GUEST COLUMN: Senator Wigley George – Defeat and Conquest

Wigley George

(By Rawlston Pompey)

For a very small minority of Senators, when the going gets tough, those who may have been familiar with a carefully articulated quote may have been motivated to persevere, even when facing adversities. It states, ‘…Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; …It strengthens; …tempers; …intensifies, but never destroys it’ [Eliza Tabor-Stephenson: 1835-1914].

Showing indignation over the situations, two former Senators, ‘…Dr. Edmond Mansoor and Wigley George’ had expressed themselves with passion and conviction. Though mindful of looming consequences, Senator Wigley George couldn’t care less if ‘…Christmas had fallen on Ash Wednesday.’ Before he could say, ‘…I pose no threat to Chet or Go to France,’ he was appointed ambassador to the International Labour Organization (ILO) [ZDK: February 10, 2017].

Thus, these two former Senators might easily be associated with this quote. The former was at variance with his administration over ‘…hiring practices’ bordering ‘…Double Standard.’ This often appeared systemic in some administrations. Nationally recognised by workers and sitting governments for his industrial relations exploits, the latter came up against a tenacious and resolute sitting Prime Minister, Gaston Browne. Confronted with a legislative dilemma, was not only purposeful, but also defiant. Even so, he was mindful of three things, (i) … Discussions held with Cabinet; (ii) …Expectations of his administration; and (iii) …Looming consequences,’ long telegraphed to the Government-appointed Senators.

It is well known that several individuals appointed to serve in the Senate, had either experienced tenure of turmoil or failure. This may have been the case of those who had chosen a path to ‘…errancy; …deviancy or treachery.’ Scriptural teaching reveals that ‘…Judas Iscariot’ in a combined act of ‘…Greed and Treachery,’ sold his soul for ‘…thirty silver coins’ [Matthew26: 15]. Since then, man has not only become as ‘…wicked as the devil; …treacherous as the Bermuda triangle and crooked as a corkscrew, but also for positions, vicious as tigers.’ Former Senators Dr. Edmond Mansoor and Wigley Franklin Nathaniel George,’ have contrasted such behavior. Foregoing the novelty of public life, both had demonstrated a deep sense of commitment in defence of the interests of employees/workers.

This commentary seeks to provide a perspective on that obtained in many regional States. It looks at (i) ‘…Loyalty and Allegiance; and (ii) …Legislative support of Government’s policies.’ It also focuses upon the roles of parliamentarians- ‘…elected and appointed,’ including Governors General and Members of Cabinet. It would have been incomplete, if no references were made of the demise of two former Senators Edmond Michael Mansoor and Wigley Franklin N. George.’ The latter, apparently acting against unsolicited advice, pursued his political ambitions and suffered an electoral defeat at the hands of incumbent candidate Elliston ‘Namba’ Adams [March 12, 2009].

Though there may have been several others who had acted ‘…Collaboratively’ with opposition members in rejecting Government tabled-Bills,’ these two had acted ‘…Individually’ in opposition to that which they had truly believed to have either been (a) …Disproportionate benefits paid to contracted persons in comparison to that paid to established employees; and (b). … Harboring concerns over potential for ‘…ministerial abuse; …micro-management and discriminatory practices against employees of Statutory Corporations.’ It was early days yet, and though not necessarily farfetched, and the administration tabling the Bill may easily have viewed such concerns as purely figment of imagination.

Within the British Commonwealth, by virtue of the several Constitutions, Governors General shall ‘…bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, The Queen.’ Conversely, leaders recommending their appointment, the appointees shall show loyalty to such leaders. As reposed confidence and continued tenure are often contingent upon functional cooperation and support, conventional wisdom dictates that Governors General show unwavering loyalty to sitting Prime Ministers. Not infrequently, the political environment, filled with intrigues and machinations, often placed them in bad light. A working understanding might be derived from the reading of ‘…Throne Speeches.’ When Governors General prefaced policy-declarations, it is often ‘…My Government intends to do ‘…This; …That or Terror.’ Many are mortally afraid of terror.

Every once in a while, there are power plays between the people ‘…Elected’ and those privileged to be ‘…Appointed.’ As it affects sittings of Parliament, leaders with mandates often determine who sits in the Senate. Though they are up, they can be easily taken down. Likened to bonds ‘…Senatorial Appointments,’ necessarily mean ‘…reasonable expectations of giving legislative support to sitting administrations.’ Thus, those who shall give such support to governmental legislative measures are usually those recommended for such appointments by sitting Prime Ministers.

