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The price of disrespect

Minister Jack Warner's responses to Friday's march is not only puerile, divisive and unfounded in fact, but suggest that its meaning may be lost on the Government. Coming from a senior Cabinet member and chairman of the main Government party, Minister's Warner's dismissive attitude to the march on the grounds of its ethnic composition would suggest that people of the particular ethnic group are not important to his Government.

This clearly cannot be true and deserves to be dismissed as the rantings of a politician who is increasingly distinguished by his capacity for wild and reckless statements. Nevertheless, we cannot fail to register our alarm at the Prime Minister's continued refusal to rein in her errant Minister of National Security. By her silence, the public will have no choice but to conclude that she stands in agreement with his statements.

In his news conference following the protest demonstration, Mr Warner devoted his energies to disputing the crowd estimate and discrediting the march on the grounds of the ethnic profile of the marchers. He could have saved his breath.

The public, which was well served by media coverage including live television reports, did not need Mr Warner to tell them what they had already seen—this was one of the largest protest demonstrations ever against a government in this country.

What these protesting citizens needed from the Government was some acknowledgement of their pain, and of their growing dissatisfaction with the management of their country.

That point was clearly lost on Mr Warner.

While a political party needs a majority of the voting electorate to get into office, once it gets there it becomes the government of all the people of the country, including those opposed to it. A government that dismisses the views of its critics is guilty of burying its head in the proverbial sand.

What was evident to even the most casual observer of the march was the frustration and anger that had pushed people to the point of taking time off from their daily schedule to register their protest for all to see.

A wise government would examine the multiplicity of interests within the march and respond with alacrity in an attempt to resolve differences and rebuild trust. At every such opportunity, however, the government has chosen, through Minister Warner and others, to add insult to injury.

Like other governments before it, the People's Partnership appears willing to pay the price of ignoring public anger and dismissing people's concerns as cheap political tricks.

We seem to be entering a silly season of political tit-for-tat based on a numbers game. After last month's Section 34 march, the Government responded with a pre-budget rally designed to showcase the size of its own support. After Friday, Mr Warner has announced the return of the UNC's Monday night public forum, promising big crowds.

Between that, and the upcoming THA campaign, we can expect issues of governance to slide further into the backseat.

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