Tuesday, 05 June 2012 02:30
By Dr. Isaac Newton
Last week Wednesday, to the surprise of all, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer was spared the humiliation of the historic Draft Resolution of No-Confidence. Due to health troubles, opposition Leader Lester Bird was absence at the time the motion was called.
What followed were signals of managed desperation on the United Progressive Party (UPP) government’s bench. Having felt the rage of the nation, Spencer was bracing himself for a long haul in Parliament. He’s already losing the ethical battle in the court of public opinion.
According to Bird, the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) could not move forward with the debate “because only the person who submitted it could have introduced it.” The ALP needs to pay attention to strategic planning, both to play out alternative scenarios and prepare for potential obstacles.
Anxious to defend his leadership, Spencer reasoned that Bird could have simply appointed another MP to move the motion in keeping with the rules of the Standing Orders, and that Bird’s failure to do so reflected a deficit in confidence in his own colleagues.
But this logic did not reckon with feelings of wrongdoing that are upsetting the people. Many believe, if you run your fingers at the bottom of the No-Confidence motion, you will find unchecked greed, insidious cronyism, and moral sabotage in the Office of the Prime Minister. This entire unfolding is riddled with truth and ripe with consequences.Truth
1) The fact that the PM attempted to persuade the nation that neither he nor his colleagues cut any deals with Bird to hide his poor performance, implied that the practice of integrity in public office, a politically delicate matter for the UPP, has been reduced to an eloquent illusion. Honesty has become the true center of the PM fantasy and his dread.
2) The deadly mix of stubborn frustration with rigid joblessness and grim allegations of corruption has rallied a generalized outpouring. Change is in the air. Judged by its own standard of ‘righting the wrong’ the UPP is now viewed as the least desirable of all alternatives.
3) Outside of the lofty language of “working to realize the ambition of the people” promoted by Spencer, there are growing indications that the PM’s obsession with tax collection has killed foreign and local investments. Since debt repayment is not a reliable strategy to resurrect the economy, reinforcing a burdensome tax policy is choking growth.
4) The absence of Health Minister Wilmot Daniel in Parliament for the No-Confidence debate highlights both a hyphen and a paradox. The hyphen underscores the gap between Daniel’s loyalty to the UPP and his constituency’s confidence in him.
The paradox reflects Daniel’s inability to serve two masters: the operational principles for which Daniel stands, against the broken promises of good governance that he can’t ignore. Daniel is a dilemma for Spencer, who obviously does not want him close but can’t discard him. The government’s 10-7 seats lead in Parliament is too slim for disruption.Consequences
1) Although there’s widespread sympathy over Bird’s frequent episodes of health difficulties, this incident identifies a clash between two important realities: the future of the ALP and Bird’s proactive resilience. But the ALP’s appreciation of Bird’s whisper of discontent to achieve more must be at its own risk. Voters are giving hints for a healthy, innovative, and inspiring leadership.
2) The ALP is operating on the odd premise that its leadership matter is fully settled. Yet the outburst between the Party Chairman Gaston Brown and senior MP Molwyn Joseph over aspirations for power sounds more like a cloak and sword endeavor. But though there’s an effort to distinguish disagreements from disunity, it still appears that the ALP is in danger of schism and collapse.
3) Even if the causes behind the people’s grievance are warranted, the ALP will have to find new approaches to advocacy that are not only morally justified, but operationally persuasive. Without demonstrating that it is ready, competent, and willing to deliver prosperity, probity, proper management in government, the ALP will not win back the public trust and confidence.
4) Short of addressing ideological differences, emotional maturity and leadership criteria for public service, finding a path to the development needs of Antigua & Barbuda will serve the greater good of the masses. To get rid of bad behavior in government, the people must punish politicians for using the government to reward friends, endorse vested interests, and alienate responsible critics.
The opposition adamant refusal to throw the No-Confidence motion overboard leaves open the possibility for its re-introduction later this year. Spencer will not shrink from the task of justifying his actions, but his worry will not vanish. He has a small window to stop his tenure from becoming a masterpiece of errors composed of social agony and moral disaster.
No-Confidence Resolutions disguise the deeper story: a scream for systemic reforms at the society, parties, and government levels. With crime boldly turning into despair, the fight over scare resources could be settled by the bullet. The ballot is the better way. But we will have to support it with a robust commitment to justice, and equality of opportunity for everyone.
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.