Sunday, February 25, 2018

The search is over

 It is commendable that despite the odds of recovering the currently missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft with its crew and passengers intact, there is a genuine effort to do everything possible to determine the fate of the flight and bring closure to this tragic incident which has understandably gained worldwide attention and empathy.

It is yet to be determined the circumstances that led to the crash of the aircraft and undoubtedly when the findings are made, there will be lessons to be learned to avoid completely or lessen significantly, the risk of such recurrence.

That having been said, the focus of this article is not about ending the search for the missing aircraft but to discuss the almost seven-year search by Minister Winston Dookeran, the former leader of the Congress of the People (COP), to find “new politics” in his stated mission “to get the politics right”.

Finding traces of the missing aircraft in the hundreds of thousands of miles of ocean waters that have to be traversed would be more likely than Minister Dookeran finding his “new politics” in an area of approximately 1,980 square miles in a land in which there is a burning desire amongst the population for political renewal.

It is difficult to accept Mr Dookeran’s defence that the COP has not failed as an entity to deliver the “new politics” in light of his observation that “I sense a feeling of agony in the people’s mind, in that the attempt by the COP, in the time it was formed, to bring about what we described as ‘new politics’ has failed and they do not know what to do from this point on.”

Perhaps Dookeran should review his belief that “…our job is to walk in the rain without getting wet.”

The former COP leader should appreciate that success in a coalition is achieved when in times of rain, members are prepared to get wet if they are uncomfortable under the political umbrella of collective responsibility.

 So what is Minister Dookeran prepared to do in order to alleviate the political frustration, hurt and pain of his followers?

Apparently he is content to continue his search and his advocacy for getting the politics right.

And it is at this point someone among his loyal followers ought to be brave enough to tell the former COP leader that the search was over when he committed himself and his party to be the internal watchdog of the People’s Partnership.

On the May 2010 campaign trail, voters who wanted positive change held fast to the promise that the COP would ensure a new brand of politics that championed the virtues of integrity, truth, honesty, fairness, accountability and transparency.

So Minister Dookeran is not required to find the “new politics” like some prophet in search of the promised land but rather to explain the reason for the frequent departure by his party, in times when he was its leader and then as a senior member, from the political commandments the COP promised to follow.

It is the flagrant violation of the tenets of the “new politics” by some senior members of the COP that has resulted in the apathy of its followers.

The COP has had sufficient opportunity to get the politics right but each time the party had the chance to distinguish itself as a separate entity committed to its core principles that speak to good governance, it failed miserably to live up to its stated mandate.

This view is supported wholly by the comments attributed to Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Chairman of the COP, who admitted that “a lot of it has to do with the current relationship in the coalition and the way that coalition operates.

“Somehow, I feel in this coalition, we were never able to get it right…in order to allow us to be the COP.” 

And her confession begs the question — what prevented the COP from delivering on its promise to be the vehicle of political change?

 Certainly blame cannot be laid at the feet of the COP passengers who happily went on board with the expectation that the destination was the land of “new politics”.

Instead, these die-hard passengers have been treated with disrespect and have been taken for a deceptive ride which has put them further away from their requested destination.

One major challenge which the COP faces is the ability to regain national trust and confidence by adhering to its core values in situations that call for political accountability and if necessary, political distance.

The COP had four years to fly the flag of “new politics” and having done so way below even half mast, is now seeking, one year before the general election, to prove it has political relevance.

Undoubtedly there is a significant portion of the population that is tired of the old political style of the two main political parties, the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC).

After the internal election for the political leadership of the PNM in which Dr Rowley will most likely retain his position, the PNM will need to rebrand itself in some form if it is to attract the support of the currently frustrated “new politics” constituency.

The UNC seems to be confident that it is still loved by the majority of the voters and changing its modus operandi is certainly not on its political menu.

In the world of politics, one year is a long time and so it is for the COP to stop wasting time conducting a search for the “new politics” it has already found and be brave enough to act in accordance with the values upon which it boasts it was founded.

—Gillian Lucky is an attorney-at-law and presenter of the television programme Just Gill.