THERE is general consensus that a correct analysis of situations and events need objectivity (and distance in space and time, too), in order to arrive at a fair and balanced conclusion. The difference between an objective analyses, say by a disinterested professional on one hand, and a subjective other is well founded. There exists on this island a wide chasm between the things which grab and amuse idle minds as compared to that which excites busy and engaged persons. Such a demarcation is blurred however, when the latter is nudged and prodded by partisan, subjective politics and acts uncaringly, as to consequences.
Subjective and unethical conduct in high places, by persons assumed to be cut from superior intellectual cloth, lays bare some common assumptions of society. Subjective amateurish conduct is more likely to grab news headlines when it emanates from a respected institution as Parliament. It is doubly disturbing when the high standards demanded of such institutions are undermined by the very persons who ought to uphold them.
In this regard, it may be opportune to take a fresh look at Parliament perchance to reset the rules which determine who serves there. At the moment there appears an experienced legal mind which manipulates the Parliament. Its aim is to reduce a certain Member of Parliament (MP), to ‘a no-body transit driver’ – and a member of the canine family. In the process a petty mind which lurks behind academic qualifications is revealed, and Parliament is inadvertently trashed, neutered and emasculated.
It is also troubling when Mr. Speaker, whoever he/she may be, is seen as a ‘political-mouthpiece’ of a government whose modus operandi is the avoidance of openness, lack of transparency and which hides behind others such as the DPP and the IMF. Leaders who promise transparency but, avoid being interviewed by fair and independent journalists are to be viewed suspiciously. Such leaders prefer to substitute doctored press releases bearing blatant lies, and presented by well paid political operatives. Such conduct reduces both government and parliament to a farce and a national joke. In the eyes of a cynical public which knows and sees all the anxiety created by its economic woes is heightened, rather than diminished.
It has become obvious even to government apologists that, the sitting of Parliament of July 2015 will be remembered for at least one thing only – a heated ten-minute exchange between an MP and Mr. Speaker, wherein the former frankly suggested that the Speaker ought to know his place, and his role in the chamber, and that a Speaker was ill equipped to offer advice on matters outside his purview. To add fuel to the fire, the MP also strongly suggested that if the Speaker wished to join the debate he ought to vacate his high chair, and do the manly thing, by subjecting himself to the will of the people, in general elections. Only then will the chair be able to intervene, disturb, contradict, and vent its views during a sitting. Otherwise, a Speaker must allow free and unfettered flow of debates as suggest by Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice – the gospel on parliamentary procedure.
It is important to note that, the simple meaning of words used in parliament is to be similarly interpreted by members, as well as by the public it serves. Often, exchanges in parliament resonate more forcefully in the public domain because they hit a chord which citizens feel strongly about. Clearly, some issues resonate because they may have awakened memories of an earlier time when Parliament was seen as an extension of public political theatre. The connection has been exploited by calypsonians one of whom sang about a former Speaker fondling indiscretion.
And speaking of calypso, the latest ‘since when that’s your role …’ exchanges in Parliament were taken to the streets this carnival. Some masqueraders were bent on ensuring that spectators who may have missed the original exchanges would have a solid bite from the free entertainment and portrayal at Jour Ouvert,’ carnival 2015. No financial outlay or special invitation was needed to spice-up the perceived bacchanal from parliament. Saint Lucians are masters at enjoying such free theatre; the more spiced-up and vulgar, the better the entertainment, for some.
Now that the dust has settled, it is time to review what really went down that day in parliament if only to avoid such exchanges in future. A review and factual analysis may be difficult in a small, partially literate society, still grappling with its past and of its reluctance to take bold steps into unchartered territory, it deems risky.
As if to mitigate the risk of an uncharitable finger pointed at it, the Speaker’s office issued a long and detailed statement on the role of Mr. Speaker in Parliament and its relations with MP’s.
Was that long dissertation too little too late? Whose interest is it meant to serve? The priority of this parliament seems to be a quick passage of time which would allow members to qualify for a pension. Today’s politics is turning off many people. Yet it remains interesting and funny, to observe men and women who overestimate their importance, thinking they’re God’s gift to society. They seem to believe that their exit (from politics), would stop the sun from rising or the moon from shining, in its turn.
My political sense tells me we have not heard the last of these silly exchanges in parliament. Notwithstanding the hasty missive from the Speaker’s desk, much more needs to be done. For my part, a more professional approach would be to call a private one-on-one meeting with MP’s to explain what is expected of each (and the Chair), in what remains of this parliament.
We may not have heard the last of ‘since when that’s your role’ as the silly elections season approaches. That exchange and others will be beaten to death during the next elections campaign. Every event will be blown out of proportion, every statement analyzed to death. Political speeches will be transferred to the Parliament and MP’s will act out the campaign in there, to the chagrin of Mr. Speaker, and a more discerning public.
The transfer from dodgy platform rhetoric to Parliament will include unnecessary, sometimes vulgar language. Parliamentary procedure will again be bastardized by MP’s who know better. Will ‘qualified’ lawyers who are not canines and liars be returned to parliament? Mark my word; the things that grab us may do more harm than good this silly season. ‘How is me un’h?’ And, ‘how come that’s your role?’ will seem like child’s play in the weeks and months ahead.
Lamentably, a more vexing problem is that after the dust has settled on the silly season, there will be other discredited and flawed personalities seeking support from elected MP’s, to hoodwink the nation, and create new wealth for themselves.