Is reconstruction around the bend?

L-R: Claudius Francis, Kenny Anthony and James Fletcher at the reception at the PM’s Official Residence following the swearing in of the new Cabinet.

We cannot solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them!” So said the new prime minister Tuesday morning, quoting “the famous scientist Albert Einstein” at the official ceremony to introduce his Cabinet.
On TV, he appeared puffy-eyed and tired in his blue suit, hardly surprising after his rigorous campaign for reelection that began in earnest shortly after the passing of Sir John Compton in 2007. Along the way, he had doubtless suffered several small crucifixions, private and otherwise. But by some accounts, his time in opposition had finally done him a world of good. He had undergone an attitudinal sea change. He was reborn and was ready now to be a prime minister far improved over the 2006 version that had fallen victim to a near-death Sir John.
At the lectern yesterday morning, as he allocated portfolios old and new to his election team’s winners and losers, Kenny Anthony sounded not so much like a prime minister performing an official ritual but rather like an avuncular school principal rewarding students at a graduation. There was nothing in his tone or his manner that I might blame for returning me abruptly to 1997, when at a similar ceremony he had warned about a coming investigation into suspected corruption on the part of his predecessors. (Will his vengeful advisors soon convince him once again of the need?)
Then again, perhaps there was something. Perhaps I was subconsciously struck by the apparent difference between Kenny Anthony now and then. Suffice it to say that yesterday morning a special wisdom seemed to emanate from him that cannot be taught, that can be acquired only from experience, usually bitter. And yet bitterness would be the last thing one might’ve associated with yesterday’s televised image of Kenny Anthony.
I couldn’t help wondering who else might be observing closely from a distance. Didacus Jules, for instance? The former permanent secretary in the education ministry, it turns out, was the hidden hand (brain?) behind the now infamous At the Rainbow’s Edge, a book that advertises itself as a collection of “selected speeches of Kenny D. Anthony.” I have no doubt the particular volume holds special lessons for its ostensible author. Will we know soon enough whether the fruits of these lessons learned the hard way are bitter or sugar apple-flavored? What might Didacus Jules have to say about yesterday morning’s show—Boo Hinkson et al?
Indeed what might the former education minister, now Justice Mario Michel, say?
I liked it very much when the new prime minister spoke of a special manual for Cabinet behavior. Or did he say behavior in parliament, even as the often-abused old Speaker looked on? The new commerce minister Emma Hippolyte appeared quite chic under her wide-brimmed white hat. Has she been having tête-à-tête with Dame Pearlette, perhaps?
And speaking of our revered governor-general, here’s hoping the new Kenny Anthony finds it in his reformed heart to retain her much appreciated services to the nation.
Then again, there’s the usual problem of the long knives with their personal axes to grind in the name of new prime ministers. From my TV vantage I counted no less than three yesterday morning, their bat faces warped by too many personal disappointments, too many failures, too few successes. Now they can hardly wait to do again what they had done in the past to a conceivably less distrusting Kenny Anthony’s image. There’ll be time enough to leach the leeches!
For now, we must all try to be positive. I for one am determined not to be first to cast more stones. As earlier noted, only a suicidal fool would declare a vested interest in the failure of his country’s government, regardless of party. I am not that fool. So, let me readily admit I am so far impressed with the prime minister’s words and his actions, especially with regard to the opposition, the former prime minister in particular.
The new prime minister sounded pretty confident yesterday morning when he said that despite the tribulations currently experienced, “there are many opportunities from which our country can benefit.” He cited a vibrant educated population “that is eager to play is part in the development of our country. New sectors like the creative industry and information and communication technology present us with exciting possibilities for wealth creation and employment generation, particularly among our youth.”
While “information” and communication “technology” are hardly new, at least the new prime minister knows about them. I cannot recall having heard anyone mention cell phones, let alone Youtube, in our parliament, or the associated problems for school children, parents and the police! (Speaking of which: When will the PM announce the package that reportedly allowed Ausbert Regis to go home a happy man, nearly as happy as Vernon Francois?)
The prime minister went on: “Our country has excellent name recognition overseas because of the exploits of our Nobel laureates and our Jazz Festival and the magnificence of our national landmarks. These are attributes which we must continue to leverage for maximum effect.” Well, I don’t know about “exploits” but certainly Derek Walcott was alive and well and available during the time of the last administration and that before. He is alas a lot less accessible today, due to natural causes, but still worth tapping into.
I was a little confused when I heard the prime minister say: “In determining and crafting the configuration of my Cabinet I have been minded by the size of our majority, our razor-thin majorities in two constituencies, the likelihood that one of our own would have to be sacrificed as deputy Speaker . . .”
Sacrificed? Did he not also say in another place that he planned to operate a Cabinet much smaller than earlier existed?
As I say, there will be time enough for criticism. For now, let us all give the new government time to catch its breath. If only on the face of it, the new Cabinet appears, well, promising.
A final note: Did I detect a mischievous smile on the prime minister’s face as he handed to Stanley Felix the Housing portfolio once operated by Richard Frederick?
Did I? Naaah!

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