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Political talking points

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Let me begin by asking readers to excuse me for not immediately following up on last’s week’s column about the forgotten heroes of the 1935 uprising. Such is the political atmosphere, that I feel inclined to make some pertinent comments on current developments and to round-up my October 21 comments next week, instead. Please forgive!

Naturally, the talk of the moment is the Prime Minister’s Independence address to the nation, but having been absent from the country much of these last two weeks, permit me to catch up with the storm over our new ‘Red Riding Hood’, Commissioner of Police Michael Charles.{{more}}

He has found himself at the centre of a controversy after turning up at a public meeting of the governing Unity Labour Party bedecked in that party’s identified colour – red. Being head of our country’s security, you can understand why I used the ‘Red Riding Hood’, the hood, of course, covering the head. Clearly, for a person in such a sensitive position, that ‘red’ appearance is inexcusable and unacceptable. To make matters worse, it would have been better for him to apologize publicly, rather than to try to explain, as reported in the media. It takes a man or a woman to say “I’m sorry….”

But this is not an isolated incident, nor is it anything new. This column has raised on more than one occasion, senseless transgressions by persons in senior positions, which can only undermine public confidence in their impartiality. Whether it is a Permanent Secretary giving the impression of placing party first or even a Speaker sitting on a political platform, the impression given is that once you are on the side of PIP (party in power), such displays of indiscretion would be forgiven, nay justified by the rank-and-file in the absence of firm rebuke by the political leadership.

Naturally, those in opposition are always ‘holier than thou’, whether it be the ULP in the Mitchell years, or the NDP of today. The political leadership may frown, but the message does not go beyond that. The ‘kid gloves’ treatment does not help even their own supporters to understand that persons entrusted with serious responsibility must live up to the confidence placed in them.

That is the kind of conversation that the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was attempting to hold in the 2003/9 period, not just about changing clauses in the constitution, but ushering in a new political culture. A system where principles count more than partisan political allegiance, but for the love of Christ, our political tribes would not fully endorse, either by commission or omission. Commissioner Charles is a victim of the existing culture.

Whilst on this note, it is most timely to remind all and sundry, those who spend their time idly speculating about when and where the Prime Minister will “ring the bell” for elections, that such speculation would have been completely unnecessary, had we voted in favour of the constitutional proposals put forward in 2009 and rejected in the referendum of November of that year. Hindsight seems destined to plague us.

Finally, the Prime Minister’s basket of goodies announced on Independence Day. Only naturally, with elections on our doorstep, these will either be glorified on one hand, or vilified as crude attempts at vote-buying, depending on which side one is inclined to take. But as long as they meet the needs of the electorate, the rationale becomes insignificant.

What is clear is that in the current climate, it will be exceedingly difficult for the Opposition to respond. Like it or not, their job has been made many times harder by the PM’s pronouncements. If your politics has never been one of building political consciousness and political education, how do you address measures which benefit working people, especially in the immediacy?

PM Gonsalves has thrown down a gauntlet, which is more than an ordinary challenge. In particular, his bold announcement of February landings at the Argyle Airport is either a major match-winner or back-breaker. The PM has had to endure all sorts of criticisms, many of them grossly unpatriotic, for turning his vision and the Vincentian dream into reality. It is in the interests of us all that it comes to full fruition and blooms. We cannot do less than to commend him for it.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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