OUR CARIBBEAN: ‘Worrying’ not ‘jokey’ politics
I AM AWARE that on this first day of April, when all sorts of pranks are played out as ‘All Fools’ Day’, Barbadians would also have their fun, some perhaps quite mischievous.
It is NOT, however, true that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has finally decided to do this Easter week what he has been avoiding for over a year – reshuffle his Cabinet and drop Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance.
Some Dems and Bees are taunting that Mr Stuart would only pursue a “Cabinet shuffle” course when he has made up his mind on what to do with his other related Cabinet problem colleague – Minister of Agriculture David Estwick. The first consideration, for the PM, however, would be how to avoid – for as long as expedient – jeopardising the current two-seat majority his DLP administration still holds in the House of Assembly.
There, remember, sits once three-term Prime Minister and Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader, Owen Arthur, currently occupying a new convenient restructured position in the Chamber as an “Independent” parliamentarian. And this amid some (mischievous?) claims that he could well have the company of one or two MPs from either side of the House. Such a development could well create much uneasiness for both Prime Minister Stuart and Opposition BLP leader, the crafty Mia Mottley – ahead of new general elections. Far-fetched? Perhaps, but in party politics all things are possible.
Currently, for all the recurring official platitudes and pain-easing assurances about “economic recovery” and “social stability” – as if some primary public “decision”-makers keep missing the critical analyses or spreading complaints from the public in the local media – the reality is quite different with rising concerns over Barbados’ future progress and stability.
Across in Trinidad and Tobago, where fellow citizens of our Caribbean Community are famously known for their capacity to laugh at themselves, even when times are quite tough, “April fools” jokes could still be expected to abound. Except that this time around, there’s much bitter pre-elections politicking between the governing Peoples Partnership administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar flowing from a government-initiated “no confidence” motion in parliament last Wednesday against the People’s National Movement (PNM) leader, Keith Rowley.
Quite sadly, the debate on the motion degenerated into a most unseemly, degrading “cuss-out” session that mocked what’s generally regarded to be a most revered institution for every multi-party democracy. The “no confidence” motion became a shocking, degrading names-calling intervention by the government’s MP from Tobago, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, as she spewed her verbal venom against the opposition’s Rowley who, incidentally, happens to be a fellow Tobagonian by birth.
As if unmindful that her verbal broadsides – as reported by T&T’s print and electronic media – constituted gross violations of the rules governing parliament, as well as established norms of decency, Alleyne-Toppin, who happens to be Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development (surprise, surprise!!) – succeeded in abusing Rowley as the child of a rape incident as well as referencing claimed unsavoury details of his family’s personal lifestyles.
Shockingly, she got away with her atrociously bitter presentation without a required intervention by the Speaker of Parliament, Wade Mark, in relation to her evident violations of the rules governing debates as well as established civilised norms of conduct by parliamentarians.
It is also relevant to note that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, who had initiated the move for the “no confidence” motion against Rowley, found it necessary to leave the parliament chamber as Minister Alleyne-Toppin was preparing to make her contribution to the “no confidence” motion against the PNM’s Rowley.
It is not that Dr Rowley is an “angel” in party politics. Indeed, one of his more fierce critics as a long standing PNM politician and former high profile cabinet minister has been former long-serving Prime Minister and PNM leader, the now retired Patrick Manning, who once publicly accused him of “unacceptable hooligan behaviour” and fired him from cabinet.
What’s of immediate relevance, however, is whether Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, having had time to reflect on the political and moral implications of the highly controversial intervention by Minister Alleyne-Toppin’s sordid contribution to the “no confidence” motion against Rowley – for which she subsequently apologised – is now prepared to go beyond acceptance of the accuser’s public apology and remove her from cabinet.
After all, Alleyne-Toppin has already become a serious political liability for the Prime Minister’s People’s Partnership administrations ahead of coming general elections mere months away. Stay tuned.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.