Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ditching the colonial script

Paradoxically, in taking his leave before receiving his marching orders, Chandresh Sharma helped to make an honest woman of the Prime Minister by abandoning her at the political altar. In his wake, however, his departure was still being urged upon her, with the Westminster script in mind, even as he had made his exit through the revolving political door.

It is important to revisit the constitutional issues involved. The disappearance of Mr Sharma from his ministerial responsibilities and indeed the dismissal of his colleague, Glenn Ramadharsingh, from his were secured strictly in accordance with the powers available to the Prime Minister under our Constitution. The considerations dictating the exercise of those powers owed no more to Westminster than to any other system throughout the ages, in which the conduct of public figures, from Prince Moses to President Nixon and beyond, fell foul of the prevailing expectations of their societies, leading to the political wilderness.

To persist in regarding Westminster as some Camelot in these matters is not only to lack the insight and grace to accept the recycled dogmas of our colonial conditioning were designed to mislead. It is also to ignore the relevance, for better or worse, of our own Constitution and the development since Independence of our own attendant conventions.

At Westminster, to cite one example, a current convention is that every word of the Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament is written by the government of the day. Thus, the Queen, though heard throughout in reverence and silence, acts merely as her Prime Minister’s mouthpiece on the occasion.

In our society by contrast, the speech in mind is ultimately the responsibility of the President, more akin to, though of much less significance than, the State of the Union address by the US president in Washington, DC. These have not always been received in silence by their immediate audiences.

To paraphrase the late iconic Bob Marley, it really is time to know, and stand up for, ourselves. Our self-esteem is enhanced by the self-confidence to question and, where appropriate, ditch outdated and self-deprecating shibboleths of the colonial past about who and where we are.

Rawle Boland

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