While many people have chosen to serve the nation through representative politics, others are appointed to serve in specific capacities. Commendably, recent trend showed the ‘…inclusion of more youthful and intelligent to the ‘…Senate.’ However, as opposed to their legislative contributory worth or debating skills, many are appointed for their numerical value. Though the Senate is a constitutional body and has a discretionary power to reject Bills, and may do so as seems meet, government-appointed Senators enjoy no ‘…discretion or privilege to collude with opponents, or return or reject Bills.’ None, therefore, is at liberty to thwart the legislative initiatives of the sitting administration.

Regionally, the two most disagreeable arms of government where dissenting voices are, invariably, heard have been the ‘Executive’ where contentious decisions are often made, and the ‘Legislature’ where controversial Bills’ are often tabled for parliamentary considerations. Functionally different, members of the Executive take policy-decisions, while the same members give such decisions legislative authority. Such authority is derived from the passage of Bills by majority Members of the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. Those in control of governance, table Bills for debate and passage, opponents often objected, fought and quarreled. While there may not necessarily be consensus, the majority casting ‘Ayes votes,’ often prevails. There are often machinations. Occasionally, Government-appointed Senators may do the unthinkable. This was known to have precipitated declarations of war on the Government-appointed Senators.

Not infrequently there has been power play between the policy-makers and those in the ‘…Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament.’ Those who may have been deeply perturbed often become expressively ‘…frantic, frank, fearless and firm.’ Though these are often viewed as obstructive, they speak to a desire to see their respective administrations respect the will of the electorate, and to conform to the Oath of office ‘…to do good to all manner of people’ [A&B CO: Oath of Office]. While several Senators had paid heavy prices for reasons of conscience or defiance, that which Members shall understand is that feelings or perceptions may not necessarily be deciding factors. More importantly, a ‘…Mandate of the Electorate’ is not the same as a ‘…Mandate of Workers.’ From this perspective, no other interests shall supersede the national interests.

While opportunities are not necessarily boundless, the Constitution provides role-playing citizens. It states that ‘…To the extent of their capacity, people may play some part in the national life’ [ANU: CO: Principle D].This may have been among many reasons that a limited number of persons had vied to be elected to public office. Even so, many have shown lack of understanding that appointment to public office, necessarily means a ‘…Covenant of Loyalty.’ This is fundamental to maintaining good human relations, as well as to ‘…sustain confidence; and strengthen functional cooperation. This is also essential to continued tenure. However, when opportunities are grasped, they often bring agony and grief. This has often been the case, when philosophical approaches to governance and modern trends dictate administrative adjustment and/or change in policies and personnel.

Though covenants are not necessarily formalized in writing, it is silently expected that people in whom confidence is reposed and placed in position of public trust, by mutual understanding, will accordingly be so guided. It is also expected that when reasons of expediency or necessity dictate, sitting administrations may make members, elected or appointed ‘…Suffer Grief.’ Such was often experienced by those who had openly expressed dissent to ‘…policies; …programmes and initiatives, and through philosophical or administrative differences, seek to thwart the efforts of those given legitimate mandate by the people. This was often the case when ‘…ministerial or senatorial errancy; …non-productivity and wavering or suspect support’ became intolerable. Such will have been the experience of many Senators- Government or Opposition-appointed.

Though it has often been seen as ‘…titularly subservient,’ it is functionally obligatory that Governors General demonstrate their support and cooperation by assenting to parliamentary Bills, irrespective of ‘…content, objection or controversy.’ Lesser mortals could be politically, ministerially or senatorially wounded. Since some appointments may not necessarily be considered on the basis of ‘…merit; …ability or integrity’ [ANU: CO: 1981], but often considered ‘…privilege or gratuitous,’ there is no security of tenure. Therefore, none may ‘…Harbor Illusions’ about their removability from their appointed positions. Thus, longevity of tenure in high-profile positions is often dependent upon readiness by the office holder in exhibiting functional cooperation.

To the extent that confidence has been reposed in the Governor General and portfolioed Ministers, even as they shall ‘…bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, The Queen,’ they shall not only show loyalty, but also unwavering support for their ‘…policies; …programmes and initiatives.’ Similarly, every Senator shall be aware of the ‘…Expectations of Loyalty.’ There is no gain without individual pain. The politically-ambitious will have experienced some moments of glory, as well as agony. The same will be experienced by those appointed to the Senate. While Ministers often cried foul over sackings, such has been fundamental to, (i) …Maintaining stability; (ii) …Protecting the integrity of the administration; and (iii) …Ensuring that transparency; …accountability and integrity prevails.’ Such courses of action, may also show to the populace, Diaspora and international community, an administration’s abhorrence and intolerance of ‘…roguish or inappropriate ministerial behavior.’

