During the debate on the Budget, the listening public was treated to a generous menu of Speaker’s Bull. The leader of the opposition, in his reply to the Budget Address, referred to the appointment of Mr. Cedric Liburd to the post of Consultant/Advisor in the Ministry of Tourism. Like most other citizens of this small and poor nation, Mr. Brantley felt compelled to question this appointment which followed in the train of Mr. Liburd’s recent defeat in Constituency 8 By Mr Eugene Hamilton. I have to repeat that in this matter, it is not Mr. Brantley alone who feels obliged to question this appointment. As everyone knows, Mr. Liburd was a Minister in the Douglas Cabinet for about fifteen years. He first held an appointment at Public Utilities etc and then replaced Dr. Timothy Harris at Agriculture etc. His expertise prior to becoming a Minister of Government was in Insurance where he moved up the ranks from salesman to a local manager. As far as everyone knows, Mr. Liburd has never done any courses in, has never worked in, and has no expertise in Tourism. We can even speculate that had he won the Election to the seat in Number 8, he would have returned to his portfolio in Agriculture. This speculation is based on the fact that he seemed to be Dr. Douglas’ favourite for this portfolio. since in all the fifteen years that he has been a Minister, he has suffered a reshuffle only once and was never asked to give up the Agriculture and Housing portfolio. It is therefore very clear that the basic reason why Dr. Douglas appointed Mr. Liburd to that post is to placate him for his loss in his bid for re-election. It is also reasonable to expect that Mr. Liburd will do little or nothing to enhance the efficiency of the Tourism production. The conclusion is clear that Mr. Liburd has been appointed to a sinecure from which he will be able to continue to earn a substantial wage. I believe that Mr. Mark Brantley was in order to question the qualifications which could justify Mr. Liburd’s appointment to that specialist job. Why not? Every appointee to any post should be willing to flaunt his qualifications and/or his eligibility for whatever high post he is appointed to. Moreover, the public has every right to scrutinize the terms and conditions under which anyone is selected to hold any post, let alone top Government positions . After all, it’s the public’s money that pays people who work for the Government. So I don’t understand why anyone would object to any reference, in that privileged area to the qualifications or lack thereof of a holder of an advisory post in the Government employment. That point of order was raised to prevent any such scrutiny and was one of the usual cheap tricks of the Douglas team in the House. The Speaker did not do much to help, either. He slavishly upheld the frivolous point of order on the grounds that a debater in the House is forbidden to belittle anyone who happens to be under the search light. I don’t think the Speaker knew what he was supposed to be talking about. Mr. Brantley was not indulging in any disparagement of any of his fellow parliamentarians in the House. He was questioning the credibility of the appointment of Mr. Liburd to a highly specialized position in the Nation. I can’t see how, where or why he could have been out of order. His remarks did not make anybody feel unworthy. I am sure that none of his fellows in the House felt unworthy By his remarks. Pure Bull; Speaker’s Bull What his remarks probably did was to expose a scandalous practice By the Douglas Party of using the scarce funds of the Public Treasury for nepotism and cronyism. Mark Brantley was discussing the situation which impelled the Minister of Finance to recommend financial austerity in order to avoid bankruptcy which, in St. Kitts and Nevis, is said to be only one hurricane away! According to the Minister of Finance, prudence now dictates the downsizing of the Public Service to remove the clutter of office holders who produce less than minimum efficiency in the jobs they hold. And Mr. Brantley was voicing the unfairness of “punishing” the Civil Servants for their unproductivity while “rewarding” Cedric Liburd for losing his seat in the Election. Mr. Brantley alluded to but did not fully pursue the other sinecure appointments of Dr. Norgen Wilson and Dr. Dennis Merchant. Nobody could blame the ordinary man for not fully understanding the appointments of these two gentlemen. Dr. Wilson is a relatively recent graduate from Medical School. He took a scholarship to go to Med School. After his return he found favour quickly and was appointed to superintend the refurbished Pogson Hospital. Like other Labour Doctors, Assim Martin and Denzil Douglas, he quickly became restive in his high appointment as a doctor and decided to use his medical training to become a politician instead.It is a good question to ask and one for which ordinary people cannot find the answer: why does a young man study medicine to go into politics before he even makes a mark on his medical profession? But that is not the most outrageous. This young doctor, having failed to win a seat, instead of going back to attend the sick, decides to become a Government Advisor in a ministry that has nothing to do with health matters. Again, it is obvious that neither the Ministry of Agriculture nor that of Tourism really needs a consultant who knows very little about these ministries but what is most obvious is the crying need for some sort of mechanism to control the Prime Minister in his mad propensity to indulge in patronage unlimited. The nature of our political system gives the Minister certain prerogatives to do such things that are necessary to ensure the smooth running of his Government. The British model which we are said to have copied invests such prerogatives in its Prime Ministers. The difference between Britain and St. Kitts-Nevis, however, is that Britain is a civilized country with a free and alert press and a politically educated public. In Britain a Prime Minister has to answer to Parliament for any suspected abuse of his office and must think twice before indulging in nepotism or any equivalent abuse of power In St. Kitts and Nevis our Prime Minister is unimpeded By any such civil restrictions and he has clearly shown that he would stretch every advantage to the most umbrageous limit. He does what he has to do “in your face” and “disses” the public in the process. It is quite clear that he also “disses” his own colleagues and defies them to question what he does. This is what must have happened in the appointment of Dr. Merchant as General/Chief Counsel in the very ministry which he recently headed as Attorney General This strange appointment was no doubt Dr. Merchant’s pay for the embarrassment which he was forced to face on his Prime Minister’ behalf. The Speaker should beware. Showing bias towards The Douglas Team may not be a good choice for him. Already it is clear to most observers that the members of the majority party ,have very little respect for his rulings when he feels constrained to rebuke them .Perhaps they have the notion that ,because the Speaker is a Labour man, he should spend all his time harassing the Opposition while allowing the Government’s majority to misconduct themselves in the Assembly. Speaker Martin is warned to manage the debates in the House in a manner which will earn him credit as an impartial Speaker in spite of his credentials as a BIG Labour man.
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