R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
January 25, 2019
The politics of folly, the futility of politics

AS WE PREPARE for the annual parliamentary Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, there are already signs that the context will be an all-too-familiar one, confrontation between opposing sides as they make their preparations for what seems to be their major reason for existence – the next general elections.

With the Government and public sector unions at odds, (that always seems to be the case as we approach elections), the Opposition has already indicated that it would join the unions in a picket of Parliament. So, what’s new?

Here, I beg your indulgence to offer congratulations to the newly- appointed opposition Senator, Hon. Israel Bruce on his appointment to the House, to wish him all the best and to urge him to try and bring a different approach to the parliamentary proceedings. He has been “long in the pasture” as the saying goes, having had to subsume his ambitions to those of others who have won favour with the party leadership.

Can he bring something different to the parliamentary table or are we to have more of the same? Time will tell.

The intense partisanship which characterises our politics is not unique to our country alone. In countries big and small, rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped, this is common practice. As a result, billions of people in the world suffer as politicians place their own selfish interests and those of the powerful forces which either support them or force them to do their will, before the welfare of the people they pledge to serve.

Just take a quick look around the globe and you will observe where selfish interests and partisan political rivalry take precedence over common sense and the interests of the mass of the people.

There is perhaps no better example than in the United States of America (USA) where not only is there a shutdown of government because of the selfishness of a President, but the system itself seems incapable of breaking the deadlock. As a consequence, hundreds of thousands of working people are suffering. The figurative Rome is burning while the modern Nero twiddles his well-groomed thumbs.

On the other side of the Atlantic, hundreds of millions more face an uncertain future as the clock runs out on the Brexit timetable. Two months away from the deadline for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) there is still no clear indication of what will happen post-March 29.

Political partisanship clouded the British referendum in 2016, as indeed it influenced our own constitutional referendum seven years before, and up until today neither ‘All the king’s horses nor all the king’s men” have been able to put Humpty-dumpty” (Britain) together again.

What is even more worrying is that this situation does not affect the Europeans or British people alone. Hundreds of millions of people in the so-called ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) countries are linked to both sides by trade and economic co-operation agreements. The terms under which Britain leaves the EU will have profound implications for these people. Unfortunately while the political charade is played out in Brussels and London, there does not seem to be an appropriate level of concern in ACP countries, the Caribbean in particular, in advocacy to try and secure adequate post-Brexit arrangements.

That lack of cohesion is also demonstrated by the failure of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, to act in unison in regard to external threats to the sovereignty of neighbouring Venezuela. Not only is Venezuela very much a part of the Caribbean basin, (it is closer to Trinidad than either Guyana or Suriname), but for years it has benefitted tangibly from economic relations with Venezuela. These benefits have multiplied significantly since the days of the late President Hugo Chavez and have continued, in spite of crippling economic sanctions, under President Maduro.

Yet CARICOM has allowed itself to be divided under pressure from its powerful northern neighbour, which, incidentally, has not rendered half the assistance to the Caribbean as the region receives from Venezuela, and one beneficiary is even in the process of expropriating Venezuelan assets. Others have joined the right-wing bandwagon which seeks to seek approval for armed intervention in Guyana.

At the regional level, we cannot even find common ground on a matter of fundamental importance to us all. That is the degree to which politics serves to divide us rather than binding us together to defend common interests.


● Renwick Rose is a community activist and social comm entator.