Mark Wignall, Sunday Observer
As much as I know that a politician has very few hours in a day for himself, I still consider Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell’s current trip to Trinidad for carnival an insensitive move.
Recently I spent about six hours touring a constituency with a member of parliament (not a minister like Paulwell) and I can tell you, his phone never stops ringing. Each place that we stopped there were people always wanting to see him or talk about something and, of course, some wanted something from him in the here and now. Not tomorrow.
It was highly stressful, and one has to be made for it.
As for Paulwell, he ought to have appreciated the political value of symbolism. In 2009, at the height of the global recession and its effects in Jamaica, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding took a 15 per cent pay cut and all his MPs and Cabinet ministers took a 10 per cent pay cut. The PNP Opposition members would not budge and took their full salaries.
At the time no one was pretending that the money saved would jump-start Jamaica’s perennially weak economy, but it sent a signal that the prime minister and his team were somehow in there with the people and their pain.
Paulwell has been the most energetic Cabinet minister and it is likely that the speed that he used to enact legislation on the telecoms bill was a follow-up to what was laid out in the previous Administration. No sweat, though, and we congratulated him.
At a time when our approach to energy reform is best expressed in its many stops and starts, especially the recent one when the OUR is heading in one direction, and JPS in another, Paulwell figures that heading to carnival will not move us one way or the other.
Frankly, I believe that his prime minister should have immediately requested his return. He wouldn’t have to say that it was so, but, when there is no leadership, anyone can do anything.
I am not denying Minister Paulwell the right to ease the enormous stress levels that must build up in him from day to day, but surely, why would he want to allow one trip to generate the perception that the PNP Government is an uncaring one?
Rebel Salute was enjoyable and was on our soil. While not all could have afforded it, it was well worth it. The Jazz Festival was on our soil but it was not for the light of pocket. Carnival is ‘somewhere else’ and very few of us can afford a plane ticket there.
To me, the timing was poor, and hence I saw it as being insensitive to the present mood of the country.
Then again, maybe Mr Paulwell knows that come 2016 all his party has to do is wind up the robots that make up 26 per cent of the electorate and hope that the JLP gets about 24 per cent.