Posted By: News
Date: 16, March 04, at 8:27 a.m.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning pretended on two occasions last weekend to have lost his voice. He carried out this charade to avoid answering questions on the resignation of a member of his Cabinet, Labour Minister Lawrence Achong. His behaviour can only be described as childish, particularly as before developing sudden attacks of laryngitis he had spoken in clear voice to gatherings in north and south. His attitude to Media representatives who had approached him for a comment on a definite matter of national concern, was in essence a dismissal of the public's right to be informed about Government affairs.
Manning may have lost his Labour Minister, who had resigned "on a matter of principle", but he had clearly not lost his voice. On Saturday and Sunday he had addressed audiences without any evidence of laryngitis, yet had offered that excuse when journalists sought to interview him as he made his departure from the functions. His voice seemed to come and go at will because on the first occasion as he arrived to address an awards ceremony hosted by the Network of Women NGO's, the Prime Minister had brusquely told the Media that he had a function to attend. The former Labour Minister's not entirely unexpected resignation on Friday has been effectively in the public domain since then and the public needs to hear what the Prime Minister thinks about it, why he and Achong couldn't settle any differences and who is going to replace Achong.
Lawrence Achong had disagreed with Prime Minister Manning's reluctance to implement a promise of having Sectoral Wage Reform made on the political campaign trail in the run-up to the 2002 General Election. The matter had reportedly been discussed in Cabinet. In addition, the PM had publicly stated his opposition to its implementation at this time. So that when Achong had undiplomatically declared his support for it in public during the current strike involving workers on the construction of Atlantic LNG's Train Four, the former Labour Minister had only one course open to him: resign or face dismissal.
If Mr Manning was not ready to speak last weekend when approached by the Media, all he had to do was to say so. Manning could simply have said "no comment" or promised to speak about Mr Achong at a later time. But to pretend that he had lost his voice is simply not what we expect of a Prime Minister in the circumstances. By attempting to pappyshow the Media and incidentally the general public, which looks to the Media for information on matters of public concern, by suggesting that he had a voice problem, Prime Minister was being unamusingly absurd. Had a person other than the Prime Minister offered the clearly ridiculous excuse that he had lost his voice, in a not dissimilar circumstance, we would have said that he was less than truthful.
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