Dr. Fraser- Point of View
September 17, 2010
Insanity in the political realm

There is a certain madness that has taken hold of this country as the Election campaign heats up, and the people of this country will have to be concerned and must hope that we do not have a prolonged campaign, because we might be in for serious trouble, given the reactions of some of our political actors and acrobats. Over the past two weeks, issues relevant to campaign funding and to the increase in the number of the electoral constituencies have arisen.{{more}}

A certain measure of insanity is prevailing, and there is in my view need for psychiatric intervention. I cannot remember seeing it like this before. All sorts of wild accusations are being tossed around, with little regard for truth and for the good sense of our people. It is as if the truth and politics are in a permanent war, being viciously opposed to each other. At one time it used to be accepted that politicians must lie and must be corrupt. I hope we have gone beyond that. Really, some of our politicians should run their campaigns from the steps of the Mental Asylum. Not that the patients there would want them anyhow! They might feel that they should be the ones who need to be outside.

Campaign financing

The SEARCHLIGHT in its editorial of September 10 took up the issue of Campaign financing. It referred to a conference on that issue that was sponsored by the Organisation of American States that was held in Jamaica in the previous week. It quoted from the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, who stated that: “The ability of candidates to raise funds, to form parties and to organise solid election campaigns is the central challenge to the electoral democracy in the region…” It noted that one of the recommendations of the Conference was the prohibition of external funding. I don’t know how you go about stopping this, but the matter in any event is a serious and complex one.

We are moving into what I call American style campaigning where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent. America might be able to afford this and in any event, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The amount of money now spent on campaigning can never be generated internally. Our country is too poor for this, but it provides openings for drug dealers and all sorts of unsavoury characters, some of whom are deeply involved in money laundering. The State for one cannot afford to provide money for political campaigning, although it is true to say that parties in office are able to use the national coffers for campaign purposes under the guise of public works. This is not to say that efforts should not be made to put some order into campaign financing.

What to me is more important is that we more carefully examine our political parties, systems of government and methods of campaigning. At the opening of the fifth assembly of Caribbean Peoples held in Barbados a few weeks ago, George Lamming made a statement with which I entirely agree. He stated, “It is my view that the political party, ‘ as it operates’, is the source of public corruption. It is the source of a waste of human capital.” So there is a lot that is wrong and crazy about our politics and about the structures that keep the rotten system alive. Note that Lamming qualifies political party by stating ‘as it operates’, suggesting that it might be otherwise. The SEARCHLIGHT editorial calls for the debate to be continued by the people, making an effort to separate the people from the politicians. But this is a hard sell in SVG, as we know it today. Yes, the conversation must continue, but we cannot do that in a vacuum. We will have to take into the debate the functioning of the political parties and our methods of campaigning.

The Search for two constituencies

This is really another kind of madness. I never agreed with extra constituencies. We are already over-governed. A population of about 105,000 people, smaller than a small town in a number of other countries! Madness! There is no rationale in saying that other countries in the region with smaller populations have as many as or more constituencies than SVG. They will also soon realise the folly of their situation. What are we going to give those other two persons to do? Some of our representatives are already underworked and appear missing in action.

Parliament has already made the decision, so how do we decide on two extra constituencies? The constitution refers to the constituencies containing as equal number of inhabitants but making allowances for, among other things, means of communication and the adequate representation of sparsely populated areas. So one can therefore justify the two constituencies in the Grenadines on these grounds! The Opposition has objected to the findings of the Commission based on a number of different grounds. The Court has issued an injunction preventing the Boundaries Commission from publishing their report since it felt that “there is a serious issue to be tried”.

It is clear that the Boundaries Commission did not treat the work they were given to do with the seriousness it deserved, even

taking into account the time they spent carrying out their responsibilities and their scant disregard for the last census. The Constitution did clearly state that the number of inhabitants of any part of St.Vincent was to be determined by reference to the latest census. In the final analysis, the issue appeared to have had little to do with governance but with trying to secure the party in power with what it hoped would be an advantage. It has to be stated that this is not a novel idea by the present government, but this Commission seemed to have outdone others before it.

It must be remembered that it has not always in the past worked as those who created it had hoped it would. In all of this the country is the loser because little attention is being paid to how all of this impacts on the country. This is really what our politics has become. It is driven by sheer insanity.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.