March 24, 2005
Two disappointing moments

The furore created this week over the approach being taken to the Enumeration exercise gives a good indication of just how contentious the next general elections here are going to be. During the week ending 12th March, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace penned a letter to Supervisor of Elections Rodney Adams in which he charged that “members of Cabinet have been involved in the recruitment of enumerators for the Enumeration of Electors Exercise” which he termed a dangerous precedent. {{more}}

Now, notwithstanding the denial by the Supervisor that this had not been so, the Parliamentary Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has gone one step further and, on Tuesday of this week, stayed away from the sitting of the House of Assembly, once again.

The Enumeration exercise is in its infancy but is meant to sanitise the list of eligible voters. This exercise is usually carried out after a census has been taken in the country. It is therefore quite timely and a necessary exercise that must be carried out before a general election.

The Opposition NDP has been suspicious of the recruitment of enumerators and has so protested. In a small country such as ours, there may always be suspicions about whom is being recruited for this job of Supervisor of Elections and of the enumerators themselves. However there have not been, at least publicly, any complaints about the work of Supervisor Adams himself. Except where the Opposition Leader has questioned whether “the office of the Supervisor of Elections has been emasculated”.

But one safeguard of the process is that each political party has been permitted, quite democratically to select its own scrutineers, whose job it is to monitor that the enumerators are operating fairly. We feel that as long as the NDPs scrutineers understand their jobs and are vigilant, they will be able to ensure that the process works fairly to their party’s interest.

The NDP Parliamentarians were due to have their day in the House this past Tuesday. According to the schedule, the day was to have been dedicated to opposition business. It was therefore sad that Eustace and his fellow Parliamentarians did not take the opportunity to go to the House and air their concerns before the nation.

In the Parliament of the land, they would have certainly had access to a much larger audience via both radio and television. And that would not have stopped them from broadcasting the proceedings on Nice Radio, therefore making it three radio stations which would have been carrying their protestations live.

We feel that Eustace’s protest would have been much more effective had he made his case in the House to which the people elected them. No one can dictate the NDP’s strategy, but we do find it a disappointment. They missed a great opportunity.

Our second disappointment this week came from the Minister of Tourism and Culture René Baptiste. Her quoted comments on the Pirates of the Caribbean’s portrayal of the indigenous people of this country as just fiction we find quite shocking and unbecoming of a person who presides over out Ministry of Culture. One understands the Minister’s desire to be on good footing with Walt Disney, the makers of the film. We understand the need for tourism revenue. But to just pass off as a mere work of fiction what has been touted as the portrayal of the Caribs as cannibals is with respect rather short-sighted and we dare say, insensitive to the Caribs.

Worse, this statement was made during a month that we celebrate as Heritage Month. In this month, and always, we have to be mindful how our people are portrayed for posterity.

We do believe that the Minister, who has demonstrated a lot of energy in the area of culture, may want to rethink this position.