While the political parties continue their post-election reflections, is it the mission of the people to rebuild what is broken? This column is meant to support two excellent pieces written by Kenrick Quashie in I Witness News on November 23rd and 30th. In fact, the caption comes from the last line of Kenrick’s second article. He laments the collapse of community based organisations, one of the tragedies he feels, of the ULP’s 19-year rule. Admittedly, trade unions still exist but he considers them weak, post-2001. The PSU and SVGTU are the most visible but have a lot of work to do to build trade unionism. What is the role of the people in the absence of once vibrant community organisations? He noted that the NDP was the only body critical of Government policies and highlighting the plight of the people. But there is a flaw in that since we only see party colours and the opposing party is likely to focus on the messenger, not the message.
Even though still a young man, Kenrick’s story is worth telling. As a member of the ULP Youth Arm at the age of 15, he was mandated to monitor any government vehicles carrying goodies beyond the Dry River. He willingly accepted despite having to miss a Beres Hammond show and others that followed. We are not told if he saw any vehicles transporting goodies, but brought his story forward to 2020, where on the night before elections he saw many trucks distributing material, to the extent that some people in the area called it Christmas, no doubt Christmas in November! His conclusion, the more things change the more they remain the same.
He accused the ULP of doing the same things for which they had criticized the NDP. He highlighted examples he considered most despicable, among them the firing of most watchmen across the country. As he sees it, change is necessary. We must change the government because we can change them, noting that the ULP has been in office for over 19 years. The point that really should be made is that we must by our actions let governments know that we will change them when they do not live up to our expectations. Change he considers necessary if we are to move the country progressively forward, since the system as it exists, breeds corruption, political patronage, and victimisation. The question which is left unanswered is, how do you change the system? Despite its sordid history, he calls for Integrity legislation, the setting up of an Electoral Commission, and that jobs and promotion be based on merit rather than political affiliation. There is a call for the populace to put on national lenses rather than ones tinted with party colours. The question remains, how do we bring this about?
His second article has him reminiscing on the collapse of community organisations, referring particularly to the NAtional Youth Council (NYC). With the absence of these groups only the Church seems to be left with the moral authority to speak on issues affecting the country. But he is critical of the Church and its failure to call a spade a spade and to speak for the vulnerable; it preaches ‘bias partisan politics from the pulpit’ and is caught up with things of the world, losing its moral authority to be an independent voice.
While admitting that community organisations died because the leadership was easily bought, he still maintains that active community and civic organisations are vital for a strong and vibrant democracy. But how do we rebuild what was broken while ensuring that things will not remain the same? Will the rebuilding create an alert populace that is key to positive and progressive development? He makes no mention of the media. Isn’t it supposed to be one of the guardians of democracy? Kenrick might not have provided answers, but who can? What he has done is to start a conversation which we can build on and explore the way forward and identify what needs to be and can be rebuilt.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian