Author: Jeevan A. Robinson | Date: 20 May 2020
A local Montserratian Politician once stated to another Politician, that of course they are going to lie, but it was up to that other politician to prove that they were not lying.
We are aware that lying and politics often reside as bedfellows but to be blatant and flippant with the deed, as if it is a rite of passage speaks to a deeper darkness of Spirit from that particular political operator. The name of the two politicians who exchanged those thoughts shall remain nameless for the purpose of this article.
This piece is being penned as the COVID-19 crisis on Montserrat has taken on an element to it that brings sharply into focus the ideals of compassion in governance, and issues of accountability and transparency equally.
I have often stated without reservation, that crisis management demands accountability. In as much as some persons may wish to will it away, the politics of crisis management often always becomes centre-fold. People’s lives and their development is very much a social and political enterprise. Those who put themselves forward for service must possess a level of humanitarian interest that is outside of themselves and their personal political aspirations. After-all development is about people. Is it not?
Listening to the Montserrat Legislative Assembly (MLA) yesterday, I was quite frankly non-surprised at the display from the ruling Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) Administration. The disinterested and cavalier way they responded to genuine concerns about the welfare of citizens undergoing financial burdens and other stresses related to the COVID-19 lockdown brought upon Montserrat, showed a cold and heartless MCAP Administration. The Premier’s responses were nothing that inspired hope and showed no latitude to the “Daddy” moniker that he assumed politically. Now the island is in a crisis, it seems “Daddy” does not wish to be asked any questions that require his humanity to take centre stage over his political celebrity.
The more obvious realisation, however, is that all is not well within the MCAP camp. Publicly they may say it is, but for some months sitting back and observing the conversations around the COVID-19 crisis coming from the Premier Taylor-Farrell and his Deputy Premier, Hon Dr Samuel Joseph, it is clear that the communication between the two is divergent.
Hon Joseph, over these months of lockdown on Montserrat has contradicted the Premier on the reasons why the Tourism Sector is the primary sector being given relief assistance and being called on to apply for an EC$10,000 grant facility. In a media appearance, Hon Joseph stated to the interviewer that the Tourism focus did not come about as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, but rather so, that tourism was being looked at by this MCAP Administration, towards giving assistance before COVID-19 began. Thus, the reason why the Tourism sector is being singled out for this financial help is a continuation of that policy and not just because COVID-19 has made the sector even more vulnerable.
As I heard that from Joseph, I thought well that is not what Premier Taylor-Farrell stated in a press conference with the media (these COVID-19 press conferences have ceased seemingly under this MCAP regime).
Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell stated in a press conference that the Tourism Sector is being chosen for assistance, based on the fact that the COVID-19 lockdown adversely affected those who operate within the sector; particularly with the sudden closure of the St Patrick’s Festival and the losses many businesses would have taken on their books.
What we have here are two totally contradictory justifications given by both Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell and Hon Dr Samuel Joseph as to why the Tourism Sector was chosen firstly for COVID-19 financial assistance above and beyond businesses that operate in different sectors.
So which of these men are being honourably truthful? Do they not communicate with each other? Is Hon Dr Samuel Joseph so hellbent on becoming the next Premier of Montserrat that he is willing to undermine his boss to achieve his goals in putting out his own messages that do not align with the Party?
I once heard MCAP Chairman George “Ratamba” Howe state on a Viewpoint programme, when he thought a certain member of the previous PDM Administration was shining too brightly ahead of Premier Romeo – that if it was him he would have put that Minister in check for seeking to appear bigger than that party. So, Chairman Howe, where do you stand as Hon Dr Joseph seeks to take the shine away from Premier Taylor-Farrell to further his own political ambitions, and in the process is making your Party look like a shambolic mess. Have you lost your balls to act as you once stated you would have? Or are you a conformist to this disrespect to Premier Taylor-Farrell by Hon Joseph?
Looking further into Hon Dr Samuel Joseph’s penchant of taking the truth and twisting it for his own aims took place yesterday in The Montserrat Legislative Assembly as the MCAP team made a right mockery of the concerns of the island’s people. In an angry and overly aggressive tirade against the concerns of poor people being brought to the fore by the Opposition Members, Hon Dr Samuel Joseph looked to deflect attention from the shortcomings of the Administration he is a part of, by stating that it was because of the incompetence of the previous government why the budget was overspent and monies had to be now supplementally appropriated.
Deeply misleading statements from Hon Joseph. Intentional?
When one looks at the Supplementary Appropriation Bill the areas where the supplemental appropriations were directed were not areas that Government traditionally overspends. The area relates to Social Services and the extra $500,000, and Pension and Gratuities an extra $1.5M.
Take for example the additional $1.5M that was appropriated to Pension and Gratuities; the only how this figure can increase so dramatically in any year is if workers left from the Civil Service and/or politicians were paid their gratuities due to the dissolution of Parliament and new elections, and some of those Parliamentarians or Civil Servants collected what was due to them financially.
It has nothing to do with spending mismanagement by the previous government. A gross and carefully orchestrated misdirection by Hon Dr Samuel Joseph?
This MCAP Administration is still operating under the 2019 budget and they will either need another supplementary bill soon, or they would need to rush their 2020 budget to Parliament; or use a separate instrument to spend from the 2020 budget before it is approved by Parliament.
MCAP is in deep trouble. They refuse to give Government relief to the people but instead dreamt up some elaborate hoax to save non-existent sectors at the expense of others, while poor people are suffering and crying out openly for help.
MCAP remains a danger to the growth and prosperity of ordinary everyday Montserratians. Their display in Parliament yesterday was the icing that confirmed MCAP again remains MCAP the same.
Note: Jeevan A. Robinson is Founder & Editorial Director at Marketing, News & Information Media - MNI Media; a two times New York, USA, Award Winning Media House.