Sunday, December 17, 2017

No quick end to Section 34 fiasco


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Unless it has reached that fatal stage of believing its own propaganda, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration must now know its parliamentary attempt to gloss over Section 34 has failed.

Through various spokespersons, the People's Partnership tried to deflect blame from itself by imputing error on the part of all MPs, even while paradoxically trying to justify the now-infamous Section 34 and its early proclamation. But the general public remains persuaded that the early and surreptitious proclamation of that clause, far from being done in error or even in good faith, was a calculated attempt at malfeasance. So deep has the distrust become that questions are now arising as to whether the Government tried to pass this clause, knowing full well it would have to be repealed, but confident even a repeal would provide a legal loophole for certain individuals.

In any nation with a developed polity, the administration would have already resigned and called fresh elections. And, contrary to popular belief, such resignations in countries like Britain or the United States are not done solely, or even mainly, out of principle. They are done because the officials who commit such acts would be literally unable to function in office since they would have no institutional support, no backing from elite groups and no approval from the masses.

That is perhaps too much to expect in our eat-ah-food political culture, where even the President can speak blithely about integrity while ignoring his own questionable history in the Commission of that title. But, in the absence of trust and public confidence, a government can only govern by bribery, which is what the "eat ah food" idiom reduces to. Such a form of governance is doomed to failure, however, and can only exacerbate social tensions, whether these are expressed in industrial action or rising crime or even poor service delivery.

In this context, dismissals from the Government bench are mandatory if the People's Partnership is to retain any shred of credibility. Justice Minister Herbert Volney would be the first choice to go, given his direct role in this affair and the willingness of his Cabinet colleagues to fling him under the bus. But, if Mr Volney goes and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan stays, the credibility problem would be only slightly ameliorated. And, as for the Prime Minister, her silence speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, it is always possible the People's Partnership regime will try to brazen out this scandal, relying on the supposed nine-days' mentality of citizens. In that case, then all those Government MPs who choose to silently remain in their seats are giving consent to malfeasance in public office. Is every Honourable Member willing to trade his or her good name for the temporary status of ministerial trappings?