Friday, July 21, 2017

Meet in good faith


A reasonable person would think it is not politically astute of the Prime Minister to so quickly dismiss the Opposition Leader's request that the agenda of their scheduled meeting on Tuesday be expanded to include the economy and job cuts.

A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday made it clear that Dr Rowley was only interested in discussing with Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar issues that are “carded to go before the Parliament which require a special majority” and which, therefore, need Opposition support for clearing Parliament.

Clearly, Dr Rowley has learned little, if anything, from the last time he needed the Opposition's support for passing legislation. The matter then involved was the FATCA legislation. Then, as now, the Government went on to play hardball with the Opposition in a pointless exercise of brinksmanship in which neither side gained any points from the public. While the Government succeeded in showing up the Opposition as being reckless of the public interest, the Opposition was equally successful in showing up the Government as unreasonable in not keeping its pledge to send the legislation to a Joint Select Committee before coming to the floor. The only thing both sides showed is that they were willing to play politics and did not have the confidence or maturity to put the national interest above partisan interest.

Fast forward a few months and it would appear that the public is about to get yet another ringside view at a game of political one-up-manship. All the issues itemised by Dr Rowley on his agenda for Tuesday's meeting are important and need to be dealt with as priorities for dealing with major problems and improving the quality of governance. These are matters to which one would expect a right-thinking Opposition to bring its best game to ensure that the country benefits from effective legislation.

At the same time, however, the Opposition leader is not the Prime Minister's employee. Dr Rowley and Mrs Persad-Bissessar are the leaders of the two main political parties in Parliament and the one who was asked to form the government now needs the other's support for legislation which his party believes is necessary for its effective governing of the country.

However else Dr Rowley might like to see it, the hard political reality is that Tuesday's agenda is a matter of the government's political interest and, as such, is subject to political negotiation. While Dr Rowley's immediate interest in meeting the Opposition Leader may be limited to special majority legislation, she is entitled to ask that the agenda accommodate issues pertinent to her own immediate interest. Common sense would suggest that the agenda be worked out between both sides before it is finalised. This meeting is a welcome development to a public that is fed up of the immaturity on display in Parliament. The possibility that these two leaders might actually sit down and discuss matters of grave public importance which affect the lives of those whom they represent sends a positive signal of change. Neither should shortchange the public's opportunity for hope.