Tue | May 26, 2020

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Wheatley-gate - Anansi Politics at its finest

Published:Wednesday | July 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley.

Wheatley-gate is now at full throttle. The prime minister (PM) has reallocated the ministerial responsibility for energy to his office, and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is threatening to withhold their cooperation with the Government over the PM's failure to fire the former energy minister. DÈj‡ vu: memories of countless cases of ineptitude, underhandedness, and bandouluism so characteristic of our politics. No matter the party, Anansi politics is the cultural norm, and opposition politician don't like to see government politician wid long bag.




I used to wonder why our structure of government parallels the proverbial moving goalpost. Why have we never sought to institutionalise fixed [permanent] ministries within government? Instead, PMs create ministries and positions as they go along. Just think of the costs associated with such changes, coupled with the displacement of employees and services from one ministry to another each time a PM decides to not just reshuffle the cabinet but to set the deck.

Thanks to recent events, I now understand the rationale for retaining such insalubrious governance practices. Forget flexibility, think escapism. When politicos fail the test of public scrutiny, when activities within their portfolio ministries fail the smell test, PMs can readily move the in-question portfolio responsibilities elsewhere and leave the problem pickney in place; or they can create new ministerial posts and give the embattled one a new lease on life; no need to displace other hard-working politicos. Pure sleight of hand intended to avert firing the failure. Had there been fixed structures in place, there would be nowhere to run, and the problem pickney would more likely have had to make an undignified exit.




So what a go happen when more politicos meet dem Waterloo? Will the PM move everything to his office? Regardless of the reasons for Wheatley-gate, Wheatley abjectly failed because there were aggravated failures within his assigned portfolio ministry; failures which he must shoulder. How does a mere reallocation of responsibilities, without dealing with the failing minister, change anything? Jamaicans deserve better than to have the PM thrust miscarriage of responsibility upon us yet again.

My position on Wheatley-gate has nothing to do with politics. The Opposition have their own skeletons to bear, and their growls are more of the old do as I say but not as I did. Pure hypocrisy. Nowhere in all of this do I detect any overarching sense of obligation towards the people of Jamaica or the country as a whole. It is the usual 'me master - you servant' approach, dogmatic defence of the indefensible at the expense of rationale and objectivity.




Glenn Tucker (Gleaner: July 4, 2018) in examining the issue of appointments to cabinet posts, raised a number of very pertinent questions. "Why do we continue to use members of parliament (MPs) to head ministries? Is this the reason why their constituents elected them? Shouldn't we, instead, be selecting the best person for the job, anywhere that person can be found?" He went on to posit that "it is unfair to all concerned to put them [MPs] in these positions because few, if any, are equipped with the range of skills to perform these tasks with any degree of competence". Which reminds me, where are the job descriptions, PM?

Fling stone, Mr Tucker, fling stone. No glass house here. So very well said, underscoring the point that when the wrong people are put into a ministerial post and they fail, we need to remove the failure forthwith before they wreak more havoc upon themselves and us.

Responsible politics, please. Enough of the Anansi-ism.