After this month’s House of Assembly meeting, it is clear that the opposition needs to do a better job of working as a team.
During the session, different members asked government ministers very similar questions, wasting valuable time and exposing the fact that they apparently did not all consult thoroughly with each other beforehand.
Opposition members, for example, echoed each other’s inquiries about festival expenditures, statutory board members, the unrest in Hong Kong, and the proposed United Kingdom loan guarantee in a long series of questions that easily could have been consolidated for the sake of expediency.
The lack of coordination is unfortunate, because the opposition plays an indispensable role in holding the government accountable. The question-and-answer segment of HOA meetings is particularly important: It gives all members a chance to ask questions that government-side lawmakers are compelled to answer honestly.
To be fair, opposition members asked a lot this month, and many of their queries were on target. But the repeats were unnecessary.
We understand that working together must be difficult for them after the fractures that beset both major parties before the February elections. The current opposition includes three members from the National Democratic Party and one each from the upstart Progressives United and Progressive Virgin Islands Movement. These parties all fought viciously before the election, and some opposition members were bitter rivals.
Now, however, they need to put aside their differences and work together for the good of the entire territory.
Besides collaborating on questions, there are other strategies that could yield fruit. Though the VI HOA doesn’t include shadow ministers as in the United Kingdom and other larger parliamentary democracies, a united opposition would do well to operate as if it did. To that end, each member could take on a particular portfolio, monitoring and researching the activities of specific government agencies and taking a lead both in assisting those agencies and in formulating strategies designed to hold them accountable.
This collaboration, of course, would not preclude opposition members from asking questions of particular importance to their constituents — nor should it.
Ultimately, a united opposition will only make this democracy stronger. And if its members get along, they could mend bridges and perhaps form new political alliances that could prove formidable during the next election cycle.
With five members, the current opposition is the largest the territory has seen in more than a decade. Its members should step up to the plate.