POLITICAL scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath says while the People’s National Movement (PNM) is playing “hard-ball politics,” the United National Congress (UNC) is playing “hansy-pansy” politics, hoping the PNM would play “goody-two-shoes” with them.
But, he said, “The PNM is not about playing ‘goody-two-shoes’ with her (Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar). The PNM is about winning, and if you are depending on the other side to play decent, you lose already.”
Ragoonath’s observation comes after last Thursday’s disruptive special sitting of the House of Representatives and the Electoral College convened to vote on a motion to appoint a tribunal to investigate President Paula-Mae Weekes after the Police Service Commission (PSC) imploded over the appointment of a new commissioner of police (CoP).
The motion, brought by Persad-Bissessar, was defeated, with 47 government MPs, senators and Independent senators voting against the 24 on the UNC’s bench.
“What happened in the House was not unexpected,” Ragoonath said.
“The UNC knew they were walking into a defeat and they had to play to their own support base. They were not simply going to be defeated and seen as a walkover.”
At a news conference after the historic sitting, the Prime Minister said he felt the UNC members were bent on provoking Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George into ejecting them from the Chamber. Rowley said, in this way the UNC could have played the victim and walked out to give life to the allegation they can’t speak in the House, but the Speaker thwarted that plan.
“I tend to want to support the PM’s position that it would have been in the best interest of the UNC to be ejected from the Parliament, that they would have a walkout and save face.
“The fact of the matter is the PNM and the Speaker recognised the games being played and the UNC failed to achieve that goal.”
Ragoonath said he does not think the UNC was able to attract support, outside of its normal base, by moving the motion and making allegations of democracy being subverted.
“First of all, the UNC has to try to retain its base. What it did on Thursday was play to its base that ‘we are not going to be rolled over by the PNM.’
“‘For all the people who have been complaining that, 'We (UNC) have been too quiet, too silent and whatever else,’ they were saying, ‘We are your proper representatives and we came to represent you and we did what we intended to do.’”
Ragoonath defended the UNC’s right to raise critical concerns, not merely what happened when the PM and President allegedly met with the PSC, but more importantly whether the President did get an order of merit list of nominees for the CoP position, and whether she failed to comply with the constitutional directive to send the list to the Parliament.
Weekes, in a statement on the issue, confirmed that she was presented with a list from the PSC but that list was withdrawn almost immediately.
Ragoonath said people want answers as to the differences in the affidavit presented by the PSC to the court and the account given by the President
“One of the members of the PSC said in an affidavit no list was submitted, yet the President is saying a list was submitted and withdrawn. And that whole issue with the dates tells us something is fishy inside there. What exactly, we don’t know.”
While the Opposition implied there were serious charges, he said it failed to flesh out the motion and to lay any serious charge against the President.
“Clearly we have not gotten any closer to the truth. We still need answers.”
He said, in this particular instance, “The leader of the Opposition, a seasoned politician, would have been fully aware that invoking Section 36 of the Constitution meant simply that you could not put a bare-boned, very skimpy motion. You needed to put in details about what were your charges.
“This was a motion expected to put the Head of State out of a job and, in that context, you have to be on very solid ground.”
Ragoonath said the UNC, recognising that the numbers were going to work against them, went to the House to “ramajay,” hoping that would make their case.
“That’s not how you make your case, and that is the challenge the UNC is facing. In a very kind of lazy way, they do not put pen to paper but rather raise the issues in the debate.”
He said this is what caused the budget debate to prematurely collapse.
“Unfortunately, the UNC at this point in time is more reactive than proactive. That explains literally why the budget debate collapsed. All the UNC wanted to do was react or rebut ministerial presentations. When there was no ministerial presentation to rebut, they sat and waited and allowed the debate to collapse.”
He also cautioned the UNC about moving a promised motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister, pointing out it is doomed to fail without the numerical majority.
“It is their right to move such a motion. I hope whenever they do move a motion they have more than simply speculative grounds to do so.”