In representative politics, it has never been about ‘…personal aggrandizement, or a desire to acquire or accumulate wealth. It has always been about a commitment to serve the interest of constituents; …to provide for empowerment; …creating job opportunities with disposable income capable of ensuring the enjoyment of a better quality of life. Senatorial appointments do not allow for these, even when assigned ministerial responsibilities. As they represent no one, such merely constitute service to the nation. Legislatively, it is reasonably expected that the overwhelming majority of ‘…Government-appointed Senators,’ even against their conscience, will vote for the passage of Bills, irrespective of objections to Clauses viewed as pregnant with misgivings. This often poses innumerable challenges to Senators.

As parliamentarians continue to incur the wrath of their leaders, not only will ‘Hansard’ show their parliamentary positions on certain legislative matters, but also their fate for being purposeful and openly defiant. It most certainly will show the position and fate of ‘…former Senators Colin Derrick and Anthony Stewart on the contentious ‘…Citizen by Investment Programme (CIP), during the Baldwin Spencer-led administration [2004-2014], More recently, it will show what befell former Senators ‘…Dr. Edmond Michael Mansoor and Wigley Franklyn N. George.’ Unlike the ‘…Chicken-hearted Senators,’ these vocally expressive men had experienced ‘…Senatorial and Ministerial challenges’ of one kind or another.

It has been the experience that people had either talked themselves into trouble or had been forced to talk themselves out of it. Double talking; …Trouble shooting and Trouble talking,’ though they speak to different concepts, they mean one thing- ‘…Trouble.’ In the Senate, while there is freedom to debate, there is also ‘…Trouble for Talking.’ This may have been the experiences of both ‘…former Senators Edmond Mansoor and Wigley George.’ Each came from different disciplines; one a Medical practitioner, the other a professional industrial relations officer. Both represented to different administrations, and will have been cognizant of the will and resolve of their leaders, former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and sitting Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

Invariably, revocation of appointments is precipitated, either when confidence waned or non-conformity or obstructive behavior. Appointed Senate President [2004-2005], Dr. Edmond Mansoor was subsequently given ministerial responsibilities. He functioned in the capacity of ‘…Minister of State’ in the office of former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer [2009-2014]. Apparently fallen from grace, he was shifted to the Ministry of Finance. It was obvious that Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer expected him to know more about ‘…Science and Technology,’ than worrying about how government finances were being spent.

Eating no ‘cheese’ and with no loose-fitted substitutes to draw public attention, in an apparent riled-up mood, the former Senator said, ‘…If democracy is to work, you have to be able to talk; …And if it is …that if you talk, it is off you go, Edmond Michael Mansoor doesn’t have a problem with that’ [Observer Media: January 15, 2013]. In another administration, this may have been the attitude of former Senator Wigley George, who, for different reasons, had his senatorial instrument of appointment revoked [September 13, 2017]. Following the humiliating electoral defeat suffered by the incumbent Baldwin Spencer-led administration, losing ‘…13 of the 17 parliamentary seats’ his senatorial and ministerial tenure dramatically ended [June 12, 2014].

Science and Technology and Information and Broadcasting Minister, Dr. Edmond Mansoor appeared not to have been amused over a policy and financial decision that apparently gave rise to ‘…employees dissatisfaction. Passionately, he had expressed dissatisfaction over the ‘…remuneration disparity gap’ in favor of a ‘…contractual worker’ at the nation’s media houses ‘ABS Radio/TV.’ Undoubtedly, the former Senator/Minister was aware that an axe dangled precariously over his portfolio. Clearly fired-up, he addressed the Senate, ‘…Madame President, so you have on the one hand, Government hiring people with Bachelor’s Degrees and paying them ‘…$16, 000 and $17, 000’ to come to work for three hours.’ Such pay appeared to have given employees within his areas of responsibility reasons to feel disproportionately abused.

Dr Edmond Mansoor

Though deeply perturbed, Dr. Edmond Mansoor had neither subjected himself to administrative silence, nor entertained misgivings over that which the ‘…Dangling Axe’ had potential to do. It may have been for reasons of ‘…proper financial management; …transparency; equality in remunerations and good government, that he had exposed that which he saw as the government ‘…hypocritical practices.’ Reporting on his fiery senatorial delivery, the media reported, ‘…Dr. Edmond Mansoor came out swinging in Parliament, criticizing his own government for its management style and the spending practices of the Government [OMG: January 15, 2013].

