Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Competent Leadership or Rabble Rousing?

While it has been some 8 years since I was last privileged to be a member of the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago and as a result my memory of the Standing Orders is now somewhat hazy, I seemed to remember something in them saying in effect that a member cannot "re-discuss" something that was raised in another debate. In other words, a member cannot regurgitate something that was already discussed in another debate.

Well, my memory is admittedly hazy, so I checked the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and found that I was partially right. Standing Order 36(3) says in effect (my words) that a member cannot raise a matter which has already been dealt with in a current session. A session of Parliament is historically a period lasting usually less than one year when Parliament meets. At the end of the session Parliament is prorogued, but no general election is called, and the legislators have a chance to return to their constituencies until the next session is called.

But all this aside, the reason that my curiosity was piqued was because the Leader of the Opposition has filed yet another motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister (no confidence motions against the Government of the day are always filed against the Prime Minister of the day) and I wondered what was new from the last time he filed such a motion. Then I heard the public relations officer of the PNM, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, giving a list on television of all of the things that the PNM was going to raise in the instant motion. Of all the things that he raised on TV the only thing that was new (i.e., that was not included in the last debate)  was what can be called "the section 34 issue". Now I have already previously dealt with this particular matter when it was a "hot" topic and I don't propose to deal with it again. But, if the Opposition wants to have a debate on section 34 then it is perfectly entitled to do so.

However, I find it difficult to understand the logic in regurgitating matters that even if they were debated in the last session of Parliament and therefore technically falling outside the rules, so that we get the same thing all over again just in slightly different words. Is the Opposition really serious in suggesting that this is an efficient use of Parliamentary time? After all, isn't what was said in the last debate simply going to be repeated all over again? If so, what exactly is the point about this debate? Everything is already on the Parliamentary record. The Opposition on the last occasion put all of their members in to speak. Only Mr. Manning was silent. Is the same thing going to happen again?

Let me be clear: if the erstwhile Senator Al-Rawi mis-spoke on television or I misunderstood him and there are indeed new matters to place on record then I withdraw my criticisms completely. I would be the first to say that the Opposition has every right ... indeed, a responsibility ... to bring a motion of no confidence. But if nothing new is going to come out of the debate then I would have to say that the debate is going to be a tremendous waste of Parliamentary time and is not a proper use of Parliamentary resources.It also speaks volumes about the lack of real and competent leadership in what ought to be the alternative government of Trinidad & Tobago. And that is serious! There are many serious issues to be dealt with in this country and we simply don't need an Opposition that believes that the best way to represent the people is by trying to score political points ... and that is what the real purpose of this debate, quite frankly, looks like!

And if you say to me 'what about section 34'? My reply would be 'okay, that's new. Go ahead and debate it if you want'. But then it will be a very short debate for the answers to those charges have been on record for a long time and (conveniently) ignored by those opposed to the Government. 

I must confess that I really don't expect much from the upcoming debate except for a lot of predictable rabble rousing. Would that I be proved wrong and we could see some competent alternative leadership! The best government always comes when there is a credible alternative!

Incidentally, if you ask me what do I think are the big issues that the Opposition ought to be paying attention to, let me spell them out for you:
I would love to hear exactly what the PNM would do to solve these big issues. I don't need to hear any more criticisms. I need to hear solutions.

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