In our speech “hmmm” may mean at least three things: astonishment, approval or distaste, dependent on intonation and on whether the hmmm is stretched or delivered staccato. I support MP Marlene McDonald’s right to hmmm in Parliament even on the occasion of an address by the President.
I support her hmmm as a piece of free speech or free expression. It is part of Trini vitality. It was a modest form of expression, totally different from the shout of liar a member of the US Congress hurled at President Obama during an annual state of the union address to a similarly joint session of both Houses.
I also support it on an occasion when the President feels able to give himself latitude to call for applause for his own statement. Good for one, good for all, unless we are to bow to authoritarian rule. Parliament is at the constitutional pinnacle of free speech and expression. It has an anti authoritarian foundation that must be respected.
When President Carmona announced the replacement of four Independent senators I was asked for a comment. I inquired on what information or grounds did the President decide to cut short tenure that is normally expected to last until the next dissolution of Parliament.
I also asked what were the reasons for picking on these particular Senators for change, stating that, unless we have transparent reasons, the changes can be regarded as arbitrary. Readers will readily appreciate that arbitrary and authoritarian are blood brothers.
Those inquiries were my hmmm and if they got under anybody’s skin so be it. They are all part of keeping public officials accountable for their actions. Such accountability is not assisted when we have reports from obvious “sources” dismissive of comment on the lack of gender balance on the Independent bench in the Senate and anonymously labeling such comment as “petty”.
When we did get some reasons for the changes, former long serving Senator Basharat Ali let out a double hmmm-hmmm of shock on hearing that there had been no energy sector person among the Independent senators recently although he had spent his long career in that sector before President Richards appointed him an Independent senator.
Current Senator Ramkhelawan must be holding in his hmmm, as forcibly as you know what, because he must have been disturbed to hear that there was no financial expert among the Independents. Like he get forget, or he going shortly into the no-recycle pool, poor tess. They make him number two now that we have Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir.
“Daly, boy, I am saying to myself at this point, them people in the street must be know why they does watch you and say you brave”. One day I will tell of the pressure I get in school and see others get, worse than me, from some obscurantists on account of religion and so learned to be brave.
Thank God, even in those colonial days, the bigots in authority were in the minority so I was able to get a good education from my revered and open-minded teacher, who liberally distributed knowledge.
Perhaps the “sources” who purport to know how meticulously appointments are now made and unmade can tell us what length of notice the revoked Senators received and if they were given timely private thanks for serving. They certainly received none publicly.
Some of us have personal knowledge how previous appointments and thanks were handled. However I can say with certainty that, in the past, prior to the dissemination of information to the public, there were discussions, adequate notice and thanks given to those who served when coming in and when going out.
The issues I have raised have nothing to do with resisting change or defending mere tradition. Just as when the rank of Senior Counsel was unwisely bestowed upon two judges, who subsequently withdrew, no one doubts the high quality of the new appointees. My questions were how were the particular four Senators selected for a mid term chop and what courtesies were extended to them?
Now there are plenty hmmms when we learn of Mr Jack Warner’s future election contest plans. There are those whose hmmms are now negative. They must expect that, if expediently they go as green as the hedges next to the fences on which they sit while assessing which way the wind is blowing, they will get a staccato hmmm.
Moving away from hmmm, the entire country would like Parliament to function at a higher and more efficient standard, with less personal bitterness and less corrupted by questionable campaign finance. The President’s exhortations in this direction were welcome and rightly very well received.
What a foolish response by some Parliamentarians to ask for more money for themselves before reform is carried out. It is easy to see why the President has support for remonstrating with Parliament but change must be managed not dictated.