THE ruling United Workers Party is approaching the first anniversary of its return to power and the indications are that it will need to mature quickly if it is to ride the rest of its term smoothly and hassle-free.
One understands that there are many first-timers in the current Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, but there are also some experienced heads in the group with one, two, three and even four terms in the House of Assembly under their belts. One expects that in these circumstances there would be the regular sharing and airing of views among these colleagues, strategizing how to deal with various issues, and seeking to establish common ground and positions, especially in dealing with matters raised by those on the other side.
We make these assertions because this would be the normal expectation, except of course, we are dealing with the same kind of situation that many say existed in the previous government where decisions were taken on certain matters unknown to others in the Cabinet.
This week, at the instance of Prime Minister Chastanet, a motion by the opposition in the House of Assembly was overnight struck off the Order Paper. The explanation offered was that the Prime Minister needed more time to formulate a proper response to the content of the motion. To compound matters, the Speaker failed to so inform the opposition in good time. The result of all this was that the opposition walked out of the meeting in protest.
It seems strange to us that the more experienced persons in the Cabinet, assuming that they knew of the change, did not suggest to the Prime Minister that it was improper to treat the opposition’s motion so shabbily, given the fact that notice of the measure, was all of two months old, not to mention that the issue raised in the motion dealt with the very controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme over which the opposition has been taking the government to task. The behaviour of the government is even more bizarre considering the comfortable majority it has in the chamber which would have guaranteed the motion’s defeat. It was a classic case of playing into the opposition’s hands and giving them an advantage where none had existed.
By its action, the government demonstrated both callousness and immaturity and undermined its own integrity given its recent overtures for a better relationship between the two sides. The overnight amending of the Order Paper was certainly a case of bad timing because the government ought to have anticipated what the reaction of the ever vocal opposition would have been.
A number of issues have been badly handled by the government during the past 10 months which undoubtedly would have impacted negatively on the level of confidence it enjoys among the population. The administration, in true UWP style, always seems to be reacting to issues, especially those raised by the opposition, rather than taking the lead in bringing matters to the attention of the public. Certainly, this cannot be considered a good public relations practice.
Granted that it inherited a plethora of economic and social problems left over by the last Labour government, a sizeable portion of the electorate reposed their confidence in Mr. Chastanet and his team in the elections last June. We have reason to believe that one of the messages that came out of these elections was the public demands for a better kind of governance, in the wake of the Juffali and other matters.
The government does not need any kind of sideshow like what we witnessed in the House on Tuesday. It must seek to avoid these petty distractions and demonstrate the kind of maturity that will give the people confidence in its ability to look after their affairs while at the same time ensuring the stability of the administration itself, and avoiding public embarassment.