FILE PHOTO:Rev. Dr. William Watty
FILE PHOTO:Rev. Dr. William Watty

As a political leader he should have been more astute. From the time he received the communication from the Manager of the DBS, inviting him to a public interview, he should have smelled the rat. He should have known by now that his reactions and responses have been carefully studied by his political opponents, and as much as they might fear his strength as a straight, outspoken, no-nonsense critic, they have also discovered a chink in his armour, viz. his short fuse. Therefore he should not have allowed the interviewer to be chosen without his prior consent, and a more professional, impartial and agreeable alternative should have been preferred as the conditio sine qua non.

When I first learnt of the interview, I immediately saw Ms. Shermaine Green-Brown as the ideal choice, whose credentials for impartiality and objectivity and whose reputation for incisive, yet discreet, interrogation were not only impeccable but far superior to those of the interviewer who was appointed. I still cannot fathom Mr. Linton's acceptance of the invitation knowing that, whatever her pretence to professionalism, the interviewer was basically a die-hard party-operative in sophisticated disguise, that the outcome was therefore predetermined and her over-riding ploy was to abrasively control the proceedings towards his disadvantage and public embarrassment. He should have realized that it was a set-up he could not handle and the only reasonable outcome would have to be precisely the fiasco of an abrupt termination that resulted, that this was planned from the very inception, and that it was all designed to put him in a bad light. He walked straight into a trap he should have recognized a mile off and has only himself to thank. You live and learn.

What is of more importance for the rest of us, however, are the underlying interests and concerns that prompted this sordid display. A political party, holding the reins of power for more than a decade and a half, and still enjoying a comfortable majority in the House, should have had no need to resort to such gutter tactics. Successful accomplishments, growing prestige and increasing popularity should have rendered such mean pranks not only unbecoming and unworthy but unnecessary from that high and impregnable ascendancy. Yet having, to all intents and purposes, banned the voices of opposition from the Nation-Station for months, yea years, out of the blue, as it were, comes the Manager's invitation, which the recipient could not have expected, but which was obviously designed to discredit him, by offering him a window of opportunity for public interaction, he could not pass up. The more important question, therefore, is what could have inspired that strange maneuver? I have no hard evidence, nor am I waiting for someone to spill the beans only to hear it is "sour grapes". I will conjecture, instead, that the popularity of the Government is sagging, the magic is wearing off and there is a disillusionment that is beginning to bite and likely grow the longer the Government continues to dither aimlessly, making bright promises it does not deliver, initiating grand projects it does not complete; and the only way to arrest or, at any rate, hide the decline is to so demonize the Leader of the Opposition as temperamentally unsuited, that this one factor, rather than the performance of the sitting Government, might become the decisive issue for the next General Election especially if the disenchantment continues to rise and spread.

Because such an obsession with imperfections in political leaders, and the issues they raise regarding suitability for high office, is unprecedented. Go back a far as you like, Dominica has never had the perfect Prime Minister, well chosen and suitably prepared for the Office. All, I repeat all of them, have come into the office with their strengths and their limitations. It is, however, this unrelenting attention to Mr. Linton's that is new and is now becoming a little nasty. When, at the sudden death of his predecessor, Mr. Skerrit was catapulted to leadership, his immaturity was recognizable, but even that was short-lived, because it was redeemed by his natural charm and swallowed up in the glamour of his youthfulness. Indeed, it was converted to a charismatic plus that won him three consecutive General Elections. But, the problem of immaturity, though never given the independent study it deserved, remained and has impacted his administration, e.g. his dependence upon advisors who may have been less than forthright in venturing their opinions, and might have even been deliberately misleading in their advice. A problem of immaturity in the leadership of the current administration, although obscured by panaceas and placebos, may have afflicted the body politic, and compromised resilience, more seriously than we would like to think. Time will tell.

Dominica, therefore, has problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with Linton's temperament. There are signs of maladministration that derive directly from the unpreparedness of the Prime Minister for the office he assumed. After fourteen years of uninterrupted leadership, there is still wanting a coherent, consistent, co-ordinated, compelling plan of National Development, to which one can immediately refer, and the implementation and execution of which can be easily discerned. Things simply happen out of the blue, without rhyme or reason, either because they have happened elsewhere or because it just feels good cutting another ribbon; and then they unhappen. At tremendous cost a National Stadium was built, to be maintained also at tremendous cost; but for 359 days each year it is simply there, empty and silent, as a humungous monument to national pride, but a White Elephant that cannot earn its upkeep. Yet it won precedence over the improvement of unglamourous feeder roads that might have facilitated agricultural production for internal consumption and the external market, and the improvement in our foreign exchange earnings. And now, even as it has become clearer, by the minute, that new International Airports on every single dot of our scattered archipelago, to accommodate mammoth jumbos, filled with eager visitors arriving directly from North America and even distant Europe, but must return with more crew than passengers is economic hallucination, we are going forward with our own belated "State of the Art" project, and towards an excellence bar none!

Linton's temper, even as a Prime Minister, is therefore unlikely to be our biggest problem. On the contrary (who knows?), it might come in handy for the disjointed times ahead when the chickens begin coming home to roost. But that is none of my business. All I feel obliged to say is that we must learn to keep our party loyalties within the due bounds of decency and fairness. Let us purge ourselves of the growing tendency to denigrate, in the hope of scoring cheap political points. Leave that for Maybell and the Nabes' and their neighborhood. Dominica has become serious business, and the Skerrit regime still has some time, about another three years, to get it right before they come again asking for another chance. Should they fail, someone else, tantrums or no tantrums, should be given a try. For no one, no one, in a serious Democracy, should be allowed to just go on and on regardless. 294 square miles are just not enough space in which to grow another Zimbabwe.