Sword of Damocles

The ancient Roman scholar Cicero in his book “Tusculan Disputations”, tells the story of oppressive Sicilian king Dionysius II, who lived in constant fear of being dethroned because his ruthless brand of rulership bore him many foes.

Along comes the courtier Damocles, who pours praise on Dionysius and how grand he believes the king’s life to be; and in response, the king fetes Damocles to meat and wine and a golden seat, but hangs over Damocles’ head from the ceiling above, a sword, dangling from a single thread of horse hair.

The lesson of Cicero was that despite the power of the king and the apparent splendor thereof, all was not as it seemed, as the way he held the crown left him ever on the verge of potential doom.

Storytellers later depicted the sword of Damocles as an allusion of impending destruction.

Yesterday’s messiness surrounding the resignation from Cabinet of former Youth, Sports and Culture minister, Lanisha Rolle, triggered ideation of the parabolic sword swinging over the head of an administration and governing party which has lost four ministers, a House speaker and two other parliamentarians in under four years.

Rolle’s resignation was a surprise to the public, but questions remain as to whether it was also a surprise to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, given that Rolle did not address her leaked resignation letter to the prime minister as is customary, but to the governor general, who appoints ministers on the recommendation of the prime minister.

This, together with the letter being in the public domain hours before Minnis would later respond through the Cabinet Office, and combined with Rolle’s misplaced missive to the GG about her “committed” representation in the Seabreeze constituency, points to a breakdown of unknown scope between the prime minister and his former minister.

To add embarrassing insult to injury, the drama of Rolle’s resignation was ratcheted up when her father, a longtime Free National Movement (FNM) supporter, descended on the Cabinet building to launch a stinging verbal assault against the prime minister.

The Cabinet Office’s statement on Rolle’s resignation included an obscure reference to “certain matters” being brought to the attention of Minnis, which are said to be under investigation.

It was an eyebrow-raising statement with the scent of tit-for-tat given the chagrin of the day’s events, and one that created new complications for the prime minister.

The statement is set against the backdrop of social media claims a day earlier about alleged findings of a purported audit in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.

It also appears to want to give the impression that Rolle was asked to resign from Cabinet, though the former minister’s leaked resignation letter, which bypassed the prime minister, gives another impression.

Either way, the prime minister must indicate what “certain matters” are under investigation, and he must tell the nation what he knows, how long he has known it, and what role, if any, these matters played in Rolle’s resignation.

Rolle had been a difficult minister to work with by all credible accounts within the public service.

Nevertheless, Minnis chose to keep her in the Cabinet, saving her place therein by effecting a shuffle in 2018, so as to switch her portfolio from Social Services where complaints mushroomed, to Youth, Sports and Culture.

It is understood that Rolle’s resignation came on the heels of confirmation that she would not be renominated as standard bearer for Seabreeze, turning yet another page in a sloppy nomination process for incumbents, which has added grease for the mill churning opposition assertions that the administration is imploding.

That nomination process raised new suspicions last week, when an incumbent rushed to deny claims by the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) chairman, that she sought to join the opposition party this year.

Try as some government ministers have done to argue otherwise, the perception that the Minnis administration is struggling to hold itself together under a menacing specter of lack of transparency, intrigue and division, is taking root and becoming an uncharacteristic hallmark of an FNM government.

Unremedied, the thread from which Damocles’ sword dangles cannot be expected to hold much longer.

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