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Thursday 22 March 2018

Putting differences aside

IT WAS ONLY last week the nation witnessed an inspiring example of how two people – from opposing sides of the political divide – can put aside their differences when the time comes. In the dramatic moments just after a landslide on the Lady Young Road, neither person had time to quibble over allegiances or to seek to enact political vendettas.

Covered in dust from the rubble that nearly killed her, former PNM MP Joanne Thomas was almost unrecognisable to former UNC senator Devant Maharaj and vice versa. Maharaj did the right thing. Instead of fleeing the scene for the sake of his own safety, he stopped his car and assisted Thomas. Only later did both recognise each other.

This is an example of the kind of conduct we need more of. We need to more frequently acknowledge our shared humanity and come together and get the job done for the benefit of all.

But mere days after the dramatic Lady Young Road incident, it was business as usual in Parliament last Friday. Alas, bickering, allegations and counter-allegations are, once more, the order of the day.

We urge both Government and the Opposition legislators to desist from seeking to score political points and to get down to the business of passing good legislation.

The Opposition alleges the Government hijacked the debate of the Property Tax (Amendment) Bill saying it was agreed the debate would take place over two sittings. Meanwhile, the Government denies hijacking the debate and says the Opposition was not ready.

Neither side has any real excuse: if a misunderstanding occurred, that should have been communicated. We live in a modern age of fancy high-tech communication devices (MPs are given these courtesies by taxpayers). The fate of a debate should no longer have to come down to something as arcane as to who happens to “catch the Speaker’s eye.”

The sad thing is these games are being played in relation to matters of utmost importance; matters that will affect the pockets of all citizens. Property tax is coming one way or the other. The point of a Parliament debate is not merely to rubber-stamp that fact, it is to ensure all constituents are represented and that the best possible law is devised.

With anti-gang legislation due to be debated, as well as counter-terrorism legislation on the horizon, we urge both the Government and the Opposition to look to what happened with Thomas and Maharaj. Parliament should be used to fulfil citizens’ democratic rights through representation. And it should be a force for good, a tool that enhances our shared destiny through the enactment of good law. Not as a backdrop for bacchanal.


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