WE SHOULD REALLY have made a collective resolution to wake up from our deep slumber in 2019. It appears to manifest itself more visibly every January. We started this year with the startling judgement delivered in the case brought by the Public Service Union against the Public Service Commission over irregularities in promotions.
Last January we faced the tragicomedy that played itself out in parliament with a Vote of No Confidence. On Tuesday in Britain the Brexit plan was overwhelming defeated in parliament. The Leader of the Opposition then tabled a motion of no confidence which was to be debated on the following day, Wednesday. The government survived that motion of no confidence. Safely and smoothly without any shenanigans!
We, however, have to make a mockery of things. What transpired with us?
The motion when taken to Parliament was subjected to an amendment by the Prime Minister and allowed by the Speaker.
What was hilarious, even though tragic about the amendment, was that it turned the no-confidence motion into one of confidence in the government.
The Vincentian newspaper at that time stated that the Prime Minister argued that the Opposition could still speak to their motion, but then have a vote based on the amendment.
Despite objections by the Opposition which then left the House, the amended motion was debated by members on the government side and passed.
At that time, remembering the earlier debate or concern about the time the motion was to be debated, I indicated in my newspaper column that motions of no-confidence were so important that they were given priority over other businesses of government and debated as soon as possible, as we have seen in this recent British case. I went further to say that what happened defied common sense and logic and turned on its head the very system that allowed it to function. Then to end the comical proceedings the Speaker admitted that he erred, something for which I applauded him. To the majority of us it was business as usual. Many supported what had happened and failed to see it as a blow to good governance.
Now to this January’s demonstration of the state of governance in our country. Last week I wrote, based on reports carried in the media, about what I captioned “Damning High Court Judgement re Public Officers”. I have now been able to look, even though briefly, at the full judgement and it is alarming.
I said then that heads should roll, but asked, will they? It is quite interesting that the body which has borne the brunt of the ruling has been reappointed in its entirety for another two years. This I suspect or hope was done before the ruling. This does not prevent
looking at it again. It is being said that the PSC is an independent body? How come? Who appoints it and who is able to dismiss it? What independence that? In any event the judgement is not solely directed at the PSC: “While there is insufficient evidence before me from which to deduce that there are systemic procedural failures and lack of compliance… there is enough material in this case to find that within the Ministry of Health…Agriculture, Department of Customs, Prison Department and Ministry of National Mobilisation that the regulations have been repeatedly breached in more than one respect…” The PSC is accused of defending the conduct of Department Heads, Permanent Secretaries and Supervisors “against whom these complaints have been made even though the evidence is crystal clear”.
The judgement does not only relate to the so-called independent PSC, but to the operations of the Ministries and Departments identified. Should it be business as usual? A clean up is needed urgently!
● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian