INEVITABLY, Monday's presentation by Finance Minister Larry Howai's 2013 budget has changed—at least for a while—the confrontational political mood over the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act of 2011.
At the time of writing yesterday, the immediate responses from significant sectors of the society—other than the opposition PNM—were quite positive. These included the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association and the American Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
Located in the "Howai budget" are measures designed to reduce the cost of living; diversify the economy away from heavy dependence on the energy sector; as well as proposals for creating thousands of new jobs.
The country's labour movement, with its known militant profile, may perhaps offer a response later this week. But Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley, ever ready to score points against the Government of PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has already fired his salvos, declaring for instance, that "the Government has been dishonest in treating with our circumstance".
Surprisingly Rowley turned down a requested interview with the Express for a response on the budget. The surprise is that, like other leading local media houses, the Express has been providing him timely and quality coverage in relation to his interventions on matters pertaining to the Administration of Justice Act of 2011.
But then politicians can be quite unpredictable in their attitudes towards the media—whether it is here, in other Caricom countries, the US, Britain, or elsewhere.
Just recently, for instance, cabinet ministers and officials of the United National Congress, among them National Security Minister Jack Warner, became so emotionally exercised over media coverage, that they chose to indulge in unwarranted name-calling and derogatory references in a televised programme.
Interestingly, some of those government/UNC bigwigs were, like the PNM's Dr Rowley, also given much coverage at the height of the recent controversy surrounding Section 34.
For their part, media workers would be well advised against becoming emotionally involved and avoid adopting a martyr complex as they strive to adhere to the fundamental concepts and ethical practices of journalism.
Rowley and Warner—like other local politicians frequently in the news—cannot afford to ignore the media for any length of time, if at all.
Soon, the Parliament will be debating Dr Rowley's much-publicised "censure motion" against AG Anand Ramlogan, whom he wants the Prime Minister to dismiss over the Section 34 issue.
There seems plenty of blame-sharing to go around when it comes to that matter.
In this context, if I may borrow a line from the Guyana-born internationally-renowned poet Martin Carter, "all are involved…" But, in this instance, all may not be "consumed".
Opposition Leader Rowley is doing quite well in getting political mileage over what transpired. But the bitter truth, as his most faithful adherents would knowis that, the PNM leader was not asleep when the House of Representatives passed that piece of legislation. He was among all the parliamentarians who voted for it, caveats apart, like the time-frame for proclamation.
The Senate subsequently did likewise with a unanimous endorsement, with Timothy Hamel-Smith, a respected member of the legal profession, presiding.
Not surprisingly, therefore, following Mr Hamel-Smith's weekend offering of a "hindsight" apologia, the Barbados Daily Nation editorially addressed what it titled "Trinidad's politics of hindsight" when it discussed the Act and Mr Hamel-Smith's "hindsight" statement. Incidentally, he was acting as President of T&T.
"Hindsight," declared the editorial, "has often been summoned to the rescue of more than a few, in all professions, not the least by those in politics, when embarrassment shows up in public and cannot be avoided…."
In noting that the Senate President had deemed the Act "not only flawed" but that it was "wrong" for such legislation to have been approved in the first place, the Nation remarked: "Score one for Hamel-Smith in summoning 'hindsight' to ease his own agony over presiding at the Senate's passage of that legislation…"
Well, we already know that Herbert Volney was dismissed as Minister of Justice and subsequently screamed that he was "the sacrificial lamb".
Given all the political manoeuvrings and debates in both Houses of Parliament, does Dr Rowley really expect to score political point for himself and party with his coming censure motion against AG Ramlogan?
The Opposition Leader would know that the Prime Minister will not genuflect to such a political ploy. Yet, we must await to learn how convincingly her Attorney General intends to bare the facts to exonerate himself.
The issue could well surface during the coming debate on the 2013 budget, prior to Dr Rowley's "censure motion" against Ramlogan. Be on alert, therefore, for plenty politicking before Parliament's Christmas recess.