Commentary By Wendy Grenade
CaribWorldNews, BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Weds. Aug. 5, 2009: In Grenada and the Caribbean, it is not general practice for Prime Ministers to link their actions while in government to their campaign promises.
Yet, this is exactly what Prime Minister Thomas did in the recent case involving his attorney general who used his office to plead on behalf of his stepson who ran afoul of the law in the U.S.
While Mr. Bristol made an error of judgement, he did not commit a glaring offence – to borrow from legal jargon, his actions may be interpreted as a serious misdemeanour but not a gross felony. So the PM could have turned a blind eye without causing much political damage to his government.
That he acted on a relatively marginal case shows that he is serious about standing by his party`s commitment to `restore integrity` in public life. It was an act of courage as his actions may have disappointed supporters of Mr. Bristol in the NDC and some in the social elite to which Mr. Bristol belongs.
This case sends a positive signal that the NDC administration is serious about integrity in political life and presents an opportunity for the dawn of a new political culture based on accountability. It is a commendable start, a breath of fresh air after the experience of the last government which was constantly charged with corruption. But the real test will come when the Prime Minister has to decide between sticking to principle and appeasing the party faithful or losing political points.
Now, a word on the cabinet reshuffle. At first glance the reshuffle seems routine, but a closer examination raises some minor questions. Of particular significance are the de-linking of culture from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment and Sports, the relieving the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Tourism portfolio and the elevation of three junior ministers to full ministerial positions.
Cabinet reshuffles are generally motivated by two things: the need to reposition the team to enable it to function more effectively and the desire to respond to internal party dynamics. Having said that, the reshuffle has to be understood within the context of three interrelated challenges the government faces.
First, it has to govern within the context of a transition from thirteen years of rule by the opposite party which during its tenure was able to aggressively stamp its imprint on the government and state. Second, the government has to balance long-term development goals and short-term expectations in the midst of the current global financial and economic crisis. Finally, the PM has to maintain party cohesion, which is always a challenge for parties that are made up of discernable factions and interests.
The big question is: Was the reshuffle a result of the need for more effective management or was it the result of pressure from within the party to better reward party members – or was it both? I am tempted to bet on the latter.
Wendy Grenade Is A Grenadian-Born Lecturer In Political Science At The University Of The West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.