The Seesaw of Politics


This government is currently going through the eye of a storm with criticisms emerging even from the most unexpected quarters. It has been constantly under fire lately and is having great difficulties to repel the continuous attacks heard on the airwaves and seen in the media. The consequences could have been even much more calamitous except that help has come from the least expected sources, namely the opposition parties. They seem to have great problems in rallying and uniting their forces in order to offer a robust alternative. This, at a time when a strong opposition is needed more than ever to ensure that democracy is well and alive in our island. Unfortunately, the squabbles in their midst are legend and despite the efforts of some of them, the opposition remains disunited and could hardly be termed as a government in waiting, that is the first bit of good news for the government

The second welcoming tidings for them, which is perhaps even more gratifying, is the fact that an out of favour politician wants to soldier on because he perceives himself as the only alternative to the coveted seat of power, that is despite being rejected by the electorate on two successive occasions. He continues to think that he can make another comeback like the famous comebacks of Frank Sinatra. To quote a famous saying from a well-known politician ‘Arette rêver camarade’ because you will be doing a disservice not only to your party but equally to the country. No doubt that will be recalled in history. I find it a terrible shame that generally, some politicians do not realize when it is time to call it a day, to take their reverence and hang up their boots as the saying goes in football parlance. Of course, seasoned politicians can and should still play a prominent role in the affairs of the state without being involved on a day-to-day basis. Their wisdom and past experiences can be invaluable in guiding the newcomers on how to ply their new role

Apart from the above preamble, the reasons for the ongoing troubles the government is facing, are two-fold:

  1. The competence and standard of some who currently hold high office.

I can only assume that some ministers are doubling up in their ministerial obligations because there is a dearth of competence and quality among the rest of the potential aspirants to ministerial duties in the ranks of the government. They are simply not up to the expected standards to take up the cudgel and step to the mark. I have no doubt that there are some capable, competent and talented ministers, especially among those currently holding two ministerial portfolios but to expect a minister to manage double responsibilities even to a reasonable standard, let alone sustain the expected levels, is simply not realistic. It is rather unfortunate for whatever circumstances other than what I have stated above, that no one else can be nominated even at a junior ministerial level, to at least support even on a temporary basis those holding those double responsibilities.

Perhaps in future all political parties should select their potential candidates on the following criteria, that is not only to perform to a very high standard as a member of parliament but also to assess them in a scientific way their potential to hold higher office. Not on the basis of their ethnicity or which constituency they might represent, but on their ability not only to deal with ministerial duties on a day to day basis but to anticipate potential problems and act accordingly.

  1. the quality of communication

The second equally important reason is the way the quality of communication is imparted at different levels of responsibilities within the ranks of the government

If ever there is one aspect which can be considered to be the Achilles’ heel of this government, it is in the quality of its communication and the way it is disseminated. First, the authorities need to realize that it is not only the quality and depth of the content of what is to be communicated which is important but the ability of the person delivering the message. He or she should be very eloquent so that the message can be clearly understood. For example, if the person fronting the event speaks in a staccato style as it has been the case in a not too distant past, the message will not be clearly understood and will be lost in transmission along the way.

If only a policy of total clarity and transparency could be adopted (barring exceptions when information cannot be divulged for reasons of state security restrictions), that would help the government no end in communicating instead of the opacity that prevails most of the time. Even to obtain the simplest of information is equivalent to negotiating an obstacle course. Practically, every explanation is sometimes given reluctantly and seems to be shrouded in mystery.

This tends to create more confusion in the mind of the ordinary citizen than helping him or her to understand. This reluctance to impart basic and clear explanations seems to be the hallmark of some of the so-called experts in communication, who are paid at great costs from the government coffers. What it is really bewildering, is that never before have the authorities held so many tools to communicate effectively with the population – through print, television, online media, social media, emails, text notification and mobile apps – and yet seem unable to do so even at a basic level. That fact can be reflected in the number of complaints heard and read daily across all the media

For what it is worth, I will give a free piece of advice to all those in charge of communication at the highest level in government. Remember when trust is at an historic low, it is imperative to revamp the strategic and communication modality by adopting a more participatory and inclusive approach and by fostering a meaningful two-way communication and engagement so that the population can understand and feel understood.

Claude Canabady

* Published in print edition on 3 August 2021

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