By this morning the 2015 UNC leadership contest should be history. As it was proceeding, the usual bland salutation “may the best person win” did not seem appropriate.
“May the best rigger win” came jokingly to mind.
High profile figures in this internal election and others associated with their party had suggested that these internal elections might be rigged. If there were any truth to this then did they rig things to suit themselves when they were recently in Government?
This morning the winner is faced with the question: How will you dispel the aura of rigging when proceeding to seek a renewal of the public’s trust and confidence in your party?
It was a spectacle to witness persons who mere months ago were together in Cabinet, and then presented themselves as a team for re-election, attacking each other on character issues as they now fought for party leadership. In addition to the allegations of rigging, the spectacle revealed some troubling motivations for political service.
Kamla, the former Prime Minister seeking to retain leadership, railed against the ingratitude of “the hardback men” who rode all over the country “with blue lights” clearing their way as a result of her “giving” to them the opportunity to be in Government. For example Tim Gopeesingh, she said, was “given” a safe seat.
The two other teams contesting the leadership elections—each led by one of the hardback men and having others of the hardback men in the front bench of the teams—both attacked Kamla on the grounds that she tolerated no dissent. Yet they were good with this for five years and loudly sang her praises every time they opened their mouths.
All three teams indicted each other as being responsible for the failed 2015 General Election campaign and, in particular, for the “no Rowley” aspect of the campaign, that is to say putting excessive focus on alleged flaws in the character of the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley.
There is another thing they all had in common, or rather lacked in common. They did not tell us much about what any one of them might do differently in terms of policy or governance from what they did when they were so recently in Government.
Co-incidentally making the atmosphere more feverish, right at the start of the week leading to yesterday’s leadership election, came the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the judge to whom hearing of six marginal seat UNC election petitions was assigned was right to give permission for those petitions to proceed to a full scale trial.
The Court ruling added to the bizarre nature of the spectacle because the internal election contestants had been battling furiously about why the election was lost and which of them was to blame with scant reference to the disputed extension of the voting hours.
I hope that the Elections and Boundaries Commission will very soon tell us whether it took legal advice on the true ambit of its powers before it decided to extend the voting hours and, if so, from whom.
Did it otherwise consult or receive representations? We must have full disclosure of the basis on which the Commission acted.
Returning to the grounds on which the UNC leadership contestants attacked each other, one troubling motivation vividly exposed was the importance of glory to those who acquire political office.
One of the mistakes that we have repeated and compounded over the years is the provision of extravagant vehicles, entourages and even hotel suites for Ministers of Government, suitable for overlords rather than servants of the people.
Overlord tendencies are a related troubling motivation, exemplified by travelling in vehicles rigged with the notorious blue lights, flashing as a signal to us ordinary mortals to get our tails out of the way of the important personage being conveyed at our expense in an oversized, gas-guzzling, vehicle.
Kamla implied that this perk of office induces the easy co-operation of the persons who are permitted the use of the blue light rigging.
Those former Ministers, who complained that Kamla tolerated no dissent, but formerly sang her praises, have effectively confessed to being yes men. Saying yes was apparently okay once it kept them in office suitably rigged.
Flashy perks of office have been made available to those who do not even hold constitutionally enshrined office. Over-sized, gas-guzzling vehicles are provided even for the use of clerks to make document deliveries and to park otherwise than in accordance with traffic signs.
The stamp of arrogant government is everywhere.
Given these revelations of how some members of the last Government ticked and some of the excesses of the preceding Patrick Manning PNM era, we need to encourage the present Government’s initiatives in self restraint.
And in seeking independent advice outside of a bloated, self indulgent, self-perpetuating system, as it is proposing to seek from the recently constituted Economic Advisory Board.