The Opposition works up itself whenever the Prime Minister takes corrective action towards better governance. Would the Opposition prefer she eschew discipline and allow her political capital to depreciate? By her no-nonsense approach, Kamla has reset the clock permanently. No future regime will tolerate unacceptable conduct by any elected or non-elected political appointee.
In reality, the Opposition’s complaints are tantamount to a denial of the existence and supremacy of the Constitution. It was the PNM which produced that document. The Constitution sanctioned in 1976 wasn’t the one the country wanted. In the aftermath of the 1970 Black Power upheaval, a No Vote campaign was organized for the next year’s general election. PNM “won” all the seats, but got bogged down in making several political appointments because there was no Opposition Leader.
To prevent a recurrence of this and 1970, the Wooding Commission was tasked with writing a constitution people would accept. It did a painstaking and excellent job of gauging popular sentiment accurately and went for proportional representation. Dr Eric Williams and his PNM flatly rejected the recommendation and whipped up one full of shortcomings, pitfalls and loopholes —the most glaring being that the Public Service is practically a law unto itself. His was a carefully planned piece of legislation —he controlled Parliament preponderantly, so ensured his party would derive the most from the new measures till Thy Kingdom come. In 1970 then, the nation, had arrived at the crucial turning point, but the PNM failed to turn with it.
The landmines the present Government encounters in executing its approved agenda arise from the constitutional deficiencies which prevent it from disciplining the Public Service. The best the Prime Minister can do is come down hard on political appointees, be they Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, or State-Enterprise official. In taking such an approach, Kamla Persad-Bissessar is resetting the clock for the national good. She has done what her predecessors have failed to do —established standards which will have to be met without deviation. Don’t expect those who missed the new dawn offered by 1970 to appreciate her finetuning any time soon!
Grantley McNaughton, Retiree,