There are ‘…Chances; …Choices and Consequences.’ These work together and may have occupied the attention of the former Senator/Minister. Thus, irrespective of the latter, public dissent may have been good reason for causing ‘…administrative re-thinking.’ However, with such televised fiery delivery, former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer may have been provoked into chopping off a sizeable part of his portfolio. While rodents ‘…quietly, gradually and persistently’ gnawed away at something, edible or inedible, before he could say ‘…Jesus Wept [KJB: John 11: 35], his ministerial responsibilities had been chopped in half. This came weeks into the New Year-2014, when the axe expectedly fell, chipping out ‘…Information and Broadcasting.’

Then came ‘…former Senator, Wigley Franklin Nathaniel George.’ Not for the first time he has been seen as a controversial and strong-willed. He had shown ‘…resoluteness; …consistency; …persistency and character.’ Entering ‘…Representative Politics,’ there were two clear objectives, (i) ‘…Defeating incumbent candidate Elliston ‘Namba’ Adams;’ and (ii)…Elimination of constituency-selected candidate and political hopeful, E.P. ‘Chet’ Greene from contention.’ He had fought in the political trenches long and hard. Whether or not there was reasonable prospects of being elected, he firmly believed the affiliate organization owed him an opportunity to divorce himself from the ‘…industrial relations practice.’ Incidentally, neither of the two objectives was achieved. Likened to his political rival, he too was edged out of contention by the incumbent candidate [General Election: March 12, 2009].

Those considered for Senatorial membership, speaks to something fundamental. It speaks to the level of confidence reposed in the Government-appointed Senators by Prime Minister Gaston Browne. When they gave him reasons to feel disappointed, he gave advanced notice of ‘…Senatorial Casualties’ [OMG: September 6, 2016]. Seeking to test his will and resolve, Senator Wigley George incurred his wrath. His demise came swiftly in a hastily dispatched letter. It reads in part, ‘…Your defiance in the face of the understanding reached leaves me no choice but to withdraw your appointment’ [Jamaica Observer: September 14, 2017]. Likened to the ‘…End of Solomon Grundy,’ so it was the end for ‘…Senator Wigley.’ Electorally defeated and then sacked, he appeared not to have harbored feelings of rejection or dejection.

While some national issues may have been seen as sensitive, others have been deemed provocatively contentious and controversially vexing to the spirit. That, which is even more vexing, is lack of support and cooperation. In spite of the recent sparring match between former Senator Wigley George and Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who, earlier spoke vociferously of impending consequences to Senators casting negative votes on the contentious ‘…Statutory Corporations (General Provisions) Bill 2016, he appeared unbelievably compassionate. He had extended the ‘…Olive Branch of cooperation’ to the resolute and unrelenting former Senator. Though he may have lost the battle for its passage, it was the tenacious Senator who appeared to have won the ‘…War of Defiance.’

In spite of an apparent ill-considered attempt at ‘…Representative Politics’ and a devastating electoral defeat, these appeared not to have dampened spirit or weakened the will and determination of former Senator Wigley George. Appointed to the Senate [June 25, 2014]. Seemingly overwhelmed by zeal, an unprovoked act of defiance invited the pitiless wrath of his administration. Such attitude speaks not of ingratitude, but to a position of strength. Such also represents deep commitment to the welfare and protection of workers. Consequently, he was sacked for defying the Executive [September 13, 2017]. In opposition to a contentious ‘Clause 7’ in the Statutory Corporations (General Provisions) Bill, he refused to be cajoled or coerced into submission. To have acquiesced may have likened him to conduct exhibited by ‘Judas.’ By sacrificing his Senatorial position, he had paid the ultimate price.

Even with his electoral defeat and senatorial demise, whenever the name ‘Wigley George’ was called, it speaks to his impregnability and indomitability. Having been rejected at the polls and fell from senatorial grace, while further attempts at representative politics may prove politically challenging for electability, his surprised rise to a position of prominence, speaks to a ‘…Bargaining Chip’ of immense value to an incumbent administration. While he may have been guilty of committing two cardinal sins (electorally and senatorially), and had been sacked, he had neither been denigrated nor down-graded. He remains influential, as to be seen as politically resourceful. Considering the Chip’s value, this may not only have been a critical factor in his subsequent elevation to the prestigious position of Ambassador, but also one with bargaining power.

