DE BELL RING! De bell ring!
In the middle of the Opposition Leader’s reply to the Budget Speech, the Prime Minister, the leader of the party in power, took to his Facebook account to “announce” the date of the local government elections 2019.
The PM exercised that remnant of prerogative power of the monarch preserved via the English parliamentary system and imposed on this longest-lasting crown colony in the Caribbean region of the English Empire and lodged in that office of power.
The fact that the PM did not only pull the date “out of his back pocket” using the usurpation (prerogative) of the power to decide election dates was compounded by the way it was done on this occasion.
This social media announcement and the timing evoked loud shrieks of “disrespect” among other politicians aspiring to the very office of PM for the most part. Most of the electorate already badgered by the impositions from the highest elected office were no more offended by the means used in this instance.
The context in which this social media announcement appeared also generated some verbal joisting between the principal combatants in the impending electoral battle, each side accusing the other of using the budget as an instrument of electioneering.
The yellow band branded the Budget Speech with its sprinkling of promised pay increases and other “benefits,” conveniently timetabled for the day just prior to the announced election date, as an “election budget.” The red band accused the leader of the yellow of electioneering because her budget reply consisted largely of an alternative economic “manifesto” 2020-2025.
One posse’s election budget is another’s electioneering, apparently.
The platforms were mounted right there in the Parliament and the respective budget presentations were the opening salvo in platform talk: local government elections 2019/general election 2020 and the extended triple election season running 2020-2021 of local government/general/THA elections.
For the red all-ah-we-in-dis-together posse, the platform talk shifted to Piggott’s Corner and the Arima Town Hall within 48 hours, labelled “post budget discussions.” But the reality of local government elections campaign kick-off was glaring.
With the loudspeakers operating at full blast, it was time to jump up high and jump down low and shake yuh manifesto because it’s party time, as Bally put it in his classic Party Time Again.
And true to form “dirty tricks just to tie up me and you” were in full effect.
Barbs of allegation were flying left and right. Everything from murder conspiracies to death threats to fraudulent tampering with WASA “bills” were launched from the lobster claw Heliconia podium instigated by no lesser than the DJ himself.
From political opponent to ordinary citizen, none was spared. Accusations abounded with no evidence or cogent explanation even without the cover of parliamentary privilege.
So, what is this all about again?
As one radio ad reminds us, it is time to elect your local government representatives.
But the platform antics tell another story. It is time to demonise your opponents or anyone perceived as one; to launch all manner of bombastic propaganda; to sully characters even of simple citizens and “promises of utopia and song…just to get yuh vote.”
There is no reference to the fact that local government reform promised last “party time” in 2016 and about which DJ Keith told us that last election was a “referendum,” has not happened in the full three-year term (reminiscent of similar failed promises by DJ Patrick before him).
Transparency and accountability remain buzzwords devoid of content.
Instead, we are asked to put a party in “control” of our 14 regional corporations with absolutely nothing new to offer burgesses by way of representation, a real say in decision-making that affects their living conditions at fundamental levels or otherwise.
Some have suggested that this cycle of “party time” is another referendum – this time on the performance of the ruling party in the seat of national government. Others claim it is a test of popularity which will be used by DJ Keith to decide if to proceed urgently to round two – general election 2020 early in the new year.
Whatever their motives, the local government elections “party time” has nothing to do with securing or improving the empowerment of the burgesses in local or community governance.
So, on we go with the platform talk with a foreboding of a new depth of decadence in its content, camouflaged with talk of “new society” but really all for the purpose of preserving the status quo of the archaic electoral-political process of party politics and medieval privilege.
Hopefully, the light of this Divali will allow us to see the way out of this darkness.