Thursday, 21 February 2013 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Appearing as it does on Thursday morning this article may very well be following a statement promised by the Political Leader of the United Progressive Party – and then again, it might not.
The statement was promised for mid-week, after Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer returned from Haiti, where he attended a CARICOM Heads of Government meeting. At that meeting Antigua & Barbuda secured a statement of support from our CARICOM colleague nations, expressing solidarity with this country in its decade-long internet gaming war of words with the United States of America.
One of the skills our current PM shares with his predecessor Lester Bird is a capacity to be a statesman abroad while being very much a politician at home. The timely and much appreciated announcement of moral support from CARICOM colleagues is just the sort of overseas diplomatic triumph that will enhance Mr Spencer’s image as a statesman. Whether or not Antigua & Barbuda’s CARICOM partners are prepared to translate the words of their statement into any form of concrete action remains to be seen.
At home though, Spencer’s credentials as a politician are being increasingly called into question. The statement referred to in the opening paragraph may indeed have appeared – but then again it may not. “Mid-week” is a flexible term, including Thursday as well as Tuesday within its limits. Writing on Wednesday morning in advance of the promised statement one might run the risk of being upstaged by events … or on the other hand one might write with confidence, secure in the expectation that any statement actually made will reflect no concrete and definitive position on the matter under review (prove me wrong).
The matter under review, of course, relates to last week’s earth-quaking, game-changing act of defiance that shook the United Progressive Party administration to its core. The four government-appointed senators who stood in solidarity with one another – and with opposition colleagues – to fire a well aimed 4-gun broadside into the flank of their own runaway ship of state performed an unprecedented political feat. Their action ripped away the veil from the carefully maintained aura of prime ministerial infallibility, leaving UPP spin doctors gasping in the dust, speechless.
It is in no way surprising that the first, and automatic reaction from sources close to the Prime Minister spoke of swift disciplinary action being directed at the “rebel” senators. We in Antigua & Barbuda have the immense psychic misfortune to live in authoritarian culture, a reality rooted in memories of the slave auction block, the lash, and the paramount, unchallengeable power of the plantation master. Looming over everything, all-pervasive and all-controlling, resides a sense of imperial power, inspiring awe and fear of the institutions of government.
This is the awe and fear that the limited men who flew under the colours of liberation have carefully maintained, carefully fostered as they sought to establish political hegemony over their trusting and under-educated followers. White, British colonial administrators, regulated by the ethic of empire and bound by their acceptance of the White Man’s Burden, were replaced by leaders whose ethical base was to say the least “skimpy”.
The myth is rooted in the ALP years, and grew large on the back of the legend of VC Bird Sr. “Papa” Bird truly was not the only hero to feature in the “liberation” of the Antiguans & Barbudans, but he certainly bestrode his times as no politician had before or has since. The myth of the all-powerful prime minister, carefully nurtured for several generations and set in stone by the 1981 Independence Constitution, remains a reality in the nation VC Bird fathered.
It gets worse. Over the decades of ALP misgovernment, and in order to provide a neat cover for self-serving actions, the principle became established that the mere possession of a power conferred upon the person wielding that authority the right to apply that power in any arbitrary manner deemed expedient to the occasion. In this deceitful manner, quietly, stealthily, unobtrusively, the mind of entire generations of deluded people was infected with a poison that has, among other things, helped to create a culture of endemic corruption in our unfair land.
One of the “other things” that has fed and grown large upon the anti-democratic nature of our society is the myth of the all-powerful prime minister. Bequeathed by the Right Honourable Dr Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr, National Hero, Father of the Nation, to the nation he fathered, the myth has been faithfully maintained even by the now ruling UPP – through years of opposition and now into government.
The utter Babel that exists today in the mind of people who should know better is amply demonstrated by the way in which those who control the PM’s communication with the people have completely confused Spencer’s function as prime minister with his role as party leader. Ominously, this harks back to the days of the Father of the Nation, National Hero, role model for prime ministers … days long before there was an Observer Radio … days when one voice spoke from one media … days when any myth or belief could be planted in the receptive mind of a benighted people.
So today, people who should know better labour under the fallacy that a prime minister’s power to appoint and disappoint senators who sit in the Upper House to perform a review function mandated by the Constitution requires that said senators must “toe the line” like schoolchildren.
The petty, insecure, frightened little minds that infest the Antigua & Barbuda body politic believe that an all-powerful prime minister “owns” “his” senators. Mature, responsible citizens of standing within their society are expected to be ruled by fear of losing their position – so much so, in fact, that they must bow to the will of the all-powerful prime minister … even at the expense of their honour.
In a world ruled by ghosts of the slave auction block, the lash, and the all-powerful plantation master, there is no room for such imperial concepts as “honour”.See related stories:
LOW EARTH ORBIT – Wha’ Garn Bad Ah Marnin’