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‘Frying pan’ politics

The cases of T&T, Guyana, Grenada and Dominica

BY RICKEY SINGH Observer Caribbean correspondent

Friday, September 21, 2012    

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — As the saying goes: a week in politics is a long time. And politicians and governments in the Caricom region must be only too anxious for this week to pass amid what is manifesting as “frying-pan politics”. The governments would certainly include those of Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada and Dominica.

Though not by design, a common factor in the political turmoil in which these governments are separately involved smacks of political corruption. Or as some may prefer to term it, misuse of State power.

In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, the People’s Partnership Government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar is currently facing the wrath of its political opponents for rushing to appeal the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.

The development is spiced with juicy innuendoes, and more, about big-time financial corruption linked to the modernisation of Piarco International Airport. With the notable exception of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who was absent for that crucial November 2011 sitting — all government and opposition MPs had voted for the bill. The senators subsequently did likewise.

Now People’s National Movement leader Keith Rowley is anxious to recall that he and his colleagues had supported the original legislation on the understanding that there would have been further consultations before its proclamation, as occurred last December.

Manning may have been quietly smiling while Rowley, his successor as PNM leader, on Tuesday hoped to score political points with a party-led protest march against the repealed Act. But refusal by the Joint Trade Union Movement to participate would have been a significant political setback.

Textbook piracy

Over in Guyana, the Government of President Donald Ramotar is facing quite a serious political development of its own, with open accusations of nepotism and illegality focused on a clumsy decision to procure pirated textbooks for Guyanese schoolchildren as a cost-saving measure to the national treasury.

Worse, one of its best known, influential ideologues and spokesmen Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, last week attempted to rationalise the cabinet’s decision. He should be experienced enough to know that pirating violates an internationally recognised copyright law subscribed to by Guyana and its Caricom partners.

Now that the affected London-based Publishers Association has indicated its intention to pursue legal action as a valid option, the Government faces the challenge of correcting the terrible error of poor judgement, sooner rather than later, and moving to provide relevant assurances against any further piracy.

Escaping no-confidence

While T&T and Guyana have been pushed on the defensive over different legal issues, in Grenada, Prime Minister Tilman Thomas felt compelled on Monday to request governor general Sir Carlyle Glean to prorogue parliament to avoid facing a no-confidence motion against his National Democratic Government (NDC).

Back in July 2008, Thomas’ NDC became a first-time administration after winning an 11-4 parliamentary victory against the then incumbent New National Party (NNP) of former three-term Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. But in the middle of a five-year term his government began struggling to cope amidst spreading internal disaffection and widening opposition challenges.

Having earlier successfully manoeuvred no-confidence attempts in parliament, Prime Minister Thomas was to suffer the pain of his former Foreign Affairs Minister Karl Hood formally filing such a motion and speedily called on the Governor General to prorogue parliament.

Since the NNP controls just four of the 15 seats, the move to prorogue suggests that the prime minister needed time to safeguard his majority amid speculation that he could lose the no-confidence vote.

Now he has time to consider whether to call a snap general election before July next year, or work out accommodations with dissenting NDC parliamentarians and frustrate the NNP’s strategy for a snap poll.

DLP member nominated president

In Roseau on Monday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt’s Dominica Labour Party (DLP) Government faced an angry demonstration by the main opposition United Workers’ Party (UWP) over the nomination of a DLP member to be the new Head of State following the retirement of President Nicholas Liverpool.

As the police kept order between supporters of the rival parties outside the parliament building, UWP’s leader Edison James declared his intention to have the circumstances of the DLP’s choice of Eluid Williams (a former senior public servant) challenged in the courts.

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