Editorial: There’s a Browne Bird in the ring

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When those who hold public office begin to see every complaint as a challenge and every disagreement as a threat to which they must respond with corresponding hostility and aggression, it could be a sign of several things – variant points within the same locus of political degeneration.

The arrogance of power! How often have we heard that term? How little do we recognize when it unfolds right before our eyes in ever increasing doses of cocky and baleful brazenness.

With every utterance he makes on certain pet subjects, Prime Minister Gaston Browne gives increasing evidence and confirmation of being taken captive to the self-preening notion of invincibility and juggernaut status with regard to himself and the governing party he leads.

The margin of comfort and stability which the Antigua Labour Party and its leader have secured for themselves in successive free and fair elections since 2014, is something we cannot begrudge them to relish and lawfully assert.

We cannot pretend that despite all the criticisms and misgivings expressed by those of us with reservations about the ALP’s historically manifested bent, that the people (in their God-given wisdom!) have decided to return what we might consider a badly stained and heavily tainted political outfit to office with Parliamentary majorities that – while overwhelming to opponents – ought never to become or employed in ways suffocating to the people.

Sometimes what you say or do to one person or a small group of people – what you might consider a negligible minority – can trigger trepidation in a critical mass of the people, including your own supporters who wonder ‘what’s there to prevent it being me?’, when they behold the disdainful manner that bone-crushing majority power is projected in the legislature; the way members of a pitifully sparse and meager opposition are spoken (talked down) to; the contempt with which they are dismissed; and the numerically ruthless and sadistic way they are ridiculed into silence for the most part.

It is the powerful, the secure and the stable who should be most gracious. They are the ones who can – who can afford it – because they occupy the zone of political comfort and safety. The last election was just 12 months ago and the side which won it by a super-spanking 15-2 ought to be demonstrating a far greater degree of self-confidence, equanimity and aplomb at this plotted point on the graph of constitutional tenure.

The very childish and petty overkill responses to Trevor Walker and Jamale Pringle; the threatening and implicitly victimizing retaliatory declarations against Nathan Dundas, Patrick Ryan and Brysons; the second declaration of war against the Barbudan people in a year because they did not return an election result to satisfy a suitor’s desired quid pro quo after admittedly “coddling them for votes”; the bare-knuckled tinkering with hitherto efficacious legislation in order to make life as difficult as possible for Scotia Bank and pressure them into compliance with a deal at variance with their own global game business plan – we could go on and on, but you get the point.

Such behaviors on the part of those who represent us – the custodians and stewards of our business; the upholders and embodiments of our constitutional praxis – are universally and perniciously disquieting to the ethos of pluralistic democracy whose flexible steel rebar is dogged – might as well be doggone – respect for (and protection of) disagreement and dissent. 

Are we fooled about what is motivating those threats now to disband the Barbuda Council? Was there a plan, an ambition, a desire, a lust that was thwarted by the results of last year’s general election and the recent local election which can no longer mask its frustration? What else could explain this curiousness and perplexing political greediness of having already captured 15 out of 17 seats, but still feeling irritated that the people of Barbuda did not let you have one more and that they subsequently also did not give you control of their local government. How committed a democrat are you who will not be satisfied until you have taken everything? Might that be what the people of Barbuda fear – how this spirit of take-it-all might manifest if nothing stands between them and your unchecked objectives.

Perhaps some from the inside have already or are beginning to learn – painfully, we suspect, and the hard way – these very lessons, now that have probably been squeezed a tiny bit off-center from their initial insider comfort. Names like Michael Browne, Dean Jonas and Colin ‘Tin-Tin’ James readily come to mind – and we don’t necessarily count on their agreement; we certainly don’t expect their acknowledgment. Perhaps in time, the names of Melford Nicholas and Max Hurst might also be added to the list of belatedly opened eyes.

“Him too love cuss off people . . . him like ‘buse people too much”, are criticisms we frequently hear of our Prime Minister, even from his most ardent supporters, the real hardcore and fanatical Labour Party people. They speak of his propensity to shoot from the hip and ask questions or pick up the pieces later.

Gaston Browne took over the leadership of the Antigua Labour Party promising to make a break with what he himself termed ‘certain legacies of the past’. The impression of an outfit steeped in or attractive to sleazy underhandedness for the purpose of rapid and rapacious self-enrichment is already hard enough to shed. Many swear that although the Bird in the ring is now a Browne Bird, it’s still very much the same tra-la-la.

To the image of corrupt creeps at one end of the crimson pendulum does not need the addition of ham-fisted bruisers at the other end, who believe that clubbing everyone into silence and everything into submission with the caveman crudeness of blatant victimization, litigious intimidation, and creep sniper shots fired from the abused cover of parliamentary immunity.

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