The press conference convened yesterday by the group calling themselves the “Roundtable” must have captured the attention of citizens who have an interest in the nation’s political development. One newspaper writes that “the Roundtable is an informal amalgamation of the People’s National Movement, the Movement for Social Justice, the Joint Trade Union Movement and several social and civil bodies”. Informal as it is perceived, it is becoming clear that this amalgamation has assumed the official voice of opposition politics in Trinidad and Tobago. It appears more and more that the parliamentary opposition, the PNM, has become subsumed by these other “civil” bodies as opposed to these bodies becoming part of the PNM. Whatever its Constitutional arrangement may be, the other factions within Roundtable should be called upon to declare its political agenda, since they have now departed from its social and industrial relations raison d’etre.
There is no criticism in political amalgamation since freedom of political choice and association is constitutionally entrenched in civilized democracies as ours. In fact it is the very genesis of the People’s Partnership, itself founded on a commixture of political institutions. The notable distinction between the Partnership and the Roundtable however, is that the Partnership never minced words about its political intent. At no time was there any doubt that the Partnership was a coalition of political parties and groups with ambitions for governance. Its political aspirations were never shrouded in mystery or intrigue. At all times it was politically transparent, never ducking from the proverbial political bouncer and hiding behind innuendo. No one was called upon to make allusion from illusion. Not so with the Roundtable, which assumes multiple images; of political party, trade union and organizer of street parades.
It is consummate irony therefore, that one of the participants in the Roundtable, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley, in reference to correspondence between the offices of the President and Prime Minister, suggested that there should be “nothing secretive, nothing confidential” between the two. Imagine this emanating from a platform which is not true to the nation on its intention, design and motive. There appears therefore to be contradiction and political incongruity between what Dr. Rowley says and what Dr. Rowley does. Dr. Rowley must walk his political talk and remove the secrecy and confidentiality that cloaks the Roundtable.
The country is also reminded that in the context of section 34, the proverbial stuck gramophone record in the Roundtable’s party, there was nothing secretive or confidential that could be ascribed to the Prime Minister or her Government. The expeditious revocation of a Minister’s appointment, open statements to the country by the Prime Minister and legislative diligence by the Attorney General in effecting prompt repeal of nuisance law all point to transparency at its best. Where is the secrecy when an Attorney General himself leads evidence in the section 34 High Court matter; simultaneously representing the perspectives of his Government whilst safeguarding the interests of the State?
The Roundtable finds itself in immediate crises; crises about its own agenda and its diminishing fortunes in the eyes of a politically wary and alert population. Its immediate crises are founded on its own ad hoc structure, its philosophically pointless existence and its depreciating impact in the face of propping upon deflating national issues. And there is nothing secretive and confidential about that!