Monday, February 19, 2018

Picture-perfect triviafrom Mr Warner


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It's a sign of these unhappy times that a photo opportunity linking Integrity Commission (IC) chairman Ken Gordon with Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London should be raised to the level of a supposed national bacchanal.

Without holding briefs for either of these officials—men eminently capable of defending themselves—it seems even ludicrous that UNC chairman Jack Warner should be citing the photo as grounds for Mr Gordon's resignation from the commission. Mr London has stated that he has only a professional association with Mr Gordon, while the IC has published an ad explaining that the photo was simply the Tobago leg of its recent essay competition for young people.

Here is one case in which the explanations of the commission and of the Chief Secretary should suffice to remove the photo misfortune from the overcrowded agenda of national concerns. Surely nobody in serious politics really believes that a veteran public figure like Mr Gordon would so lend his image to supporting Mr London now in election mode. Nor might anyone have even taken the said photo for more than it is, had Mr Warner not put his seemingly paranoid interpretation on it.

But in politics, whether serious or comic, it is often useful to ask what the player's agenda might be. Oftentimes, what appears to be arbitrary, incompetent, or even inane has an underlying logic. In this particular instance, Mr Warner could be trying to kill several political birds with one stone. One aim may be to throw as much mud as possible at Mr London, hoping that enough sticks to get Ashworth Jack's Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) victory in the upcoming THA election. By this interpretation, Mr Warner himself doesn't really believe his own allegation, but only wanted to draw attention to the fact that the THA is being investigated by the commission.

He may also have wished to plant doubts about Mr Gordon's impartiality, given that matters involving Government ministers and officials may be coming before the IC. And, lastly, the UNC chairman may also have wanted to distract citizens from the more weighty matters engaging the public mind, such as Section 34. Indeed, this goal alone may explain his more outlandish statements of recent vintage.

If all this sounds quite Machiavellian, Mr Warner has demonstrated on several occasions that no strategy is too trivial for him to consider in order to gain political talking points. Which is not to say that the more parsimonious explanation of political paranoia isn't correct. Whatever lies behind it, however, this is one issue from which public opinion, employing an adequate sense of proportion, could make appropriate use of that infamous phrase, "Move on".