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Opposition within the Opposition
In taking a vote on Amendment 2 of Clause 22 in the Committee Stage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill on Friday June 29, 2018, proposed by the Opposition, the Government voted 21 against with 18 in support by the Opposition. There were no abstentions.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar, SC, Leader of the Opposition told a reporter during the tea break that at least three provisions in the bill they will not support. She said the three provisions are interrelated and would frighteningly give the Attorney General untouchable powers.
However, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal stood on a diametrically opposite end of the spectrum and stated that the entire bill be repealed and replaced. Is he the minority leader within a splinter of the Opposition? There are several other examples of when a pressing national issue happens, there are several factions of views originating from the opposition bench—the issue with the hijab and Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College (Leader of the Opposition made a public pronouncement, Opposition MP took a different position, and other members made their individual statements. This has been common practice by the Opposition since October 2015—no cohesive voice on any one pressing national issue. This is an indictment on the current Leader of the Opposition. As Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said “A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.”
I hold no brief for the current Prime Minister but could say that from 2010-2015, the Opposition under his watch spoke with one voice and he spoke first and foremost for the Opposition’s position on all matters of public interest.
The Opposition is the alternative government and indeed, the government-in-waiting. Moreover, the leader of the main opposition party is often given access to sensitive information on the basis that he or she, as the Prime Minister-in-waiting, has to be ready to perform the role of running the country at short notice.
It is fitting to highlight some of the responsibilities of the Opposition and cause the public to reflect on if the current Opposition is effectively executing its role:
(1) It holds the Government accountable through responsible and reasoned debate;
(2) It works with mass media, civil society organisations, and the Government to monitor and improve the quality of civic education, electoral transparency and impartially imparting knowledge to the public on complex and pressing issues.
(3) It acts as a training ground for future leaders via the creation of shadow ministers and interns.
Those currently in Opposition must ask themselves if they are fulfilling the mandate of being a viable alternative government.
Example is not the main thing in influencing people, it is the only thing. If the Opposition does not engage in some true reflection about its role and its performance after three years in office, it may comfortably secure its position and place in our landscape over the next decade now.
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