Monday, December 18, 2017

Sowing division


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In response to rising political heat, the Prime Minister has gone on the offensive, complaining that her Government is the most scrutinised ever and is under attack by the media, among others. In reality, the Persad-Bissessar administration is not exceptional in this regard. No government since Eric Williams' PNM administration has been spared the public anger that has come with the electorate's disappointment with governments that lose touch with the people and break faith with those who voted them into office.

In the case of the People's Partnership, while the PM boasts that it has "grown in strength", the departure of one partner and the public unhappiness of another tell a far different story, especially to those who supported its campaign for office.

While the opposition continues to challenge the Government, much of the loudest criticism comes from people who voted for the party in the 2010 polls.

Like previous administrations, this Government has chosen to go into denial with shrill condemnation of its critics. In mustering its troops, it has begun painting itself as a party under siege. One senior minister has even raised the spectre of violence.

Now, with the public controversy over the Mon Desir-Debe segment of the Point Fortin Highway, the Prime Minister has pulled a trick card from her pack.

Addressing UNC members in Debe last Monday and again in Couva on Saturday, she cast the highway debate in terms of north Trinidad versus south Trinidad. As if we needed one more reason for division in this country, Mrs Persad-Bissessar promoted a view of the southern part of the country as having been exploited and oppressed by the north. Defending the highway on Monday night, she wanted to know why south Trinidad shouldn't have the chance for increased property values as north Trinidad has had.

One might excuse a politician for playing to the home crowd, but there is a greater responsibility on a Prime Minister not to sow discord and division in the nation.

The argument of a north/south divide over the Point Fortin Highway is completely baseless. It has been pulled out of thin air to rally geographical solidarity for the Government at a moment when it seems to be buckling under stress.

At the UNC Congress on Saturday, Mrs Persad-Bissessar put her party on an election footing for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and Local Government elections of 2013, adding that "The campaign of 2010 has never been over."

This is precisely the point that has been made by those who blame the Government's multiple mis-steps on the fact that, instead of settling down to the job of governing the country, the People's Partnership has never stopped campaigning. With predictable results.

Instead of inventing new ways to divide us, the Prime Minister should consider the implications of leading her Government in non-stop campaigning when what the country has been yearning for is a wise and steady hand, focused on the real, not imagined, problems of our time.