Sunday, May 17, 2009

Private Matter?


By Mshaka


The current issue facing the nation, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the United Progressive Party is NOT “a private matter of public concern.”

The issue at hand regarding the decision of the Minister of Health to propose to rent an $800,000 per year building without the express approval of the Cabinet is a very Public matter of Public concern.

The fact that there there is a sign – a very public sign – saying – The Ministry of Health and Social Transformation – on that building right now… as I write this article is testimony to the fact that this is now a building slated to be used for public purposes and secured for such use by public funds… and that is a public matter of which the public is concerned.

The fact that the Minister would consider paying $800,000 per year for a small building in these economically trying times is a public matter of public concern.

The fact that it is said that new furniture was wanted… and that the current furniture in the current old building was ‘not nice enough’ is a public matter of public concern in these belt-tightening days.

The fact that the Minister would consider paying so much for this building when the ministry is already housed in a solidly constructed building is a public matter of public concern.

OK… so the building needs upgrading. Yes it needs work… which was not done when – some contend – that he could have fixed it when he was Minister of Public Works. Be that is as it may… Yes, the building… the current building… the one down by the wharf needs to be refurbished. But… Public Works has said that it can upgrade and remodel that building while the Ministry continues to occupy it. This is done world wide. Making a decision to rent an $800,000 per year building… when you are already housed in one does not make sense – even in the best of economic times. But certainly… definitely… not in these times of financial distress for all.

That decision is a public matter for public concern.

And then, to resign from the pre-eminent position of Deputy Prime Minister because the populace took him to task… Such resignation from public office by a public official… and doing so very publicly… is a public matter of public concern.

To publicly resign without privately consulting the Prime Minister is a public matter of public concern.

To claim that the reason for the resignation is the lack of support… I guess the lack of public support by the Prime Minister for the private decision to rent the building… such claimed lack of support is a public matter for public concern since the Minister himself made the ‘lack of support’ a public matter for public consumption.

And, more importantly, to claim lack of support for a unilateral action… when there was possibly advice that such action should not have been taken… and possibly advised prior to the action being taken… and possibly advised officially not so to do… and then doing so regardless… blatantly and purposefully… and big-headedly… and then to claim lack of support… such action – blatant and purposeful – is a public matter of public concern.

Who in their right minds could support such an unsupportable action? And based on the response of the people… such support if it had been forthcoming… would have been political suicide for anyone who supported such a blatantly thoughtless action… and such support – coming from any quarter – would have been a public matter of public concern.

To bring this issue to the fore, and to compound this issue with a pouting letter of resignation, in these politically turbulent times, when the opposition is feeling their oats and wagging their tales, and fully knowing the impact of such resignation, and fully knowing the media attention that such an action would draw, and fully recognizing the threat to the party…. these are public matters of public concern.

Fully knowing that this matter – yes a matter of feelings of private hurt… of private thoughts of being put on the sidelines… Fully knowing that when these private feelings of hurt when brought before the public…. would send the party in a tail spin… just to soothe private feelings of hurt… that could have been settled with private meetings… and private discussions… and private negotiations… but instead aired publicly by a pouting letter of resignation – purposefully aired publicly – giving UPP’s enemies mouth watering opportunities for gleeful UPPmanship… triggered by a pouting unhappy Minister – Allllll this…. all of it… are public matters of public concern!

And because it was done publicly, and purposefully, for some questionable, not well thought out unpolitical strategy, it has damaged the credibility of the Minister and the Party… with the in-letter public revelations… and public questions which in the public’s mind might have resultingly raised questions about the integrity of colleagues… pouting because he was caught by the public and questioned by the public over a very public personal un-Cabinet decision to use public funds to rent a building that was not needed… Because he was caught by the public – has lashed out and has made this issue the #1 issue of public concern.

And finally, with unintended rumours (I can’t believe that this seasoned and wily veteran would have purposefully and intentionally threatened to cross the aisle) that he might cross the political divide… there can be no question that this is a very public matter – most certainly of public concern.

So… Mr. Chairman… this is not a private matter… not for the UPP and not for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Certainly the UPP can chose to address it in the public domain whenever they like… That is your private option on this public matter of public concern.

Private matter? Nope! This is a very public matter that is of public concern to all of us.

Privately – my advise to the UPP is that it should address it now – publicly! Or pay a huge very public and political price… and such a public price will affect a lot of people publicly and privately!