Though certain courses of action are often seen as acrimonious or egregious, that which always appeared to have been overlooked, has been underlying reasons. For instance, when there were indications or evidence suggesting treachery or collusion with opponents in thwarting the efforts of sitting governments, whether legislatively or seeking to implement its ‘…policies’ …programmes or initiatives,’ members expressing open dissent, would have been subjecting themselves to governmental scrutiny and that which ‘…International Conventions’ allows. Hence, members reasonably suspected of ‘…opposition collusion’ or likely to cast votes against their administrations, by such Convention, they shall be forthwith removed from office.

Though leaders are guided by the principles of democracy and the administrative principle ‘…Collective Responsibility,’ amicable resolutions of disagreement, is often contingent upon ‘…commonalities of understanding, purpose and rationale.’ However, in given situations, these have never been militating factors in decisive leadership. In fact, the overriding considerations for such leaders have always been the people and national interests, be it security or the economy. Thus, as autocratic as it may sometimes appear, and as egregious some actions may be, that which shall be done, must be done. This may have been the case with former Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams [Trinidad & Tobago: 1962-1981].

In one of his social commentaries, Slinger Francisco, ‘Mighty Sparrow,’ articulated his inclination in administrating governance by ‘…Philosophical Leadership.’ Such speaks to ‘…character; consistency and collaboration’ [Wikipedia]. Taking control of his administration, and keeping errant members in line, he went about the people’s business deftly and purposively. As Ministers showed lack of cooperation’ over the reinstatement of then sacked Home Affairs Minister Dr. Patrick Solomon,’ he told objectionists ‘…Who give you the privilege to object; …Shut up and have respect; …I defy anyone who try to dictate for me;…When I pass an order; …It must go no further: and …If you don’t like it, get to hell out of here’ [Dr. Solomon: You Tube].

Many elected and/or appointed public officials shall know or would have been considered reckless not to know the ‘…Cabinet Solidarity Principle.’ It states ‘…The principle that decisions of the Cabinet must be supported by all of its members, and by convention, those ‘NOT’ supporting a decision, must resign [Glossary: Government Website: Antigua & Barbuda].Electorally, the only people who may speak authoritatively to ‘…Mandate,’ are those duly elected by the electorate. Conversely, the only person to exercise discretion to appoint or disappoint, or wield executive power, has always been the leadership in control of governance. While members may freely express individual views on matters of policy and/or that which requires legislative considerations, such principle speaks to one of two courses of action, ‘…Support or Resign.’

While an environment of fear or a culture of docility shall not be cultivated among members of Cabinet, internalized understanding of the ‘…Cabinet Solidarity Principle’ may help in averting the possibility of ‘…resignation and/or disappointment.’ The experiences of three former Ministers in the then Dr. Denzil Douglas-led administration, very much speak to such philosophy. Former Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas may have been equally as impish as those he had accused of thwarting his administration’s efforts. Those identified were former National Security Minister, G.A. Dwyer Astaphan and Deputy Prime Minister Sam T. Condor.’ Mindful or fearful of possible ‘internal insurrection, he declared ‘…Political War’ against those he had seen as obstructionists or considered enemies of State.

When it became ‘…Functionally Impossible,’ commonsense prevailed and both Ministers resigned from the government [St. Kitts Observer: July 11, 2008]. When former Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, attempting to change the apparent concretized mindset in his leader, by expressing opposition to the passage of two Bills, ‘…Vesting of Certain Land and Senators Increase in Numbers,’ Dr. Denzil Douglas caused him to be stripped bare of his responsibilities [WINNFM: January 25, 2013]. Additionally, he had been forced to harbor suspicions of collusion on an Opposition ‘…No Confidence Motion.’ An avenging electoral defeat of the incumbent Dr. Denzil Douglas saw him being relegated to the benches of the Opposition [St. Kitts/Nevis: February 16, 2017].

In public administration those holding ‘…Privileged Positions’ shall never harbor thoughts of ‘…independence and indispensability.’ Such positions speaks not only to ‘…loyalty; …functional cooperation and support, but also subserviency.’ Short of these, it is either ‘…Re-assigning; …Resigning or Sacking.’ One of these will have been the experience of former Senators Dr. Edmond Michael Mansoor and Ambassador Wigley Franklin N. George. In their respective cases, it may have been for reasons of ‘…concern and consideration’ for the welfare of the people they managed and/or represented. Though they had crossed swords with their administrations, they harboring no feelings of animosity and hold no grudges. While neither man may say ‘…I demitted office a content man,’ each may say ‘…I was humiliated, yet not undaunted; …I have fallen and risen again. …I have conquered.’ These not only speak to political intrigues within the region, but also to the pitfalls and perils of privileged positions. *****

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