Will someone be good enough to remind Dr. Philbert Aaron that something did happen on December 8, 2014? A General Election took place, the Dominica Labour party was triumphant, the United Workers Party was defeated and the campaign is over. He can now put up his sword against an imaginary foe and try to visualize what the results of the General Election portend. His obviously partisan analyses and his veiled attempts at destabilizing the Parliamentary Opposition will not impress anyone who can recall his bold assertion, some years ago, "Politics is not about Truth"; but only through that lens can one pick some sense out of his erudite columns in the Chronicle of January 16.
He has accused Mr. Linton of power-grabbing in his naming of the Alternative Cabinet and his distribution of the portfolios. A strange accusation that, for one assumed that he was quite satisfied that there was no power grabbing when the Prime Minister, in naming his Senators and Cabinet, could find no room or portfolios for his former top Ministers, Julius Timothy and Ambrose George, or when, after seven plus years of carrying the burden, he found it impossible to release the Finance Portfolio to any of his colleagues, but he must continue to strain under it. But when Lennox Linton names his Team and, in assigning the Portfolios to his Alternative Cabinet, keeps the Finance Portfolio, Dr. Aaron can see only a Power Grab. And why? Because sometime before December 8, 2014, he named Dr. Thomson Fontaine for the Ministry of Finance.
Dr. Aaron, we are now on this side of December 8 and the General Election results changed those expectations. Clearly, the naming of Dr. Fontaine as Minister for Finance was predicated on a UWP victory, on Mr. Linton being Prime Minister, with all that that entails, and also on Dr. Fontaine's winning his seat as an Elected Member. None of these hopes was realized. Mr. Linton is not Prime Minister but Leader of the Opposition. He has now been relieved of the onerous responsibilities of that high office, and this has obviously changed the rationale for the distribution of the responsibilities in the Alternative Cabinet. Furthermore, Dr. Fontaine was not successful in the Polls. He will sit in the House of Assembly but only as a Senator, appointed by His Excellency the President on the advice the Leader of the Opposition and, as the recent Danny Lugay case has shown, this has rendered the security of tenure of every Opposition Senator in the Dominica House of Assembly precarious. Only an inept Leader of the Opposition would assign the important Portfolio of Finance to someone whose seat in the House depends on the good graces of the Speaker and governing majority Party, with whom he must cross swords from time to time in debates that could sometimes become over-heated and therefore fraught with all kinds of vindictive consequences for an offending Opposition Senator. Call it counting chickens before they were hatched, if you must criticize; but a Power Grab? Give me a break!
Dr. Aaron has another problem with Mr. Linton, and that is his preference in presenting his Team as an "Alternative" rather than a "Shadow" Cabinet. He suggests that Mr. Linton is making a big deal about it, when a quick glance into his encyclopaedias will show that there is no difference between a "Shadow Cabinet" and an "Alternative" Cabinet. In that case it would seem that it is Dr. Aaron who is making a big deal about it. But I am a little curious about these Enclycopaedias to which Dr. Aaron has referred, but has been careful not to name. They must be specially edited and newly minted, for Google appears not to have heard of them. In any case, it is arrant nonsense to suggest that there is no difference between leading, or being a member of, a "Shadow" Cabinet and leading, or being a member of, an "Alternative" Cabinet. There is an enormous and a profound difference in self-perception, self-projection, self-confidence and self-respect that only the blind cannot see. The approach to the immediate responsibilities and the prospects of future responsibilities is radically different. To partisan bigots "Alternatives" are never congenial; but, I guarantee that, when push comes to shove, an Alternative Cabinet that knows what it means to be alternative, will not settle for a "Shadow" whatever that means, but will instead earn, and then command, and then win a level of public recognition, respect and confidence that no mere "Shadow" ever could or would.
One basic difference between an alternative and a shadow is that whereas an alternative, by definition, must always have an opposite alternative, a shadow is always at a disadvantage. It can never have a shadow. Swing high or swing low, a shadow can be, and must remain, only a shadow. Translate that into local politics and the wisdom in Mr. Linton's explicit rejection shines clear. The words you use and the labels you choose drastically change the reality. All parties in Government in our local and regional democracies naturally prefer the designation "Shadow Cabinet". An "Alternative Cabinet" is a nightmare. At once, the "Uppermost" becomes redefined from a "Must Be" to an "Alternative". Already, the psychological victory has been won. Right away it evens out the odds. It levels the playing field. It improves the inevitable to a "perhaps" and demotes the impregnable to a possibility. Take Linton for example. It was not so long ago that he was dismissed as a shadow, a blur, a pathetic impossibility. He was the uneducated novice and the plagiarist. Even his chosen constituency, we were assured, did not want him. It was widely rumoured that he was considering fleeing from his native Marigot and running for Roseau North so that he might have the ghost of a chance. For he was nothing like Roosevelt Skerrit. He had no dimples. He couldn't smile. He had anger-management problems. The most impossible of all, therefore, was that he should ever become Prime Minister; but the next impossibility was that he should lead the Opposition. Therefore the DLP must sweep the country clean and take every constituency, even Marigot. Why? Because Lennox Linton cannot, must not, should not lead the Opposition when the House reconvenes. But, lo and behold! Lennox Linton is Leader of the Opposition not with six but nine others with him. His Team swept the capital clean. Like or lump it, Dr. Aaron must reconcile himself with those results. Well might he be scared about the "Alternative", and prefer Lennox Linton to settle for being "Shadow" to the Prime Minister, and his Team to be "Shadow" to the Cabinet. Alternative brings the inconceivable too close to reality, too soon. There is now an Alternative, and therefore a possibility, in the Dominica House of Assembly. That is what a maturing Democracy is all about.
Dominica can therefore look forward to an exciting political season. Debates that were cleverly avoided before December 8, 2014 will now be aired, live and direct, and for five years. Hopefully, and re-assured by the Speaker's pledge of impartiality, we shall witness Parliamentary Democracy at its best. For the Opposition will oppose not as Shadow but as Alternative; and no matter how much facial surgery he undergoes or anger clinics he attends, Lennox Linton will never be like Roosevelt Skerrit, not even his shadow. He can only be an Alternative to him. Vive la différence! Adieu la même chose!
By Rev. Dr. William W. Watty