Time for the Opposition to set up its own COVID19 Task Force
It is clear to me that the PPP government and party are in no mood to cooperate with the opposition on
anything. They have used the nonsensical argument of the Opposition leader’s non-recognition of the
president to justify their hardline position. In my view they are violating the constitution which confers
on the holder of the position of Leader of the Opposition certain constitutional functions which requires
consultation with the president without any preconditions. Indeed, it is accepted by political scientists
that the Leader of the Opposition is part of government. That nobody has gone to court to test this
reading of the constitution may be due to legal burnout.
One may be tempted to dismiss this scenario as the PPP’s lack of political sophistication. I beg to differ. I
have opined before that a very important plank of the PPP’s praxis is domination of the State and the
society. This necessitates a very hard line against cooperation with adversaries even if it risks ethno-
political confrontation. For the PPP, then, political cooperation is not a prerequisite for action on
sensitive issues, but a very last resort which is undertaken only when the situation deteriorates to the
point where the government loses control. Even then, the PPP has shown a penchant for turning to
extrajudicial means to retain control.
Such an approach to governance is premised on the assumption of a weak opposition committed to
conventional politics, a friendly or passive media and a supportive international community. An
objective look at the landscape would have to conclude that the PPP has every reason to believe it can
get away with governance by domination. The balance of power in the country is tilted in its favor. It has
been able to neutralize the potential threat from the armed forces and the public service by the active
use of executive power to bribe or co-opt the leaderships of these institutions
The PPP also knows that the five-month electoral impasse in 2020 and the outcome of the election have
dealt the opposition leadership a serious blow from which it is yet to recover. No matter how much we
spin the situation, it is no secret that a divided and fragmented opposition cannot mount the kind of
challenge that is needed to contain the rampaging PPP. After all, it was a united opposition with a clear
objective that was able to electorally dethrone the PPP in 2011 and 2015.
The media also played a pivotal role in those defeats of the PPP. They would go on to play an even more
critical role in bringing down the coalition. From the No Confidence motion in December 2019 until its
exit from office in 2020, the media that mattered turned on the Coalition with a single-minded venom.
The PPP’s narratives were adopted by them while the coalition depended on the State-owned media
which even its supporters did not patronize. Unfortunately for the media it is an act from which it is not
able to extricate itself. Part of the media has decided to continue to hitch itself the PPP’s post-election
bandwagon while part finds it impossible to dismount. The outcome is a tame, toothless and
thoughtless media landscape that is a shadow of what it used to be just a few short years ago.
Finally, the PPP knows that despite a few groans here and there the regional and international
communities will do nothing to rock the boat. Their reward for helping the PPP to power is not being
tampered with. Despite calls from some of its local supporters, the PPP is not about to interfere with
foreign interests in any way, shape or form. The proponents of oil-nationalism and the
environmentalists can holler as loud as the can, the PPP would be deaf to those sounds. So, CARICOM
and the western powers will turn a blind eye to the PPP’s domination so long as the government does
not threaten their interests.
Where does that leave the opposition? Not in a very good place, I think. But there is still some room to
do small things that could have some more than small effects. The government has already been put on
the back foot by the charges of racism. That drum has to be beaten as loud as possible because it is a
drum of truth. Any casual observer can see the blatant use of the formal institutions to carry out the
PPP’s ideological prejudices, including racial prejudices.
The other area the opposition has to strengthen is a capacity to offer parallel governance to its
supporters. When a government abandons part of its citizenry, then the representatives of the
abandoned segment must provide leadership. The Coalition leaders have to stop calling on the
government to do this and that. It makes no sense—they are not listening. It is time you start to will
yourselves to serve your people in creative ways. One place to start is the setting up of a parallel
Covid19 task force. The lives of your people are being put at grave risk by the government’s
mismanagement of the pandemic and its politics of domination. Time to stop begging them to do the
right thing and for you to start doing the right thing.