Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest commentary - Scent of an election

by SUZANNE MILLS Sunday, April 21 2013
Reproduced unedited from NEWSDAY

What’s that I smell? Is it pitch? Call me cynical but when ministers start talking about road paving programmes, you know it’s election season. This time around, according to Minister of Local Government Suruj Rambachan $310 million will be spent to pave 797 roads. 

He hasn't specified when this work will start, but he has said the project will need two to three months for its execution. You do the math. Rambachan was touring San Juan when he made the announcement. The San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation is currently controlled by the PNM and the PP’s expressed plan is to capture the PNM’s three corporations. The campaign is on.

I’ve never understood the link between elections and paving. Do they think us so gullible, so easily intoxicated by that aroma of pitch that we are compelled to vote for the party that resurfaces our streets? 

How did we become indebted to government when regular maintenance of infrastructure is its job? Paving is a ridiculously transparent strategy to win votes. Little wonder that last week’s article on Party Hearty brought serious inquiries about our “organisation”. 

Several PP supporters seem worried about the outcome of this election-they think the PNM might clean sweep the East-West Corridor. 

In a letter to the editor earlier this week Senior Counsel Israel Khan attempted to make a case against the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to break the tradition of confidentiality of information that binds the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President. 

The President’s letter to the PM on section 34 had been placed in the public domain, he argued, and thus swing voters in the East West Corridor had to be convinced that the PM had responded appropriately. Her letter to the President he said should be laid in Parliament.

I cannot concur. Khan contends that nothing succeeds in politics but success itself, so one assumes he is suggesting that the Prime Minister take the low road. Or maybe she should allow Dr Rowley to bully her into revealing the contents of her letter to the President. Correspondence between the two offices must remain confidential if a cordial relationship built on respect and trust is to be maintained but lately the correspondence is making its way into the press. (Newsday recently published a story of a letter from the Prime Minister to the President in which she asked him not to appoint new Integrity in Public Life commissioners.)

Were Dr Rowley Prime Minister he would be outraged if he was expected to make public his letters to the President, as he would be if a UNC-led Opposition tried to make the President do their bidding. Yet he has no problem outlining for President Anthony Carmona his responsibilities.

“The new President,” he declared, “is to ensure that the unfinished business of the Office of President must be taken to its logical conclusion. The Prime Minister must be made to subject herself to Presidential scrutiny.”

How can Rowley tell the new President what he must or must not do? How does Rowley know the business is unfinished? Perhaps Carmona is of the view that the matter has been taken to its logical conclusion, particularly since President George Maxwell Richards proclaimed the section without question. Perhaps he is of the opinion that the PḞs response was apropos and considers the matter closed. We do not know what Carmona is thinking, but the Roundtable cannot dictate to the President his role in this or any circumstance.

I have to agree with another letter writer, Ashvani Mahabir, who says that the Roundtable is propping itself upon deflating national issues. Section 34́'s early proclamation disgusted the populace at the time and they demonstrated their disapproval, but the people are generally disinterested in Section 34 nowadays.

Talk to them about crime, about the cost of living, health care, jobs. The Roundtable has presented itself as the gatekeeper of democracy and good governance, but the only thing that it is keeping is the Roundtable in the limelight.

Mahabir also makes another interesting point. The informal amalgamation of the PNM, the MSJ, the joint trade union movement and several social and civil bodies has become the official opposition in the country, replacing the voice of the parliamentary opposition. 

I think I can guess why. Dr Rowley sees there is strength in numbers and he recognises that in Parliament he cannot win - he leads a side that cannot hold its own during a debate.

The remedy: an expedient association with groups who are, or have become anti-government and who pressure the President to do their bidding. Rowley and his cohorts feel they can ride that Section 34 train into office. It́s election time. They have to find a way to compete with all the road paving.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai