THE EDITOR: The PNM government has been using very sophisticated public relations tricks and devices to persuade the public of its morally upright position in issues on which ordinary people have been keenly focused.
One such issue is the recent Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2018 which failed to attract support from the Opposition. On the surface, those who harbour bias toward the PNM or fear its wrath, along with those who are biased against the Opposition, would indeed have an easy task of convincing the undiscerning that the Opposition is at fault. But I ask that you examine the facts dispassionately.
For 47 of the 62 years since the PNM first appeared on our political stage in 1956, it has been the dominant political force, shaping our national psyche and crafting our political culture. Has the PNM advanced or stifled the collective voice of ordinary people over the 47 years it has held the reins of political power? Is the PNM a truly democratic institution?
Only very recently has the PNM democratised the way it elected its leader. Before this, individual party members had little say in the election of their leader. Even now their screening committee – controlled by the leader – easily overturns constituency representatives chosen by ordinary party members.
There is monolithic leadership in the PNM with little or no opportunity for dissent and rigid intolerance to public discussion of insider party issues. Has this not been the way the PNM fashioned our so-called democracy?
Had it not been for effective opposition, and had the PNM been left to its devices, this country would have had a completely different national Constitution. Indeed, Dr Eric Williams (our first prime minister) himself credited the then opposition with responsibility for the constitutional safeguards built into our Constitution. On the other hand, the Industrial Stabilisation Act, the Sedition Act, laws relating to public protests and public gatherings are all the fruit of the PNM.
The opposition, starting with the NAR, began a process of “opening” the government to public scrutiny and affording the public a greater degree of participation in governance. The latter has been vigorously resisted by the PNM at every opportunity it gets. Patrick Manning is credited with the tabling of many exceptions to the Freedom of Information Act.
So when the PNM says its heart is in “passing” the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill but hands that 96-page document to the opposition at 1.30 on the morning of the debate, how genuine is that claim? When, for several weeks before the debate, the PNM publicly antagonised the Opposition in every way possible – even refusing its request for a joint select committee, choosing instead to commandeer a special select committee where the Opposition’s voice is all but non-existent – how genuine is that?
The Government has done everything it possibly can to anger the Opposition and distance itself from those on the other side, thus ensuring that it could not possibly obtain opposition support for the bill. Then when the inevitable does happen, the PNM points its finger at the Opposition claiming “they” are obstructionist.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s repetitious, simplistic and manipulative tactics have become all too obvious.
STEVE SMITH via e-mail