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Is not me

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“Is Not Me, mommy, is Buddy who do it mommy” that is how young Jeanie pleads her case when her mother discovers that somebody emptied the pan with the chocolate cookies. Of course, Buddy also has his story to tell. Does it sound familiar? Have you ever been there yourself in the “Not Me, is nah me” scenario?{{more}} Such passion and conviction in our voice, our face, our gestures as we engage fearfully in this subterfuge and lying. The memories bring embarrassed smiles, or simply smiles to our eyes and lips. Recently, though, over the past year or so, the “Not Me” chorus has been performed persuasively and even passionately in our politics. It brings no smile to my lips at all. It disgusts.

Listen to the sad chorus of denials from the state when the Black Sigatoka disease crippled the banana farms. “We are innocent of any blame”, the Ministry of Finance said. “Don’t look at me, Is Not Me”, the Minister of Agriculture said. The backup singers in the Cabinet and in the Ministry of Agriculture and fair trade made their supporting points, too, either in silent and dumb support for the prevarications and mistruth, or in rhetoric that blamed farmers for the lack of control activity. The plain unvarnished facts are that for more than the 2 years since Black Sigatoka hit banana cultivations, not secretly, but openly, even boastfully, the Ministry of Agriculture, its banana unit, received paltry support from Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance. The disease impact became deeper, more lethal and more widespread. In a normal year, when the less damaging Yellow Sigatoka had to be controlled, seven cycles of aerial fungicide and fungistat were applied. With Black Sigatoka, a dozen spray cycles would not be too much. Instead, there were piece -up fungicide spraying for a couple of times. The suppliers of spray materials cut off supplies because money due to them was not paid. The plane operation was grounded because money was not paid and Black Sigatoka flourished, farmers perished and Dr Gonsalves declared “Is Not Me”, Minister Daniel said “Is Not Me, is she – a clerk” and thousands of families were hurting, millions of dollars in farmer output vanished. A few voices from those who faced their losses called for compensation and reparations, but their leaders in fair trade and in the community quashed them. And just the other day, when the utility company LIME cut off its services to sections of the public service notably the police offices, “Is Not Me” was the response from government. Prime Minister Gonsalves rolled out the old refrain with a modest variation, sharing out the blame to public service managers and to LIME itself. Gonsalves has to be what they call a lame duck Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, if he cannot get his Ministers, his managers/ CEOS in the ministries to manage utility services. Is he so capable, or so dense, that he himself has to monitor phone and Internet use at the thousands of outlets in Government? Is that what he’s saying? The truth as a local consultant researcher, Gloria Williams, has shown us is an absence of policy, but more fundamentally, finance ministry incompetence and incapacity. The Minister of Finance is the primary and the ultimate budget master. When he cannot pay bills, he is lacking in competence.

INTELLECTUAL DESPOT

And yet, plain and transparent as these matters seem to be, the nancy story as told by Prime Minister Gonsalves receives a good hearing from the Vincentian audience. On the banana disease matter, some farmers, in the grip of their own hardship and experience, took without a pinch of salt the story about an officer/ clerk failing to send forward a piece of correspondence to the finance ministry. Even media reporters at the weekly press briefings of the Prime Minister, who are generally sharp observers, simply take lecture notes which they pass on to the public, without analysis.

What we may be observing is the paying of tribute to a seeming intellectual giant so that he can get away with anything he says. The maturing of a doctor politics in SVG, a little bit like what Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams delivered in his Trinidad and Tobago years ago. The T and T political elites reacted to Dr Williams by putting another doctor, Dr Capildeo, as opposition leader to confront Eric Williams. That did not work. What we may see is that the intellectual rule or hegemony of Dr Gonsalves is really a despotism which we have encouraged by our own assent to his untruth and misreadings he gives us. Despotism is not to be removed by putting up an opposition despot. Let us look at the “Is Not Me”, “don’t blame me”, phenomenon and let us unveil it as conscious citizens. Intellect resides in all of us.

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