Let’s give Peter Foster his jacket: it’s been some time, longer than even I can recall, since we had a House session as irenic as last week’s. Who or what was responsible for the welcome change? The revisited Standing Orders of St. Clair Daniel? The new Speaker?
A hardly dispassionate friend of mine seems irrevocably of the view that opposition MPs were last week too scared to behave in a fashion that might’ve cost more than they could afford. They had little choice but to toe the Speaker’s line, he contends. Contrary behavior would certainly have resulted in their arrest and expulsion.
I, on the other hand, am convinced that last week’s House sessions were exemplary for the altogether laudable reason that the opposition had decided to show respect for the people’s parliament.
My friend did not disagree. Still he would not be moved from his initial position, that the opposition had behaved like respectable MPs only because they had been given good cause to believe that to carry on, well, let us say as had become the fashion, would result in their possible incarceration at the Bordelais Correctional Center, with sentenced rapists and convicts-in-waiting.
One need not be Stephen King (I refer here to the renowned author of Children of the Corn, Salem’s Lot, Bag of Bones, etcetera—not to our always lovable senator-pathologist and wannabe liberator of prostitutes!) to conjure up the possible consequences had the Speaker ordered, say, the removal by force of a calculatedly uncooperative Leader of the Opposition.
Or, for that matter, the arrest en-masse of other deliberately disruptive opposition MPs, including the bald and bedazzling female representative for Micoud North—screaming at the top of her ample lungs as police officers dutifully drag her out of the chamber.
What might sympathizers have made of that in advance of the much-anticipated debate over a billion-dollar Budget, nearly all of it borrowed—to say nothing of the most contentious matter of the impending VAT? How hard can it be to imagine their reaction to a conveniently one-sided House rhapsodically enumerating the countless virtues of debt-financed jobs for the boys, not to mention the seasonally anti-poor, anti-worker value added tax!
My friend must somehow have forgotten about the recorded several instances when, in a more radical time, local politicians had purposefully gotten themselves arrested in full sight of the media. It was a common occurrence in the heyday of George Odlum and Peter Josie. What am I saying? In the earlier time of George Charles and John Compton, too. Even Julian Hunte had had his moments with the cops!
Until fairly recently, getting themselves arrested in the name of suitably irate, sidelined and starving supporters was a particularly useful way for selfless politicians to demonstrate limitless loyalty and a martyr-like willingness to sacrifice all in the name of the people. Bearing in mind the burgeoning Occupy movement throughout the putative free world (as I write their Labor Day rallies dominate the headlines), not forgetting the so-called Arab Springs, and given the volatile times we’re living in—exacerbated by local reports of wall-to-wall nepotism—how difficult would it be to inspire angry surreptitious demonstrations, with or without the smallest risk to organizers? (Nothing new about that, either!)
Remember the no-cut banana strikes? How many of the day’s provocateurs got into trouble with the police? Sometimes dissenting citizens were shot to death. Remember Julius and Randy Joseph? Remember the scores of other protesting unarmed farmhands who were gunned down at Morne Panache? Was anyone ever charged with a related crime? The then opposition Labour Party and the ironically named Banana Salvation Committee had actually erected a whitewashed monument in memory of their fallen heroes.
So, now, I ask: What might’ve been the result last week if on the advice of their own imported legal killibwi—or gets-it-done Doddy!—the opposition MPs had conspired to oppose the reheated House procedure, on the stated basis it was inconsistent with the nation’s Constitution, discriminating and undemocratic? What if in the course of standing up for their rights the opposition had en-masse to challenged Speaker Foster ruling, regardless? Let’s not pretend this would’ve been unprecedented parliamentary behavior. Indeed, one might well ask what might’ve been the prime minister’s reaction had the Leader of the Opposition chosen to hector the Speaker, loudly declaring him incompetent and supportive of illegality and political renegades? What if after the Speaker had repeatedly directed a ranting opposition MP to take his seat the fulminating honorable member had arrogantly stayed on his feet? What if he had actually dared the Speaker to eject him? Count on it, for all of that, too, there’s recent precedent.
But my friend argued that such boorish and disgusting past infringements had relied on the inadvertent cooperation of pusillanimous Speakers before the coming of Peter Foster. By which I imagine he meant to say Speaker Rosemary Husbands-Mathurin had been too chicken in her time to order the Leader of the Opposition arrested, jettisoned and jailed. Ditto the singular Soufriere MP Harold Dalson, not forgetting Madam Speaker’s at times irrational deputy Marcus Nicholas.
Was my friend also referring to Speaker Donald Alcee who, in 1981, had permitted a somewhat mercurial Che Guevara lookalike to confess during a House debate that he was of a mind to shoot from his hip at an opposing fellow MP? During the cited infamous House session the trigger-happy honorable member had also picked up the Mace and with absolute impunity tossed it around the chaotic chamber.
As I say, better to believe fear had nothing to do with the atypical bonhomie of last week’s House sessions. Hopefully, what had inspired the unusual atmosphere was respect for the people of this country and the House Standing Orders, regardless of how finally interpreted by the effectively infallible Speaker.
Congratulations are in order!