Mon | Jul 6, 2020

Kevonn Grant | Where’s the politics?

Published:Friday | April 3, 2020 | 12:17 AMKevonn Grant/Guest Columnist
Prime Minister Andrew Holness makes a statement to Parliament during a hastily arranged sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The Opposition said they were informed too late and had counter proposed a Wednesday morning sitting.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness makes a statement to Parliament during a hastily arranged sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The Opposition said they were informed too late and had counter proposed a Wednesday morning sitting.

A letter was published in The Gleaner on April 2, 2020, titled ‘Wrong move, PNP’. As a concerned citizen myself, I felt moved to respond to some of the conclusions made by the well-intentioned author with respect to what transpired regarding Tuesday’s sitting of the Parliament, which saw the Opposition being absent.

It was clear from many angles that contrary to the statements made in the article, the People’s National Party (PNP) did not intentionally boycott that sitting of Parliament.

First and most important, Leader of Government Business Karl Samuda admitted that the notice for a sitting of Parliament was given suddenly, giving members about an hour to turn up. This, following official communications to the members of the House that there would be no sitting of Parliament that day.

Therefore, it would not be correct to say that the PNP made a calculated “chess move” for all not to be present. In fact, on the radio programme ‘Beyond the Headlines’, host Dionne Jackson-Miller, as well as many other citizens, saw clear evidence that it was poor planning on the part of Government, giving unreasonable notice to members on both sides of the House.

In any realm of business, short notices like these are considered indications of poor planning and leadership. This is further inappropriate, considering the unprecedented state of the country as we battle this illness. MPs have responsibilities both as citizens and as leaders of constituencies, and it is not hard to imagine that they truly had made arrangements to be otherwise engaged.

Furthermore, the PNP did show evidence that members of the Opposition did in fact make legitimate plans to continue their work as leaders of our country. Take, for example, the public virtual press conference where they sought to share their recommendations on how best to manage COVID-19.

The author also chided the Opposition for politicising the COVID-19 issue. This I cannot agree is a logical conclusion, considering the facts. The author suggested that instead of criticising the Government, they should be helping the Government plan.

PROVIDE CRITICISM

But an opposition exists to provide critical feedback and alternative positions, where necessary, so that measures being considered in matters of governance are carefully analysed to prevent or mitigate challenges as far as is possible. In other words, a hallmark of effective governance involves constructive criticism.

I do not believe Jamaica should interpret the virtual press conference as a political battle between parties.

First, as far as the participants were concerned, there was to be no parliamentary meeting. Therefore, the Opposition clearly did not plan to compete with the prime minister’s time in Parliament.

Second, the press conference highlighted recommendations to the Government to help fight COVID-19, as opposed to blasting it for what it is currently doing.

Third, many of the recommendations are ideas the Opposition did not hide from the Government. At least one of those recommendations has been published in the media as a measure other members of society felt is most appropriate at this time, namely, the call for a state of emergency. So there is no reason to believe that the press conference was a political ploy. It seemed merely a legitimate attempt to further explain and reiterate the recommendations they have been making to the Government.

If the PNP does apologise to the public, that would be warmly received, but it should not be for accusations for which they are not guilty. As far as the facts go, they did not seem to politicise our situation. Perhaps, though, an apology should be tendered for their absence.

In the same breath, I do believe that Minister Samuda was presumptuous at the session to insinuate to the public that the Opposition’s absence, given the circumstances, was evidence that they did not care enough about the business of the Government.

Worse, he continues to publicly voice that position, even after the Opposition gave clarity on what transpired. I believe the minister should also tender an apology for those undue remarks.

Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com, kevgrant20@gmail.com