Category: Island Talk Created on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 12:19 Written by Jeevan Robinson
This is part 2 of my series Self Praise Is No Recommendation:
The recent motion of no confidence debated in the Legislative Assembly in Montserrat was defeated with all members of the government, and also including opposition member, Victor James, voting against it. The motion was defeated by a 7-2 vote.
Many persons who have contacted MNI Alive since the conclusion of the debates do not seem particularly bothered by the denial of the motion, but what many have been concerned about are the issues and observations made during the debate yesterday. That, for them, was the essence of the debate in the House; not necessarily the removal of the current administration from power. The anticipation had been that the debate would have educated the public on the burning issues that resulted in the motion being brought to the Honourable house.
As a journalist, I am trained to expect vitriol from politicians, their apologists and supporters who are seeking to always justify why the person whom they support, who holds power, is never wrong. Such moves, in my view, display a lack of honesty in their analysis and their hold on truth. But such is the nature of political theatre, often ugly, crude and sometimes crushingly devoid of a moral compass.
Yesterday in the House, George Bernard Shaw was quoted by one of the Honourable Members. I will quote Shaw also as he provides wise counsel. Shaw stated, “The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.”
With that said and this being part two of my feature on the Legislative sitting yesterday, I will comment on a few salient points that further stood out as I listened.
As members of the government stood to address the House, it bore down on the listening public that some of them sought to address the House on points of independence and Montserrat’s readiness for such, rather than the actual motion that was being tabled. The argument before the House was not about independence, or whether or not Montserrat is ready to pursue that path. It was a falsified distraction so designed to take the focus off the issue at hand: Premier Meade and his conduct in office that led to his ill-advised statement in Quito, Ecuador. The Premier’s conduct was under examination; not Montserrat seeking independence from Britain.
I do not wish to go over the statement in Ecuador, as it is well documented in various media houses. However, as it applied to this motion, it was a demonstration of a pattern, a pattern that stretches back to 1994. Attorney-at-Law, David S Brandt, at the end of his tenure in government under the leadership of the current Premier Meade, made some telling statements in his resignation letter from the NPP government. MNI Alive has a copy of this letter and in it Mr Brandt stated to then Chief Minister Meade: “After two years and four months of trying to influence you and my colleagues to provide the responsible, responsive Government that we promised the people in the last election, I have come to the conclusion that good government is impossible under your leadership.”
Mr Brandt, who stands tall in Montserrat’s political landscape, further went on to state in that very same letter, “Everyone will make mistakes, and I would never have resigned because of our Government's mistakes alone. But to paraphrase Edmund Burke, one cannot persist with actions against the will of the people especially when those actions do not lead to any positive consequences for those people. One must be willing to learn from mistakes, to hear the voices of the people and respect them.”
Most telling in Mr Brandt’s resignation letter and what directly reflects the style of governance that is entrenched in Premier Meade as he is still displaying it today (18 years later) is Mr Brandt’s statement to the effect that, “Politicians cannot properly serve if they are arrogant, pig-headed, and contemptuous of those who elected them.”
These sentiments as expressed by Attorney-at-Law Brandt reveal what he perceived to be an unconcerned and unilateral governance style from the Premier. Isn’t it amazing that these are the same issues he is being accused of today? What does this tell us? Additionally, these sentiments came at a time when the Premier was at odds with the electorate over the Common External Tariff (CET) that Mr Brandt contends would have brought hardships on the people. Is this not a similar case that is present today with the tariffs the government of Montserrat recently introduced? And did the Premier not call it a “mistake” again?
The Premier blamed the technicians in government, stating that they made a “mistake” that resulted in the releasing of the unpopular new tariffs on the people of Montserrat. According to him, it is not his responsibility to go through the several hundred lines of the document that the tariffs are based on as the government hires people for that. But, like it or not, the Premier must take full responsibility as the buck stops with him. Someone somewhere is sitting and having a laugh at Montserratians. For, is the Premier saying to the people of Montserrat that this level of sloppiness is characteristic of the highest and most trusted officials in the civil service? Is he saying that the system of checks and balances is so lacking that something as significant as new tariffs were allowed to make it into the public domain without sufficient checks for accuracy? Is he truly passing the blame on to civil servants in an attempt to cover up what was perhaps an intentional action?
MNI Alive understands that the Premier himself was warned that the tariffs were not yet ready to be released into the public domain. Yet this still happened and some food items as basic as chicken and milk shot up in price.
Parents have written to MNI Alive indicating that school supplies too have been affected with a simple exercise book in the region of $5. This is the costly mistake that the people of Montserrat have been burdened with. I suppose there is some respite coming as due to the public backlash, they will now review and amend these tariffs.
But it is actions such as these that were at the helm of the motion that was tabled recently in the House; a motion against a government with a soft spot for unilateral action and an eagerness to circle their wagons, cover for their leader and stand in blind support of him.
Even Mr Brandt in the same resignation letter quoted earlier stated, “You have taken action on very serious matters without consulting with your colleagues . . . you have shown contempt for advice given to you by Montserratians.”
I conclude part two of my review of the recent Legislative Assembly sitting with a further comment from the gentleman Shaw, referred to earlier. He stated, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.”
Jeevan Robinson is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive, the Caribbean's global online marketing, news and information (MNI) media house.
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