TUF Leader says Kenny Crying Wolf

MONROSESubtitled Reflections on the God Debate, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith and Revolution is hardly the kind of book I would normally cite for the purposes of an article centered on economic suicide. Nevertheless, I found the following lines especially relevant to this week’s hot-button issue:
“All communication involves faith; indeed, some linguisticians hold that the potential obstacles to acts of verbal understanding are so many and diverse that it is a minor miracle that they take place at all. And since reason is essentially dialogical, it, too, is a matter of communication, and thus involves a kind of faith.”
Now here comes the part that made me stop and take notice: “There is no point to brandishing the evidence unless you have a degree of trust in those who have gathered it, have some criteria of what counts as reliable evidence, and have argued the toss over it with those in the know.”
In his most recent address to our distressed nation, our understandably desperate prime minister said: “As a former trade unionist and president of the Saint Lucia Teachers’ Union in the period leading to Independence, 1978-1979, I understand the passions of the moment. But the issue that faces us is not about my past, my history or my position today; it is not about the fact that a Labour Party forms the government at this time; nor about a former prime minister and minister of finance Stephenson King who, on the outset of turbulent times, awarded public servants a 14.5 percent increase for his successor to emulate by agreeing to a similar increase in real terms. It is about one thing, one issue: the best interests of the people of Saint Lucia at this time.”
The question immediately arises: If the issue is unrelated to the prime minister’s history, then why reference it in his address? The answer is obvious: the issue of the day—public service wage negotiations—has everything to do with this prime minister’s history. It is also inextricably connected to the histories of his predecessors, beginning with John Compton. And most certainly it concerns the intertwined history of successive governments and public servants.
The history of this prime minister and that of the leadership of the teachers’ union is at the heart of the latest brouhaha over wages. It is at best specious, if not blatantly dishonest, to suggest otherwise. And just in case some may suggest the contrary, related videotapes shot at the time of the last war over wages, when Stephenson King was in the shoes now inhabited by the day’s prime minister, speak indisputably. The evidence in those videotapes proves that the then leader of the opposition had given powerful support to the public service demands on the near empty public coffers.
From the steps of the Castries market he and his party echoes had joined the campaign against the government and marched arm-in-arm with the leader of the teachers’ union. The opposition had actually demanded the government “open up its books to the TUF” as proof of its inability to pay wage increases promised under duress.
Indeed he had also indicated where the day’s prime minister might find the money to pay the dissident public servants. While expressing his eagerness again to lead the country following “two years in purgatory,” the leader of the opposition suggested the prime minister should cut by half the salaries of certain public servants abroad.
Another horrific precedent at the expense of the people had been set on the altar of political expedience.
Meanwhile, in vain the then beleaguered prime minister sought to make his case—that the country simply could not without serious consequences meet the demands on the public purse. He underscored the fact that already he had met the public servants part of the way, all he wanted now was to be allowed more time to deliver fully on his promise.
As I say, with the powerful support of the then opposition—its leader selfishly taking the opportunity to campaign for his delivery from “purgatory” after just two years—the public servants predictably got what they wanted. Oh, but now the chickens have come home to roost. And who better to make the point than the TUF leader?
During a televised exchange with reporters on Friday, this is how he reacted to the prime minister’s appeal in the best interests of the nation. It is a shockingly selfish and contemptuous dismissal of the man who just two years earlier had gone to war on the TUF’s behalf, regardless of the obvious consequences.
Conceivably speaking for his membership, the TUF leader said: “We believe the government, as the employer, should be exemplary and show other employers and the nation that you can sit at the table and resolve your problems . . .”
The TUF leader got it wrong. The government does not in fact employ public servants. We the people do. And it is also we the people who always suffer the consequences of decisions forced on politicians concerned primarily with staying in office. The government is the people’s surrogate.
“I believe the prime minister hurt his own cause,” said the TUF leader nose in the air, again a misguided assumption. The current issue cannot usefully be considered the prime minister’s “cause,” if by that the TUF leader was referring to the government’s position (taken on behalf of the people) on the wages issue.
Finally this is what the TUF leader said, without the smallest display of embarrassment: “As long as I’ve been alive, government says that at every negotiation. Do the research. Governments say ‘Well, if we are to pay more we will have to retrench.’ We’ve heard it before. This is wolf-wolf-wolf. It will not work. The previous administration said it and the one before said it and the previous one said it. So we are hearing it again. We are accustomed to hearing it. We hear it so much that we don’t hear it again.”
Let us ignore the barely understandable gibberish and instead admit the TUF leader’s final statement is nothing but the truth. In similar circumstances, by which I mean the government’s declared inability to meet public service wage demands—recession or no recession—governments have always given in, found the money via loans to satisfy their blackmailers. Yes, a strong word. But what does it mean? Have I used it inappropriately? You decide, dear reader. According to most dictionaries it is blackmail to extort money from someone else in return for keeping his embarrassing secrets. What is it, then, when public servants, threaten wall-to-wall chaos unless their wage demands are met by the people?
We return to Eagleton’s astute observation: there is “no point in brandishing evidence unless you have a degree of trust in those who have gathered it, have some criteria of what counts as reliable evidence, and have argued the toss over it with those in the know.”
Was the TUF leader’s shocking dismissal of the prime minister’s address as “crying wolf” based on their     history? Was he saying the prime minister cannot be trusted?
What about the TUF man’s observation that governments routinely talk of retrenchment, so often in fact that by now public servants no longer hear it, let alone take it seriously? History again?
But if I do not agree with the prime minister when he suggests the current situation is not about his history, I have little choice but to acknowledge much of what the TUF leader said about present and past leaders in Kenny Anthony’s current situation. In all events it’s far too late in the day to be arguing about indisputable recorded history.
The prime minister is absolutely correct when he suggests the Catch-22 issue to be exclusively addressed is whether or not to pay what the TUF leader is demanding, whether the nation will again be blackmailed.
We should be much less concerned with the prime minister personally than with his final decision in this matter that will certainly determine how must faster we descend down the toilet.        In his own words, at this point the issue is neither about him nor about any other politician living or dead.
It is about our nation’s immediate future!

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