IT’S the easiest thing in the world to call for bi-partisanship.
It sounds very good. Indeed, if it were to happen, it would be useful in all kinds of areas.
Former Prime Minister Perry Christie is the latest to call for a more bi-partisan approach to tackling COVID-19.
He said yesterday: “Governments always make mistakes when they do not work hard to ensure there is unanimity in some areas at the political level,” and added “the government must always be mindful of the importance of working hard to ensure that they are at one with the opposition and one with civil society so people could understand what is taking place”.
It all sounds very good – but we’re not sure that Mr Christie’s successor as PLP leader, Phillip “Brave” Davis, wants to be bi-partisan.
Early on in the pandemic, the current Prime Minister, Dr Hubert Minnis, put out an open call for ideas, opening the door to a more unified approach.
Across the aisle, however, Mr Davis has largely sniped at every measure put forward by the government.
In March, he was saying the government was not proactive enough, saying it was “too general and too generic”, in July he was calling on the FNM to accept responsibility for the spike in cases, by October he was calling lockdowns a “useless tool” and saying the government did not do enough to “stop a few cases from turning into a few thousand”. Meanwhile, his party has opposed the extension of emergency powers. Other than suggesting more contact tracing and more testing – and wanting more data behind the decisions, however, Mr Davis has not been hugely forthcoming on how he would do things differently. Notably, he even declined to show up to a meeting to hear briefings from officials. Yesterday, he told reporters his party was still trying to understand the measures put in place now the tourism sector is reopening.
That doesn’t mean Mr Davis is not right on some of his points – there are absolutely areas in which we could have done better in tackling COVID-19 – but he’s not shown any indication of wanting to join a united front on the issue. Some of his points are also easy to make but not easy to deliver – demands for more testing assume easy access to more tests, something that was not the case early on in the pandemic.
Absolutely, the opposition should be afforded all the data that underlies the decisions being made – and the explanation for why those decisions have been taken, as should we all. But there has been little sign of any real spirit of co-operation.
So yes, bi-partisanship in the face of national crisis would be a good thing – but we’re not holding our breath waiting for it to happen.
The epidemic of violence
When the day comes that this pandemic is no longer a menace to our country, there is another scourge that will still remain.
Violence will still stalk our streets, even when a virus no longer does. A recent spate of murders have reminded us of the spectre that never seems to go away. The question is, what do we do to stop it? The National Security Minister, Marvin Dames, and the police have patted themselves on the back for crime being down this year – but if you can’t curb crime in a time when everyone is on lockdown and with curfews, then when can you?
The real challenge will be after those emergency orders are no longer in place, and people are facing unprecedented economic hardship in many cases. The temptation for some will be too easily to turn to the way of the gun, and the way of violence.
House Speaker Halson Moultrie is calling for police to get illegal firearms off the streets, and while doing so should be applauded, we should note that’s easier said than done.
The symptoms run deep – we have lost count of the number of cases of domestic violence we have seen in the courts, with attacks on girlfriends, or windows of ex-wives being smashed and so on.
It’s not just a matter of law enforcement, it’s a matter of changing our culture that too easily turns to violence, often against women and children. We must make that unacceptable, not a matter that is sometimes turned into a joke in Parliament. Only when we have zero tolerance for violence towards those around us can we hope to convince others that violence is not ever the solution.