Letters & Opinion

The Stiff – Waist Band

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

SOME might recognize the title as being a slight twist on the 1992 calypso by David Rudder, “The Stiff Waist Man”, but this band we now have is behaving the same way. Having spent five years in the forest concocting potions for virility, they seem now to be unleashing a certain venom on those whom they believe have “mash-up their name”. They come out to play and they going to show us they could wine.

But is the same ole wine, a stiff-waist wine, and when they not wining, they whining. We are expected to occupy the all-too-familiar position of “hear no evil, see no evil”. Backs bent, heads deeply buried in a red or yellow sand, bodies fully exposed to the constant battering to which we are subjected, we are supposed to know nothing and say less.

But is not so. Because “Shanti tell them so, ‘Shanti tell them in a calypso”, long ago and so even if former calypso king Ashanti will not be singing in the finals tonight, go and listen. “Voxpopuli, voxdei” (The voice of the people is the voice of god) and so if you listen well, you will hear the voice of god because the voice of the calypsonian has always been the voice of the people.

And while we all now have this sinking feeling that we are on a ship looking for the next rock on which to crash itself, again, look in the crowd at the show, (in front), and you will see a good representation of the people who our calypsonians are singing about. You will see them laughing and clapping their hands and pretending that is not them the calypsonians mean. Water off a duck’s back and expect them to be back playing the same ole mas on Monday morning; just that it’s not for fun. And you will not find any of them playing in any carnival band on the road. They in the Stiff-Waist Band.

That waist don’t budge, no matter how much you suggest, request, plead or beg, it ain’t moving. And so, as with everything else, they also know that the calypso season short and they expect that come whatever festival they have next on the calendar, we would have forgotten. At least, one side hopes so, while the other side wishing for calypso season all year round. But we won’t forget.

Somehow, we have become used to the idea that government is of the people, by the people, for the people, until we realize that this is not really what we have. What we have is “democracy”, where we freely elect those who present themselves to us as being the best winers in town only to find out the day after elections that what we have on our hands is a Stiff-Waist Band.

At his first press conference following the elections last June, Prime Minister Chastanet promised us a government of transparency and accountability. One year later, what seems to be emerging is a form of governance that specifically excludes the population from participation in decision- making (at least, until it is too late) and a form of governance which seems to have taken unto itself the right to only inform the public of what it thinks the public should know.

The public’s right to know is paramount and it is of some concern when we hear statements such as “it is not everything that the public has a right to know”, when the true position should instead be that “there are few things that the public does not have a right to know”. We have a right to know everything undertaken on our behalf by Government except in a few specific instances, and that we will address next week.

But this government’s approach to information sharing is not serving it well as the country is now inundated with leaked documents and rumours. Those leaks started with the CDB report, quickly moved on to the DSH Framework Agreement, immediately followed by the letter to Ashworth by the previous administration. On the heels of that, the Technical Audit of St. Jude was also leaked. Repeated requests that both the DSH Agreement and that Audit Report be made available to the public have all been studiously ignored by Government.

In the absence of timely and reliable official government information, the public is now forced to depend on leaked public documents. This practice cannot be condoned but until the public’s right to know is respected, we can only expect that it will continue.

Whether or not the rumours surrounding the now-confirmed resignation of a Minister of Government have any foundation, those rumours, as well as the discussions surrounding the latest termination of another consultant’s contract, only typify the dire need for forthright communication by this Government.

So, as you hit the road on Monday and Tuesday, wine, wine, “bend down low and touch your toe” (Invader) and “ease the frustration” (Ashanti).

Because come Wednesday, you still have to face the Stiff-Waist Band.

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