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It’s mid-term, what’s there to show for it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

It’s been two and a half years since the September 2015 election—the midway point in the Government’s constitutionally mandated five-year term. It should be no surprise that this milestone passed without any pomp and fanfare, after all, the Rowley administration has very little to celebrate.

It’s already been overstated that they inherited a difficult set of circumstances. But after 30 months in office, it is clear that they have no good ideas on how to improve our country’s current situation. They’ve simply limped on from one blunder to the next, utilising the sole tactic of blaming the UNC for all their woes. In hindsight, they are acting more like a party that’s still in opposition, as opposed to one that claimed to be “red and ready” to lead.

The criticism being heaped upon the PNM, as harsh and plentiful as it seems, is rightly deserved. They had more than enough time to prepare themselves for the challenges that awaited them, and their performance thus far has been abysmally poor. Even if Dr Rowley were to be given a “bligh” as a first time prime minister, his leadership style leaves a lot to be desired and to describe him as a disappointment would be an understatement. However, he is perhaps the prime (no pun intended) example of a larger issue that permeates the political class. He is among a number of MPs who have served multiple terms in parliament and have done little to better the lives of their constituents, let alone the rest of the country. And it’s not hard to see why.

Putting aside the problem of ethnic tribalism, the country’s two major political parties have evolved into “membership clubs” that benefit a select few. Positions and appointments aren’t based on merits or capabilities but on internal loyalty. What’s even more disconcerting is that said loyalty isn’t necessarily to the party’s ideology, but to its leader, perpetuating a culture of favouring nepotism over know-how. This is why we end up with a lot of “yes, prime minister” politicians, who achieve advancement through appeasement and not by serving the public trust.

This favouritism was evident with the recent (and thrice) appointment of Marlene McDonald to the cabinet. Dr Rowley acknowledged that the last ousting was the result of her poor judgement, but defended his decision by citing the magnanimous sentiment that everybody, “…deserves a second chance.” It’s interesting that he appears to have ignored the fact that Miss McDonald is still under a police investigation over her ties to the Calabar Foundation. That being said, while her dismissals were not over minor matters, reinstating this party loyalist seems to have taken precedence over whatever wrongdoings were committed.

PNMites could make the argument that Ms McDonald is one of only a handful of experienced members in the Rowley administration which makes it understandable why she too would be given a “bligh.” It is true that three-quarters of the party’s MPs are newcomers, and the party should be praised for the inclusion of new faces into its political ranks. But a closer examination exposes how these neophytes are being indoctrinated into a system of patronage that rewards loyalty with protection and allowances. There’s Shamfa Cudjoe and her exorbitant mobile phone bill, Darryl Smith and his taxpayer-sponsored vacation, and AG Faris Al-Rawi’s gun-posing children; all were questionable acts that resulted in zero repercussions.

This isn’t about an abuse of power, but how such camaraderie has engendered an environment that condones non-performance and blatant incompetence. The track record of this government has only proven that some of its MPs do not deserve to hold cabinet positions and yet there they remain.

This is the legacy of Dr Eric Williams, who once boasted that he could, “…put a crapaud in a balisier tie,” to run in a PNM constituency and it would win. Well…as a result of that mentality, our parliament has become a swamp full of them… and it’s “crapaud smoke we pipe.”

Ryan Hadeed


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