Opinion: Room for improvementPOSTED: 02/13/14 12:07 PM
Parliamentarians have a way to speak in a roundabout way. That is the nature of the beast of course, but we think that there is some room for improvement. Parliamentarians enjoy immunity once they are in their seat. In meetings of Parliament, or in meetings of a Central Committee, they are able to say anything they like with impunity. Unless, of course, the president of Parliament utters these famous words: “You don’t have the word.”
If we hear for instance how MP Louie Laveist in a very careful way brought up the upcoming trial against police officers that have been charged with selling their vote to the UP in 2010, we cringe. Why not say these things outright, the way they are? Why muffle these statements to the point that it becomes ridiculous?
Yes, police officers have been charged with selling their vote to the UP. And yes, of course the UP bought them – according to the summons. Everybody knows that. So what is the big deal?
Everybody also knows that Laveist has an irrevocable conviction for bribery to his name. It came with a suspended prison sentence. It’s all old hat of course, but it is also true.
It was therefore clear, when UP-leader Theo Heyliger opined that convicted felons should not be sitting in Parliament, he was directly addressing Laveist. Well, big deal: everybody, Laveist first and foremost, knows about what one could call his criminal record.
The fact that Laveist is still sitting in Parliament is simply based on existing rules – but also on the mentality of Caribbean politics. There is no rule that says that a Member of Parliament that has been convicted to a suspended prison sentence has to give up his position.
The question may be asked: is it therefore right to keep that position? From a moral point of view, few would argue that this is the case.
If we compare Laveist’s position for instance with that of Maria Buncamper-Molanus we see two things: Laveist was convicted by the highest court in the Kingdom and Buncamper-Molanus never even went to trial. Yet, Laveist is sitting pretty and Buncamper-Molanus – under tremendous political pressure – had to leave office as Minister of Public health, Social Affairs and Labor in December 2010.
Buncamper-Molanus did not leave out of her own free will, but in the end, step down she did. Painful and embarrassing as this may have been for her at the time, it was of course the right thing to do. In that sense, today she stands taller than Laveist in the field of morals.
History will show that the scandal that brought Buncamper-Molanus down will keep hunting her for the foreseeable future. We hear that the former minister is eager to be a candidate in the next elections. She feels that she has paid her debts and that it is time for a comeback. Politics are not all that forgiving, and what we hear it that Buncamper-Molanus is knocking on doors that now remain closed to her. So far, we are not aware of any party that is willing to take her on as a candidate. Politically speaking, she is still damaged goods.
This does not mean that no one will buckle and give in to her ambitions. We all know about the departure of many candidates from the National Alliance and we are also aware of the position the Democratic Party finds itself in. With party leader Wescot-William as the only serious vote getter left in the DP-camp, the party must be lusting for fresh – or not so fresh – candidates, anyone who could help restore Claude Wathey’s heritage to its former glory. Whether there is a role for Buncamper-Molanus in that game remains to be seen, but don’t hold your breath.