The Silly season or what some call Seasonal Cockfighting time is very much on us. What happened recently in parliament is a manifestation of it.We have to question the word ‘seasonal’ because cockfighting, though not on the agenda, is always at play. Truly it does manifest itself more forcefully as we approach election time. I am reminded of George Lamming’s comments; “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”. It is all played out in a “Winner Take All” situation as Selwyn Ryan describes the operation of the Westminster style government in post independent Caribbean. It was, of course, not designed for small states like ours but during Colonial times the hands of the Mother Country guided its operation, even though not necessarily in our best interest.
One of the biggest problems facing CARICOM independent states is the appalling deterioration in governance. One would have thought that the idea of electoral reform would be an uncontested idea even with differences in the nature of reform. Reports of past Supervisors of Elections and Monitoring bodies have pointed to this. With a majority in parliament the government would have always commanded the majority vote, so why this nit-picking and intemperate scuffle over interpretations of parliamentary procedure? Is there really need for electoral reform? If there is, why don’t we cut out the parliamentary gamesmanship and facilitate the debate? The Speaker has more power than he cares to exercise and if he is convinced about the need for electoral reform could he not have ensured that the debate take place? It might in any event not have succeeded but then that is a different issue. Certainly, it would have brought the issues of electoral reform before the public.
What is frightening is that Civil Society has become an echo chamber, parroting the views of political parties. Would we ever reach the point where we say that this nonsense must stop? I see the same thing being played out in the US where the president is seriously attempting to undermine the system of checks and balances that is a significant factor in the governance of the US. What continues to be a strength in the US is the role and work of the media, the fourth estate, so-called, and enlightened public opinion. Sadly here, we are missing in these essential areas. SVG, unfortunately, has no media association but the media needs to reflect on its role and on its purpose. In a Forum in St Lucia sponsored by the Media Association an editor took issue with me and declared that the purpose of the media was to make money. I suggested to him that an instrument which is about public information must be more than that. It must look critically at issues and even be prepared to speak truth to power. I have always said that politicians do what they know they will get away with. I still believe this, but we the people continue to underestimate our power.
True enough, democracy does not mean development. It might be that we are prepared to sacrifice democratic principles for personal rather than developmental gains, which are admittedly in short supply. Are we continuing to see ourselves as part of the darkened theatre audience, enjoying the machinations of the players, applauding, or scoffing where necessary? We have surrendered our power and have degenerated into echo chambers. The English- speaking Caribbean colonies started the independent path in 1962, 57 years ago. We have given our souls to those who have succeeded the colonial masters. Is this what it was all about? Do we really enjoy the cockfighting, funny as it often is?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian