Monday, November 18, 2013

EXPRESS EDITORIAL: Giving credit to PM where due

Heads turned in T&T and the Caribbean when it was announced that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had received the 2013 Democracy Award from the International Association of Political Consultants.

Since the organisation is hardly well known here, and the T&T Prime Minister was not known to be in the running for such international recognition, it has not been clear what to make of it.

It turns out, however, that the 45-year-old association comprises political consulting professionals across the world whose work is directed toward helping in the election campaigns. On this basis, the body upholds democratic practice and the running of free elections. Annually since 1982, it has made awards to a diverse list of leaders found to have “worked courageously to foster, promote and sustain the democratic process”.

Even without the recognition signified in the award, however, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar had this year earned T&T credit for exemplary democratic practice. In any fair assessment, she must be seen to have met the international consultants’ criteria by upholding the principle of holding a series of elections as and when legally due.

The Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Partnership and of the United National Congress must have received politically shrewd advice from colleagues and sympathetic observers. Such counsel could have persuaded her that, in the fraught political climate of 2013, two by-elections and the local government elections would be at best only doubtfully winnable.

It often appears to be the natural inclination of those in politics, while bowing to high principle, to take the low road, if necessary, to reach the positions of power and influence they and their supporters crave. Mrs Persad-Bissessar could thus have chosen to find a pretext for postponing the local government elections.

Her doing so would have stirred furious reactions among the wound-up opposition parties. The Prime Minister would have been left to assess as the lesser of two evils: opposition forces animated by the election-denial issue; or the likely consequences of painful losses at the ballot box.

Of course, in delaying local government elections, Mrs Persad-Bissessar could have cited the ample precedent of PNM bad example. Since tiresome resort to “the PNM did it too” has the effect of promoting among the population even more leaden cynicism toward politicians, it is just as well that the Prime Minister declined to walk that road.

That she declined to postpone going to the polls to a more promising time must redound to her standing as one willing to bear the cost of preferring the legitimate option over the politically expedient. Previous T&T prime ministers have not always been so scrupulous about doing the right thing. Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s performance in this regard should not be overlooked, nor left to be acknowledged only abroad.

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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