President hits ‘kicksing’ parliamentarians

Stop the “kicks­ing” in Par­lia­ment!


That mes­sage was telegraphed by Pres­i­dent Paula-Mae Weekes yes­ter­day as she de­liv­ered the fea­ture ad­dress at the 44th Con­fer­ence of the Caribbean, Amer­i­c­as and At­lantic (CAA) Re­gion of the Com­mon­wealth Par­lia­men­tary As­so­ci­a­tion (CPA).

The Theme was Glob­al­i­sa­tion and Na­tion­al­ism: Quo Vadis - Im­pacts on Com­mon­wealth Par­lia­ments.

Ref­er­enc­ing var­i­ous de­vel­op­ments which have oc­curred in TT’s Par­lia­ment, Weekes gave a spe­cial nudge to lo­cal par­lia­men­tar­i­ans — to the point that she em­ployed Ex­plain­er’s 1979 ca­lyp­so “Dey Kicksin’ in Par­lia­ment” to stress con­cerns.

Weekes opened her ad­dress not­ing con­duct in T&T’s Par­lia­ment, “Even the most ca­su­al ob­serv­er of the pro­ceed­ings in our Par­lia­ment would be con­cerned about how the peo­ple’s busi­ness is be­ing con­duct­ed, and those who fol­low avid­ly might well be alarmed.

“Walk­outs, ‘put-outs’, dis­trust, thin­ly-veiled in­sults, in­abil­i­ty to ar­rive at a con­sen­sus quick­ly, if at all, on the sim­plest of is­sues, re­fer­rals to the Priv­i­leges Com­mit­tee, whether apolo­gies are to be of­fered; all seem to take prece­dence over for­mu­lat­ing laws for the good of our cit­i­zens.”

She added: The core func­tion of our dis­tin­guished Hous­es is es­sen­tial and pur­pose­ful, but what does the av­er­age man on the street think about what goes on there? Forty years ago, one of our ca­lyp­so­ni­ans, Ex­plain­er, ex­pressed it this way; re­fer­ring to our law­mak­ers, he com­posed a song en­ti­tled ‘They Kicksin’ in Par­lia­ment.’ The bad news is, pub­lic opin­ion hasn’t changed for the bet­ter since then. Around much of the world, this re­gion in­clud­ed, peo­ple are los­ing faith in the elect­ed/ap­point­ed of­fi­cials en­trust­ed with mak­ing laws.”

To the av­er­age cit­i­zen, Weekes said Par­lia­ment can ap­pear to be a glo­ri­fied “talk shop” gov­erned by self-in­ter­est and par­ti­san­ship. She not­ed the view of Har­vey At­wa­ter, Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant dur­ing the Rea­gan years, who said, “Per­cep­tion is re­al­i­ty.”

Chal­leng­ing par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to con­front the crit­i­cism and pro­vide a cred­i­ble, com­pre­hen­sive re­sponse, she said the ques­tion of “Whey we goin’?’ has al­so to be asked gen­er­al­ly of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans’ stew­ard­ship.

She not­ed con­tro­ver­sy and con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis have erupt­ed in Guyana.

She said, And in T&T we ap­proach the 29th an­niver­sary of an at­tempt­ed coup d’état which played out in our Par­lia­ment and shook the na­tion to its core; we in the Caribbean are no strangers to po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and in­trigue and we can rea­son­ably ex­pect more of the same.”

Not un­like the ca­lyp­son­ian, she said, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are the peo­ple’s mouth­piece, con­vey­ing con­cerns and per­spec­tives.

“Ac­cord­ing to the Unit­ed Na­tions, peo­ple in the Caribbean want rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ad­dress two main con­cerns: job op­por­tu­ni­ty cre­ation and as­sis­tance in get­ting jobs. Sim­ple re­quire­ments, but sat­is­fy­ing them can call for com­plex so­lu­tions. And that’s where the par­lia­men­tar­i­an comes in,” she said.

“Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment must be un­afraid and un­fazed when it comes to deal­ing with mat­ters which af­fect the man on the street, mak­ing hard de­ci­sions and leg­is­lat­ing ac­cord­ing­ly. Once elec­toral and ap­point­ment process­es have run their course, rep­re­sen­ta­tives have the para­mount du­ty to hold the in­ter­ests of their con­stituents above their po­lit­i­cal selves,”

Weekes al­so not­ed that where par­lia­ments con­duct ef­fec­tive scruti­ny of pub­lic spend­ing, there’s a low­er in­ci­dence of cor­rup­tion. She cit­ed Trans­paren­cy In­ter­na­tion­al’s rank­ing of Bar­ba­dos with the low­est lev­el of per­ceived cor­rup­tion in the Caribbean, plac­ing 25th glob­al­ly and Ba­hamas, 29th.

“T&T’s a dis­ap­point­ing 78th on the Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions In­dex (2018). While we have room for im­prove­ment when it comes to the per­cep­tion of cor­rup­tion, there’s an­oth­er con­cern: how se­ri­ous­ly those who sit in par­lia­ment view their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” she said.

Weekes again quot­ed part of Ex­plain­er’s ca­lyp­so:

“I feel the gov­ern­ment in this coun­try

Should treat the peo­ple more se­ri­ous­ly;

When they have they Par­lia­ment meet­ing

Some­thing con­struc­tive should be hap­pen­ing;

They kicksin’, kicksin’ all the time, they blow­ing every­body mind,

Food­stuffs have a short­age dai­ly, busi­ness places burn­ing in the city,

Be­fore they watch these things se­ri­ous­ly, the whole meet­ing is a com­e­dy;

Ridicule, fa­tigue giv­ing, and all of the mem­bers laugh­ing

While they hav­ing a good time, we caching we roy­al be­hind.”

Weekes said it was “a sting­ing in­dict­ment and we must ask whether it’s as cur­rent now as it was then.”

“While there ‘s cer­tain­ly room for pi­cong and jol­li­ty, there has to be align­ment be­tween the dis­tin­guished and im­por­tant na­ture of the work and the con­duct ex­hib­it­ed by those who sit in par­lia­ment. De­bates will be­come pas­sion­ate, even heat­ed, but our rep­re­sen­ta­tives must mod­el the high­est stan­dards of dig­ni­ty, re­spect and ci­vil­i­ty while in the Cham­bers.”

“With the ad­vent of the Par­lia­ment Chan­nel on lo­cal tele­vi­sion, our na­tion gets to wit­ness the be­hav­iour, and some­times, the mis­be­hav­iour, of its rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Our young peo­ple, in the spir­it of the old Malian proverb, ‘mon­key see, mon­key do’, will con­sid­er what they see us do, to be ap­pro­pri­ate, and so mim­ic and per­pet­u­ate the stan­dards we set.”

 - by Gail Alexander. Photo by Shirley Bahadur.