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MSJ: Whose agenda are the UNC seeking to promote by weaponising the Parliament?

“[…] Some commentators are suggesting that there should have been a debate so that answers to questions that the public have could have been obtained. We disagree.

“[…] Neither the President nor the former Chair of the PolSC sits in the Parliament so that, given what we’ve heard in the Budget and other debates, all we would likely get from any debate is accusations and allegations being thrown across the Parliament floor by both the PNM and the UNC. Why then the motion to impeach the President?”

The following Letter to the Editor, which discusses what lies behind the UNCs machinations in Parliament on Thursday, was submitted to Wired868 by David Abdulah, political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ):

Photo: Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar rips the Speaker’s guidelines to shreds during an extraordinary sitting of the House of representatives on 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

The Leader of the Opposition has been using many words recently that point to the end game of her party, the United National Congress. It came at the very end of Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s media conference subsequent to the extraordinary sitting of the House of Representatives and the meeting of the Electoral College that were necessitated by her motion seeking to bring about the impeachment of the President of the Republic.

It is always important to keep one’s eye on the ball and not get distracted. So while we strongly disagree with the behaviour of the UNC MP’s yesterday, this is not our main focus. What is the end game of the UNC? According to the UNC’s Political Leader, it is to initiate ‘the October Revolution’.

Now, firstly, that is a plagiarism. All students of history and politics know that ‘the October Revolution’ refers to the Russian Revolution of October 1917 that ended the rule of the Czars and ushered in the establishment of the Soviet Union.

The least the UNC could have done was come up with something original.

And Persad-Bissessar is no Lenin! Not ideologically, and certainly not politically.

Photo: Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) prepares her troops for ‘war’ in Parliament during an extraordinary sitting of the House of Representatives to vote on the impeachment of President Paula-Mae Weekes.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Secondly—and much more importantly—her statement that the UNC was starting the October Revolution did not sound like a spontaneous response to what happened in the Parliament yesterday. It was a call that was planned beforehand. And it is in keeping with earlier statements such as her Budget response, in which she talked about the government engaging in a ‘war’ against the people.

Yesterday in the Parliament, we again heard about ‘war’ being waged against the people, against the Opposition, against democracy.

It is a fact that the motion to start the process to impeach the President would fail. The Opposition could not get the two-thirds majority in the Electoral College required to have a tribunal set up to investigate the President. Even if all nine Independent Senators voted in support of the motion, it would still have failed.

Some commentators are suggesting that there should have been a debate so that answers to questions that the public have could have been obtained. We disagree. How would a debate have led to answers to these questions: why was the Merit List of names for the substantive position of CoP withdrawn? And was it correct for the President to allow the PolSC to withdraw it?

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) presents a letter of appointment to Police Service Commissioner chair Bliss Seepersad.
(Copyright Office of the President)

Neither the President nor the former Chair of the PolSC sits in the Parliament so that, given what we’ve heard in the Budget and other debates, all we would likely to get from any debate is accusations and allegations being thrown across the Parliament floor by both the PNM and the UNC.

Why then the motion to impeach the President? It is the view of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) that this was just a means by which the UNC seeks to lay the foundation for ‘the October Revolution’.

All persons in authority and all the institutions of state must be demonised and exposed as being ‘dictatorial’, ‘undemocratic’ and against the people. A debate would have facilitated that.

So that yesterday the Parliament was ‘weaponised’ by the UNC so that it became part of the arsenal that points to there being a ‘dictatorship’ in the country and that ‘democracy’ is being killed. This then justifies the need for a ‘revolution’ to sweep out all those in power and bring in the replacement.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi have a word in Parliament on 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

It comes from a playbook similar to the ‘drain the swamp’ slogan and the calls to ‘lock them up’ used in the Trump 2020 campaign. In reality, Donald Trump wasn’t leading any revolution to get rid of the economic power brokers of Wall Street and big capital. He made them richer by tax cuts and de-regulation and policies that were anti-union and anti-environment.

But fed up and frustrated by their conditions of impoverishment and loss of a sense of power (the blacks and Latinos and immigrants are taking over!), a section of the population bought into that narrative.

It also borrows from a playbook used in other countries, the ‘Orange Revolution’, the ‘Rose Revolution’, as Persad-Bissessar herself admitted yesterday.

The urgent question is this: whose playbook is that? And in whose interests is it being duplicated?

Of course, in Trinidad and Tobago today there is a lot of discontent and frustration. And justifiably so. People are fed up with age-old problems—bad roads, no water, flooding, the lack of jobs, the struggle to survive from payday to payday. The list is very long.

Photo: A family walks past a Barrackpore protest against bad roads in 2018.
(Copyright Trinidad Newsday)

The PNM’s arrogance, its lack of genuine consultation and its failure to provide a clear vision and path forward out of the economic problems that we face and which were made worse by Covid are all contributing massively to this mood. The UNC’s strategy is to tap into that mood.

However, what they did yesterday only succeeded in galvanising the party’s hard-core support and in stoking the fires of division by race, religion and party loyalty.

Such a scorched earth strategy can result in untold damage.

We do need a ‘revolution’. But, as the MSJ has repeatedly stated, this has to be a ‘revolution of the mind’. We need to ‘emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery’ that keeps us in bondage to two parties based on the loyalty to race or religion. We need a ‘revolution of the mind’ that will enable us to re-imagine our society as one where there is social justice, an end to discrimination and fairness for all.

Photo: Lake Asphalt workers protest against non-payment of salaries in September 2021.
(via MSJ)

We have to be able to challenge the status quo and bring about constitutional reform so that we move from maximum leadership to maximum participation.

Perhaps there can be a silver lining to the events of the past few weeks. For that to materialise, however, we as a people must be able to move beyond the bacchanal and nastiness of the failed politics and leadership of the two parties currently in Parliament.

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