Empty vessels but still no noise coming out of the Opposition
Over the past few months, there have been some major political events happening throughout the Caribbean region.
In the island of Grenada, there was a General Election held on March 13 between the incumbent New National Party led by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, led by Nazim Burke.
When all votes were tallied, the New National Party was returned to government, having won every one of the 15 seats contested. Voter turnout was at 73.61 per cent.
Essentially, by the will of the people, the island of Grenada has no opposition party in Parliament.
Similarly, one week later, in the twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda, there was a General Election held on March 21, when the incumbent Antigua Barbuda Labour Party led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne went to the polls against the main opposition party, the United Progressive Party led by Harold Lovell.
When all votes were tallied, the ABLP was returned to government by securing 15 of the 17 seats contested. The UPP and the Barbuda People’s Movement hold one seat each. Voter turnout was at 76.32 per cent.
Again, by the will of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, there is essentially no opposition party in Parliament.
For the respective party supporters, this would seem almost like manna from heaven. Their parties can essentially carry out a mandate without having to answer to those pesky opposition members sitting across the aisle — every political party’s dream scenario.
However, this is not exactly ideal for democracy, as there is the need for that silly little thing we call “objectivity”.
Closer to home, in Bermuda the ruling Progressive Labour Party enjoys, by the will of the people, a very comfortable 24-12 majority over Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, the One Bermuda Alliance.
Depending on one’s sociopolitical leanings, this is either a dream scenario or a great disappointment.
At times, when I sit in my seat in the hallowed chambers of the House of Assembly, I look to my right and just observe my fellow MPs, who just happen to be opposition members. I watch them and find myself shaking my head.
Imagine, if you will, the irony of spending my entire life fighting against the United Bermuda Party, followed by the OBA, only to end up literally sitting next to them on a weekly basis.
I must admit there have been awkward moments finding myself face-to-face with many of the individuals that I have had running, philosophical battles with for most of my life. It took me a few weeks in Parliament to get used to having cordial conversations with a few individuals.
They say that non-verbal communication is louder than the spoken word, and watching their body language during various debates spoke volumes.
At times, it is as if those Members have realised that they will never ever be the ruling government again and are simply marking time by attending sessions until the next election is called.
Looking at their ranks, it is easy to see that this will be the last round for most of their Members. They will either retire as MPs or face being retired by the voters in the next General Election.
For many, it seems clear that they have thrown in the towel.
As the former Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Bob Richards, stated during an interview in The Royal Gazette on August 14 last year, “it’s time for the old soldiers to shove off”.
Apart from the occasional “point of order” here and there, we witness little to no spirited debate coming from that camp. Without a doubt, their best debaters were former MPs Mark Pettingill and the late, great Shawn Crockwell.
With that dynamic duo no longer in the ranks, the OBA is near mute when it comes to offering counterarguments or viable suggestions on the floor. Sorry, but sending out tweets or running to the media does not count as debate.
There is a significant proportion of Bermudians who still support the OBA, and they do deserve to hear from their political representatives.
There goes that term “objectivity” again.
It is very disappointing that we cannot have regular spirited, yet informative, discussions from the OBA in the “People’s House”.
Essentially, at times I feel we are in either Antigua or Grenada, where the opposition has ceased to exist.
Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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