Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quitting, crossing and double crossing - the Peter O'Connor commentary

There are times when our Pantomime Parliament goes into overdrive to ensure that we are the most clownish assembly on Earth. And we are currently going through another phase of self ridicule, without even realizing it, as the actors, feigning seriousness, continue to embarrass us-- they themselves long immune to embarrassment.

Like naughty children trying to play “grown-up” games, our parliamentarians are so lost in their imaginations as to what is right or wrong, as to what people think of them, that they cannot even hear, far less comprehend the ridicule which they bring upon themselves. Worse, some of them seem to take our ridicule for applause, and revel in our mockery of them.

Today we deal with the issue of resigning from the political party on whose back one is elected to parliament. And I have referred to this issue several times in the past, but like an old Vaudeville re-run, the issue slaps us in the face every few years. 

The actors change, but the pathetic plot remains the same: Persons are elected to Parliament on a Party Ticket, but once seated there, quit the Party which put them there, and change “sides” in the House. 

When the obvious—to all but the person and the Party to which they now claim to embrace—is pointed out to them, they bumptiously proclaim that there is no need to resign their seat because “the people voted for me, not the Party”. 

The only problem with this buffoonery is our short memories, in that when elections come around these people, with their proclaimed popularity, are soundly dumped by the electorate, we do not remind them of their previously proclaimed “popularity”.

When Vincent Lasse and Dr. Rupert Griffith, elected in 1995 as PNM
representatives, quit the PNM to join the UNC in 1996, I was among the few who demanded that they resign their seats and return to the polls. But they of course claimed that it was not the PNM who put them there, but rather the voters had chosen them in spite of the fact they were PNM! 

Then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday supported their argument, and appointed them to Cabinet. However, when elections rolled around in 2000, Lasse and Griffith, fighting on the UNC Ticket, were soundly beaten, even as the UNC won the election. 

Then to add insult to injury imposed upon the electorate, Panday appointed Rupert Griffith as Speaker of the House! We must be the only parliament on earth where a defeated candidate can be appointed Speaker of the Assembly where he was rejected by the voters. And we did this twice, Hector Mclean having been appointed by Panday in 1995.

And yet when Gillian Lucky, Winston Dookeran, Ganga Singh and others repudiated the UNC in 2006, and quit the party, but held on to the UNC seats in Parliament, Panday found that they should have resigned their seats. Really now? When they join you, it’s OK, but when they leave you it’s wrong! Trinidad sweet?

When Jack Warner resigned his Ministry and the Chairmanship of the UNC, I wrote about Badhase Sagan Maharaj, the only politician to resign his seat and go to the electorate for validation. I suggested that Jack do the same, for I was confident that if he did he would win. And he did, and he won! And he upset the whole political “elite” by so doing, and caused a tsunami of activity—MPs suddenly walking around their constituencies reminding the voters who they are.

But Jack’s success also, and not surprisingly, has created some “wannabe copycats” as others wonder if their political failings could be overcome by hitching on to Jack’s wagon. 

Some prayed for guidance, some strayed close to Jack’s IPL but took no decision, and others quietly stayed with the UNC or PNM and hoped that Jack would not prey upon their constituency. Hubert Volney just took half the leap which Jack had taken.

He, already unfairly dismissed from Cabinet over the Section 34 affair—there was a villain here, but it was not poor Volney—resigned from the UNC and said he had joined Jack’s ILP. However, he said, like Lasse and Griffith, and Lucky, Dookeran and Singh said before him, he was not going to resign his seat, because the people had voted for him! What delusional bumptiousness!
Whatever lawsuits come out of his now being drummed out of parliament, we wait to see. However, my advice to Jack Warner in this matter is: All who wish to quit their Party in parliament to join the IPL must walk the same road as you, and prove to themselves and the country at large that the people do want them. To sanction anything less would be to double-cross the people who supported the stance you had correctly adopted.

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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