R. Rose
December 23, 2005

Some political ‘poke’ for Christmas

Many Vincentians stick to tradition around this season in insisting that Pork must be a part of Christmas. We are just emerging from a hotly-contested elections with passions running high on both sides so there is a need for us to take advantage of the holiday season as a cooling off period. In light of this, what better way to relax than by taking a poke at our Politics and our Politicians. Here we go!{{more}}

First of all, Prime Minister Gonsalves has named his new Cabinet, assigning responsibilities to the newly elected, even to the recently rejected. Save for one, that is. A fair distribution? Not according to what at least one Minister SAYS. For Conrad must be feeling more like a Minister “in a state” than a Minister “of State”, for with no Portfolio given to him, he can justly claim that he in fact has “no state”. Oh, what a state of affairs!

One change made by the P.M. is to remove tourism, regarded now as our principal foreign exchange earner, from the duties exercised by one considered to be a “heavyweight” (literally and figuratively) in the Labour camp. Rene Baptiste has retained Culture though; but with the revenue- earning Tourism Ministry now thrown up on the Beach, she must be recalling the words of a former Labour Health Minister that “yo can’t eat culture”. Or she must be wondering what kind of cultured behaviour is that from a man who preaches about Caribbean Civilisation. He seems to have rained on her parade. Still, if she feels unsettled by the changes, then at least she has responsibility for Urban Settlement. Maybe that will help.

Talking of settlement, the P.M. came up with an innovative way of rewarding his workhorse, Julian, who couldn’t get into the political stable reserved for elected Parliamentarians. Re-appointing Julian as Senator and Minister was one action the P.M. couldn’t resist, constitutional reform or not. So in creating a Ministry for his favourite, the P.M. has come up with “informal settlement” among other responsibilities. Perhaps that is his “informal” way of settling Julian in. Some in Sion Hill are wondering if the P.M. couldn’t put Christmas among his responsibilities, since in some respects, maybe the white beard, he reminded them of Santa Claus during the campaign.

Which brings me to a remarkable feature of our elections. It is the only one I remember in which we had such excellent candidates who, in girth at least, could fit in a Santa uniform. It makes you wonder when the P.M. joked about the “heavyweight championship”, he was not talking literally. Certainly the NDP appeared to take him seriously for they put up two contenders, Arnhim and Kingsley, in the heavyweight category

But back to the Cabinet. Mike Browne has been given “National Mobilization” among other duties, another concoction of our P.M. It is not a Caribbean first, since both Jamaica and Grenada have in the past had similar Ministries, but in this case one wonders whether it will be the nation that will have to do the mobilization of the Minister who also has responsibility for NGO relations. NGO relations? Of course Mike is well placed to do so but there are some who joke that NGO stands for Never Get him in Office.

Another challenging creation is that of Rural Transformation, given to Selmon Walters. If properly thought out, it can be a useful instrument but poor Selmon must be wondering that if plans for the development of agriculture are not effectively implemented then he will be left to preside over a negative transformation of the rural areas. Not even his experience in social welfare will be enough then. One big bit of transforming placed on Walters’ plate is that of the Public Service. Minister of Public Service transformation?

But enough of the Cabinet, lest readers think I am one-sided. What of the other side of the House? NDP leader Arnhim Eustace may not have gained the heavyweight belt but he at least had the satisfaction of dampening the victory celebrations of Labour with his K.O. over Julian Francis. Arnhim was taunted with the perpetual rhetoric of the P.M. and his supporters of “What’s my name, Arnhim?” NDP’s response of “One term Papa” may have blown up in their faces, but at least Arnhim can retort with “No term Julian”. “Useless Eustace”, as he was dubbed, turned out to be not so useless after all. For him though, comes the problem of maintaining the crown in his own camp. Judging by pre-and post-election events, Arnhim has his work cut out for him. Already a couple of his unsuccessful candidates have declared themselves “duly elected”. Now common- law unions must have been ongoing for some time in order to be recognized, but these candidates have declared themselves duly married to the electorate after their first date! Perhaps Daniel has deluded himself that the surname of Cummins means an official invitation to COME-IN to parliament. He certainly seems not clear whether he is coming or going.

Another of the NDP candidates who came close, like Cummins, seems to have also misunderstood the significance of his name. So, Sinclair, in pronouncing himself also duly elected, said that the official result was a CLEAR -SIN. One can only hope that he does not use his experience in football to make a political football of our Parliament and electoral process.

Yes, the elections may be over but the fun has just begun. Have an enjoyable season and to all our Politicians, have a smile and a welcome respite before you resume your jaunts in January.