting with dismissed workers by Prime Minster Freundel Stuart and Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe last Friday, it was easily forgotten that other Government ministries are involved in the process of austerity and public sector reform central to Government policy.
Indeed, it is easily forgotten that Stuart is also the Minister for the Public Service, and further, that Sinckler is not responsible for the Cabinet of Barbados. It was therefore not difficult to forgive a news reporter who asked Sinckler whether he had ever considered that the size of the Cabinet should be reduced, to which Sinckler issued the timely reminder that such a decision was above his pay grade.
Similarly, the suggestion raised by a union leader that members of Cabinet have been denying knowledge of the lay-off decision, not only further demonstrates the unprincipled scapegoating of Sinckler, but further illustrates the lack of understanding by those ministers of the workings of cabinet government.
The scapegoating of Sinckler, however, cannot be divorced from the internal leadership considerations within the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Undoubtedly, the leadership aspirants assume that by diminishing Sinckler, they elevate their chances. However, one of the unintended consequences of their failure to claim ownership of their Government’s policies is that Sinckler is emerging empirically as the de facto leader of the Government.
Despite his current beleaguered condition, and despite the stance of his colleagues in pushing him, like Uriah the Hittite, to the heated frontlines of the battle, Sinckler is beginning to emerge as more of a leader than his colleagues, who might be holding official or “acting” Government and party leadership roles, or who have resorted to “speaking for its own sake” with little substance. Through his scapegoating, Sinckler has effectively become the DLP’s actual leader, albeit by default.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.