Friday, 22 February 2013 02:30
By Colin Sampson
As the spiritual exile lounges around up here in low Earth orbit, cocooned in my space capsule, observing the sometimes mad, often comical, too-frequently pathetic scurrying of my fellow human beings down there on the surface …where Syrian soccer players dance with mortar rounds ... my double-bubble telescope maintains watch on Earth base Antigua & Barbuda.
What goes on in Antigua & Barbuda is important to me. I sometimes (not very often) wonder why that should be so. I more frequently wonder why I do the “crazy” things I do – like speaking real truth to power – rather than simply joining the merry crowd … and starting to kiss butt like bottom tu’n candy.
Think how sweet life could be … snuggled up close to the political candy store in unfair Antigua & Barbuda. It would be so nice to be “friendly” with politicians … in with the “in” crowd … telling a so-nice-to-know buddy like Baldwin Spencer what he wants to hear … and reaping the benefits in full view of an envious nation.
Instead, what am I doing? Why … thinking about Richard Nixon, of course!
“The Question” was asked during the Watergate Affair (1968-74). It was: “What did the president know … and when did he know it?”
The answers to that question, and the revelations of the extent to which the president went in his frantic efforts to cover up what he knew, and when, ultimately forced Richard Milhouse Nixon to become the first United States President to resign from office.
My mind goes to that question because of a similar – and derivative – question that floated into my head with my morning caffeine fix. That question is: “What didn’t Baldwin know … and why didn’t he know it?”
That question and the answers to that question lie at the crux of the entire pathology that afflicts the ruling United Progressive Party – the governing institution that is not an organisation … and has no idea how to function like one.
Where do we begin? The Senate might be a good place to start: the scene of the crime. Why did the Leader of Government Business (LoGB) not ensure that the votes required to achieve government’s objective – to pass the CIP Bill – were available to be counted when the motion to return the Bill to the Lower House was put to the senators for a vote? And failing a passing majority, why did not the LoGB take steps to avert a debacle by jumping on the bandwagon and making it look (again) like the government side was willingly taking the initiative – that is: killing its own bill? How about a “Hail Mary” motion to adjourn for some reason? You catch my drift: why did it come to that? What didn’t Errol know … and why didn’t he know it?
Several government-appointed senators were not available for the vote. Two of them are said to have had other, rather more pressing engagements to attend to that day than being in the Senate (what they basically get paid for out of the Treasury). Even though one of that duo had spoken in favour of the Bill, that same senator apparently felt that her actual vote in favour was unnecessary. Dr Edmond Mansoor was happily enjoying his annual T&T Carnival blast. What didn’t Errol and Baldwin know … and why didn’t they know it?
Senator David Massiah, to the best of my knowledge, was originally appointed in 2004 to represent the Antigua & Barbuda Trade Union Congress in the Upper House. He voted to send the Bill back. Did Senator Massiah vote his own conscience … or did he express the position of the TUC? What didn’t Baldwin know … and why didn’t he know it?
Much is being made of the supposed perfidy of Senator Colin “Counselor” Derrick in leading the charge against the CIP Bill. Little is being said about the odd behaviour of those strange bedfellows, Senators Anthony Stuart and Malaka Parker, who reportedly discussed the CIP Bill in a party forum and registered no objections – yet voted to return the Bill. What didn’t Baldwin know … and why didn’t he know it?
Returning to the notorious Senator Derrick, it is noteworthy that he discussed the CIP Bill in no party fora. Derrick spoke against the CIP Bill - in essence led the opposition to the Bill - and voted to return the Bill to the Lower House. He is being roundly criticized for not speaking to the party leader in advance about his concerns. What didn’t Baldwin know … and why didn’t he know it?
Clearly Baldwin Spencer did not know what was going on within the ranks of the political grouping he heads. Clearly a sitting prime minister has been caught flat-footed, his pants around his ankles, an emperor with his nakedness exposed to the world. A knee-jerk attempt at bluster and bravado has fallen flat. A brief escape to bask in some ego-boosting international approval bought some precious time to review and regroup; but alas… uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
An out-of-touch leader has run full tilt into an unexpected reality, and matters critical to the continuation of his party’s hold on power are in jeopardy. Major budgetary issues hang on successful and speedy passage of the Citizenship by Investment Programme. The rebel senators have thrown the government’s fiscal profile into a tizzy, just when the IMF is in town. What a ting!
Prime Minister Spencer’s options are few; and none of them is good. To fully appreciate the leader’s dilemma, one must apply one’s mind to the strange behaviour of those senators who managed to be absent when the critical moment came. Whatever message that sends about the internal health of the UPP cannot be good.
The cries and pain and dissent coming from within the ranks of the UPP, including calls (muted, but real) for Spencer to step aside, are sending a message that the leader’s grip on power is at least under question, if not actually under threat. A biennial convention looms in March, suggesting that the real struggle will be deferred til then and the future of the UPP – with or without Baldwin Spencer at the helm – will be decided.
In the meantime, Baldwin would be well advised to find out what has made Anthony Stuart and Malaka Parker such ardent political bedfellows … even temporarily.See related stories:
LOW EARTH ORBIT – Wha’ Garn Bad Ah Marnin’ II
LOW EARTH ORBIT – Wha’ Garn Bad Ah Marnin’ I