The next prime minister?
Rev. Dr. William W. Watty
I have, for some time now, been intrigued by Dr. Philbert Aaron's unrelenting obsession with the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Lennox Linton, and especially with his qualification, or lack thereof, for political office. In almost every publication of the Chronicle, under the caption "Something's Happening", he keeps returning to Mr. Linton's failure to complete his secondary schooling and, for that reason, his unfitness for any kind of leadership position; and woe betide Dominica should the United Workers Party, or any Party under his leadership, emerge triumphant in a General Election any time soon.
That persistence and intensity of obsession is, to my knowledge, unprecedented in our political annals, which is why it has been so puzzling to me. Where has all this concern come from? And why at this particular juncture? Why Lennox Linton? It is not as if he is the first politician to rise to leadership without GCE or CXC. What about Alexander Bustamante? Or Eric Gairy? Or Robert Bradshaw, Ebenezer Joshua or Vere Cornwall Bird? It is not as if scholastic excellence has made so significant a contribution to the development of Caribbean States that it has now become indispensable. It is not as if the Constitution of Dominica has been so amended as to make academic proficiency, duly certified, a condition sine qua non for political office. It is not as if Doctor the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit has been inviting Mr. Lennox Linton to public debate on political issues affecting Dominica, which the uneducated novice has repeatedly declined for fear of exposing his academic limitations to public derision. It is not as if it has now become a Memorandum of Understanding in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States that all Heads of Government should carry before their names some form of Doctorate, and if not by examination then Honoris Causa, and if not Lovely then Ugly, and if not Punjab then Antarctica or some other remote and obscure region on the planet where enough penguins can be assembled to applaud the award.
So why this recent obsession with academic qualification for political leadership? It was while pondering his latest diatribe in the Chronicle of April 8 that the answer broke in upon me like a shaft of light through the overhanging clouds and shining as clear as the noonday sun. It was nothing whatsoever to do with Lennox Linton. It was all a clever camouflage of a quite different ulterior motive but the camouflage was so perfect that the message that Dr. Aaron was trying to deliver was not getting through. Although ostensibly directed at Linton, the question the learned Doctor was raising was specifically for the Dominica Labour Party. Who will be the next Prime Minister when Doctor the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit finally demits Office? And he was only using the disqualification of Linton as a ploy to suggest that that he, Dr. Philbert Aaron, was the only suitably qualified candidate for that Office whenever it becomes vacant.
What made the disguise so impenetrable was that nobody but nobody was thinking so far ahead; for, let us face it, Doctor the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit is in it for the long haul. Come hell or high water, by hook or by crook, he has no intention of conceding in any General Election. If he has to transport every non-resident citizen, Economic or uneconomic, from earth's remotest bounds, into Dominica, and scatter them across the marginal Constituencies to cast their coveted vote, then so be it; but he has no intention of occupying an Opposition seat in the Dominica House of Assembly – not even as Leader, not even for the space of half-an-hour. He is just not wired that way. Furthermore, Dr. Skerrit is still relatively young with many more years ahead of him and a couple more rivers to cross. He already has Dominica practically wrapped us as his domain. There can be no Cabinet revolt to oust him, for he has every Minister bludgeoned and muzzled and cowed into submission. There can be no excessive complaining in the streets or uprising that might succeed, for he has the constabulary at his beck and call. There can be no fulmination or denunciation from the pulpits because he has the Churches in his pocket. And now he has PAHO and CARICOM and the Commonwealth Secretariat, and with a little bit of luck he might get UNESCO also, and I fear to mention the rest. Can such a Titan be expected to move away from all this power and glory when the ultimate triumph is now at his finger-tips and that is to break the record set by Robert Mugabe, the nonagenarian of Zimbabwe, as the longest living, longest serving, longest reigning Head of State since the dawn of civilization?
Certainly not. He will not move away into any golden sunset, this side of the cemetery, but he might just decide to move upward to the pinnacle. That is what the learned Doctor Aaron has envisaged ahead of the rest of us. That is enough to explain his magnificent obsession with academic qualifications for political office, because that ascension might not be too far off. As things now stand, Dominica is a stone's throw away from a dictatorship. Already dissenting of any new enactment, however unwelcome, however specious, however unnecessary has been deemed a criminal offence. The window of opportunity for Dr. Aaron could therefore be as soon as the General Elections of 2019 in that, in addition to the General Election of a new Government, Dominica might also have to elect an Executive President and who else but Dr. Skerrit? And the successful Labour Government will have to choose the next Prime Minister, and who else but either the learned and erudite Dr. Philbert Aaron or the not-so-well-learned Dr. Vince Henderson?
Having broken the code, and saw the alarming options awaiting my beloved Dominica, my first patriotic instinct was to throw my hat in the ring. Yes, I would give up Holy Orders, being retired anyway, in order to qualify constitutionally and then, like everybody else, join the Labour Party, wear flaming red day in and day out and shout, sweeter and louder than everybody else, "Labar forever", "Labar ka twavay", "Labar whatever", and then swiftly force my way up the ranks and get ready to challenge these latter-day Quacks, come 2019; but alas! I figured that I had better check my Pressure and my Pulse and stethoscope my heart beat first to make sure. The results, predictably, were not encouraging. I therefore considered discretion to be, by far, the better part of insanity. However, I might, just as a consolation prize, e-mail one more contribution to the SUN.