'Move on'—those infamous last words
Urgings out of the mouths of Cabinet ministers anxious for the dispelling of disquiet over Section 34 took the form of "Move on", an expression that will long hereafter be remembered as infamous last words. So far from persuading people to turn the page, change the subject, or simply forget about it, "Move on" instead gained unintended utility as a message signalling, instead, "Hang in there".
Despite an elaborate national presentation on Thursday evening by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, that included her exemplary public execution of a high-profile Cabinet career, high-decibel demands for more to be done have hardly abated.
From some quarters, such demands would have been predictable. Encouraged by the response to his Port of Spain protest march last week, and later signs of a People's Partnership administration on the ropes, Opposition Leader Keith Rowley is being moved by the smell of political blood.
"We are calling for elections now," Dr Rowley said on Friday. He was expressing both righteous rage against an administration he denounced as "stained...and…shamed", and also what must be considered a brand-new confidence in his People's National Movement's political and electoral prospects. The PNM leader is seizing the opportunity he perceives to present himself as the leader or organiser of a some kind of coalition more broadly-based than his own party. "We will extend our reaches," he vowed, "to co-operate, invite and collaborate…and tell this government enough is enough and you have not fooled us." This statement of disposition follows his earlier pointed overture to the Movement for Social Justice, recent breakaway faction from the People's Partnership.
As yet, of course, harmony appears only in the themes and the tones of rejectionist vehemence given voice by the PNM and the anti-government unions and other forces now taking shape. Just about halfway into its term of office, it is for the People's Partnership an ironic anti-achievement to have caused the rallying against itself of a new alliance or coalition. Such, however, is the measure of the serial shortcomings and fiascos, climaxing in that over Section 34, that threaten not just progressive loss of respect but also contempt for the capacity and the bona fides of the May 24, 2010 formation.
If the official opposition delivers on its vow of "absolutely no co-operation", the result could inconvenience but not necessarily stymie normal public business. Clearly, the public can look forward to an even higher rhetorical level but, given the Parliamentary majority available to the government, hardly the kind of obstructionism that, in the US context, marks relations between a Republican-controlled Congress and the Barack Obama Administration.
This much is certain: T&T has not "moved on" into forgetfulness or apathy; this should be a learnable occasion for the Persad-Bissessar Administration about the narrowing limits of public tolerance. Still, it is to be hoped, that stability and public order would not be overrun by non-stop politically-driven protest.