Lapsing into history

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE ELEVENTH Parliament will go down in history as one that, more than most, straddled eras.

When MPs moved from the International Waterfront Centre to the newly refurbished Red House in January, who would have thought that change would pale in comparison with what was about to come? The days when such a move was a major event is now a distant memory from the pre-covid19 world.

In some respects, it is little surprise several important parliamentary matters have been left on the cutting-room floor with last Friday’s dissolution. There is a long tradition of key pieces of heavily-trumpeted legislation languishing in the House, then lapsing come election time.

But at a moment when covid19 has forced a reckoning with colonial institutions and habits, should we not consider whether the time has come for us to abandon the disruption that occurs between elections?

Consider how important some of these bills are. They include measures relating to, ironically, campaign finance reform, as well as Tobago autonomy. The first report of a key post-covid19 committee was also tabled in Parliament.

And mere days before the election bell, the prospect arose of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith being brought before a parliamentary committee to be heard on the matter of police-involved killings.

Will all these things now be consigned to the dustbin of history?

We think political parties must resolve to preserve, where useful, the work of the Eleventh Parliament. One way of doing this might be to make all these matters campaign issues on the hustings.

The election could become a useful referendum on the way forward for a range of issues. It could be used to focus and clarify government policy, no matter who sits in Whitehall.

But this can only happen if there is, in the limited time available, a concerted effort to focus on these matters – and not merely on personalities.

Already, there are signs of slips. We hope the issues come to the fore, not the expected mud-slinging. Certainly, documents such as the roadmap report tabled in Parliament should be widely distributed.

With regard to campaign reform, there are already indications that the need for such reform is as strong as ever. For example, there is too often a blurring of the lines between state business and political party business.

The lack of bonhomie at the end of last week’s House sitting was perhaps a sign of the heated nature of the political moment.

But unless politicians overcome their differences (and on ideological grounds there is little to choose between our two major parties) and allow issues to take centre stage, the unfinished work of the Eleventh Parliament, which started with a bang, will end with a whimper.

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