IT’S amazing how those who have shown so little regard for rules, up until Tuesday’s No Confidence Motion house sitting, have become so passionate and fixated about the interpretation and observance of parliamentary rules.
They have become so fixated that they have lost sight of the basic constitutional right to freedom of expression being exercised in no less a place than the parliament — the highest decision-making body in the country. It is unthinkable that parliamentarians could not place before the house a No Confidence Motion in The Prime Minister for debate.
The main argument against the motion was (and still is) that it was unconstitutional because the constitution speaks, only to a “No Confidence Motion in The Government.” It is true that nowhere in the constitution is there any reference to a “No Confidence Motion In The Prime Minister” — and it’s also true that there is no reference to a “No Confidence Motion In A Minister” or for that matter in any other public official. So, is that reason to suggest that one should not entertain any No Confidence Motion other than one involving the entire government?
In the section referring to the no confidence motion in the government, was there anything to suggest that this should be the only kind of no confidence motion? Of course not!
Consider this for a minute: A set of rules have been set regarding the demolition of a building using a bulldozer. These rules dictate the time of day, the size of the work force involved in the exercise and the size of the bulldozer, among other things. Would it not be illogical to interpret those rules to mean that the same building could not be demolished by a team of workers using sledge hammers?
I believe any reasonable person would argue and ask: What does one have to do with the other? The use of a bulldozer to destroy the building is prescriptive, but that in no way precludes other means of attempting to destroy the building. Chances are that the team of sledgehammer carriers may not be able to demolish the building, but would certainly be able to damage it.
This brings me to the Tuesday’s sitting, where every attempt was made to thwart the Leader Of The Opposition’s No Confidence Motion In The Prime Minister being debated. Some outside (as well as inside) the parliament claimed the process to be unconstitutional. Really?
It was refreshing to see the speaker of the house standing up to the pressures to set aside the motion. He clearly had done his homework and cited the authorities for his decision to allow the motion. Well done, Mr. Speaker, there is still hope that there are professionals willing to avoid the easy path of expediency for the more difficult but worthy path of doing the right thing. He was in many ways one of the star performers of the day, showing great poise and control in (at times) an unruly and disrespectful environment.
It was ironic to hear from the Member for Castries Central that the day’s proceedings were an abuse of the constitution and House rules. This is the same individual who accepted the position of Deputy Speaker because the Constitution prescribed the appointment of a Deputy Speaker at the first House sitting back in 2016, but soon after her appointment resigned to accept a ministerial position, thereby leaving the position of Deputy Speaker vacant. To this day, the House has been without a Deputy Speaker because it has not been ‘convenient’ (to use the official word) to fill the vacancy. Is that what the Constitution intended? If that is not a clear indication of abuse of the constitution, I don’t know what is.
It is this lack of integrity that engenders public mistrust in politicians. The politics of this country appear to have a separate and different morality from what most people consider necessary for a healthy society. This politics of convenience and the absence of integrity provide a weak foundation upon which we can build our country.
There is a phenomenon referred to as entrainment where the behavior of the most influential person in a group directs the behavior of the rest of the group. It is for this reason that our leaders must exercise great care in the manner in which they conduct themselves publicly.
If our leaders flaunt the rules, which are to guide their behavior, they should not be surprised when those they govern behave in like manner. We must never believe that the general lawlessness in our country is unrelated to what takes place in the higher echelons of our country.
Among the many bad examples that continue to poison the morality of the country is the persistent spouting of untruths. There is a thinking that if you persist with an untruth long enough it will soon be accepted as truth. Repetition of untruths is an insidious way of corrupting what is true. Sadly, this approach can be successful in environments where the issues are too complex for the uninitiated to unravel. This is why I am a strong proponent that those who know better have a moral duty to explain to those who need to know, or want to know. If you are passive listener because you lack the ability to evaluate pronouncements for yourself, you are likely to accept pronouncements that are repeated often enough as true, because subconsciously you are more inclined to accept the familiar.
I say this to encourage a greater participation of the more learned among us to counteract what is currently taking place in the country — the barrage of misinformation regarding matters of public interest. Those of us who know better need to speak-up, otherwise we shall pay heavily as a country for our silence. It is no wonder that the average citizen has become so cynical and do not trust our leaders.
This takes me to a vexing issue (for me) of the Prime Minister alluding to the previous administration’s imposition of $6.80 excise tax on every gallon of fuel. At Tuesday’s sitting he took the opportunity to explain why the excise tax on fuel was now over $4.00 per gallon ($4.00 was the agreed figure at which the fuel tax had been capped).
In providing the explanation, he sought to suggest that the price build-up for fuel was something new and should have been in place under the last administration. Not true! Nothing has changed since the current government came into office. Besides, there is no way that any government can apply any taxes to any product without the legislative authority to do so — nor can it do so secretly.
There was never any secret government tax on fuel and it is for this reason it has yet to be uncovered. So the prime minister should leave this issue alone, because it will continue to have a deleterious effect on his credibility.
The government won the day because their members voted in support of their leader, but that may have been a pyrrhic victory, given the focused attacks on the Prime Minister’s credibility and his handling of the country’s public finances.
Time will tell – and (maybe)before long!