Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A lot of people have been asking this question for a few weeks now. The source of this query can be traced back to a few things. First of all, there was the Prime Minister's apparent slapping down of Jack Warner over the airport lighting fiasco. The newspapers were rife with speculation that there was a rift between the powerful Minister of Works and his boss, the even more powerful Prime Minister.

But what has really got the tongues wagging has been the very public criticisms coming from leading members of the COP that they (members of the COP) had not got their fair share of the "spoils of victory", meaning their fair share of appointments to State boards.

Let's deal with the Jack Warner issue first: Mr. Warner has come to public office with a "can do" and "let's get it done" approach that is both refreshing as well as being desperately needed in a country which has long wallowed in neo-colonialist leadership and thinking. He is one of a few Ministers that are really trying to effect "change" (as opposed to "exchange"). The newspapers (especially the Express) seem to have "get Jack at all costs" attitude, and are ready to crucify him at the drop of a hat. The facts are that this airport lighting business has been on the table for the longest while. Further, there is a real danger to the travelling public and the matter is urgent. It needs to be dealt with. Finally, the relevant law was amended by the then PNM administration which gave the Minister the authority to sign off on such a contract. Mr. warner received professional legal advice that he had the legal authority to sign off and approve the contract. He did just that. But (and it is a long "but") Mr. Warner has his fair share of detractor's who decided that here was a perfect "Ah!Ha!" moment (as in "Ah!Ha! Now we have him!"), and they promptly began to make a huge fuss, the essence of which underlying the fuss was there was the possibility that the old Jack may have had his fingers in the kitty.

The Prime Minister had no choice really but to step in and put the brakes on the award. Not to do so would have given grist to her enemies' mill who would have yelled (without any proof or regard to the facts) that here was a perfect example of Partnership corruption ... which, of course, was simply not true. Mr. Warner has taken the seeming rebuke in a proper and statesmanlike manner saying in essence, "well, pray that nothing goes wrong and don't blame me if it does!" He's right. Next point! But this sorry episode simply cannot be taken to reflect a rift in Partnership leadership.

Unfortunately, the recent COP (mis)behaviour is something else again. The claims for a share of the "spoils" by COP activists is as repugnant as it is hypocritical. Didn't Mr. Dookeran base his campaign from the very beginning on "Country first" and "no more jobs for the boys" politics? So what are these guys like Vernon DeLima, Hulsie Bhaggan, Joseph Toney and others talking about? Would we have been hearing from them if they had got appointments? Forgive me for thinking that the answer is 'no'.

In any case, part of the problem is clearly that the COP boys want to behave as if they are equal partners when in fact they are very junior partners in this Government. There are five COP seats which are held by Winston Dookeran, Prakash Ramadar, Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, Anil Roberts and Errol McLeod. If all five walk out the door the Government will certainly not collapse, nor will it be threatened with collapse. In any case, which of these five do you think is prepared to give up his Ministerial appointment for Messrs. DeLima et al? My guess is none! And the truth is also that the COP has no real support in those constituencies contolled by the UNC. Put another way, apart from some huffing and puffing and helping the newspapers to increase their sales, the COP is in an extremely weak position. And the sooner they realise this the better.

So, in answer to the question that headlines this post, I would say no, nat at all!

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