Ronald Thwaites | Three unresolved issues
We all thumped the desks in satisfaction when the legislation to enjoin public servants to contribute a full five per cent of salary to their pensions was passed last week. At the same time, we amended the Constitution to set up a separate fund for the repository and management of pension resources.
But the main issue remains unresolved. Where and when is the money to come from to establish the new order and, particularly, to fund the matching contributions owed by Government while continuing to pay the more than $200 billion of current and future entitlements?
Minister Shaw states with certainty that all the workers have agreed to pay into the fund even though the State says it cannot do so at this time. Helene Davis-Whyte of the Trade Union Confederation denies any such agreement.
So, we passed the laws, but have yet to get the clear picture from an actuarial study, which would tell the taxpayer and the beneficiaries alike when the entire apparatus will be viable and at whose sacrifice.
Then came the prime minister's well-crafted apology to the Rastafarians for the Coral Gardens incident 54 years ago. The intent was good, the words nice, but the effort seems to have failed spectacularly to appease those whose wounds it was intended to salve. Was the moral gesture all that it was meant to achieve?
"Peter, you manage to get weh! When you and Richard Byles did trim?" Vaz taunts Phillips for his dreadlocked past.
Are the undoubted excesses of the police against Rastas the only mischief of Coral Gardens? What started the incident and how much of what followed was self-defensive?
Revisionist history brings no justice, after all.
In this same vein, Parliament awaits the promised apology for the 2010 Tivoli incursion. We thought it might have come last week, too. But who will be acknowledging guilt when a decades-old violent, alternative state was deliberately incubated for political hegemony? Who will say sorry for that and what reparation will be offered?
And while there must be common cause in regretting damage and death done by state agents to non-combatants in what was as much a civil war as the Morant Bay Rebellion, the same cannot and must not be said for those terrorists who provoked the nation into self-defence.
Those who sat in the Cabinet of the day and for nigh on a year were complicit in maintaining the festering carbuncle that burst in May 2010 owe the dead, the damaged and all the living more than the apology which they have never given.
And what about the countless other outrages at the hands of state agents over the years of our nationhood?
The appeasement regarding Coral Gardens has opened the discourse on apologies. Truth and reconciliation demand that the unresolved issues and consequences be faced.
The House of Representatives has never been as shocked and hushed as during Lisa Hanna's exposÈ on reckless expenditure on 'Emancipendence' observances. The minister's tirade the next day did very little to answer the specific allegations of extravagance and misplaced priorities.
This issue, which has implications for many other areas of government expenditure, remains unresolved. If zero budgeting had been applied to each line of the Estimates, the potential abuse could have been averted before and the cynicism about cronyism and the growing distrust of government avoided.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.