December 2, 2005

Go out and vote

Vincentians are passionate about their politics. That much is clear. We put our hearts and souls into it. However, as we count down to the big day, we should perhaps use the remaining time to dispassionately reflect and pray about the choices we are about to make.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small, developing country with few natural resources other than our people and natural beauty. Today’s world is increasingly hostile. The outlook for countries like ours seems {{more}}

gloomy. It will take creativity, courage, skill and experience on the part of our leaders to successfully carve a path to economic prosperity for our people.

If we look past all the distractions, the basics to be considered boil down to leadership, the team, the record of the party and the party’s expressed plans for the country. Much has been said by various commentators about the importance of the leader. The leader is key, no pun intended. We have had in the last generation, examples of what can happen if the leader fails to effectively rein in out-of-control Ministers and also of leaders who consider themselves a law onto themselves and listen to no one. The one we choose should be strong, courageous and decisive, but still willing to consult and listen.

Luckily for us, both major parties running in the elections have a recent record of performance on which they can be judged. This should be taken into consideration. Relationship counselors often advise that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. This advice is equally valid with respect to our relationship with our representatives and government. What are their collective and individual records of performance? Do the individual team members have personal and professional records of which they can be proud, and are they upstanding, trustworthy members of the society?

The manifestoes of both parties are now available. It is not clear how many of our electors take the time to read them in detail, but we should make the effort. It is important. The policy decisions taken by our governments have long lasting effects, some good, some not so good. The manifestoes set out the policy positions of the parties and are a good way to get a feel for how the team is thinking and what it intends to do.

For the minority that might be considering not voting, you may wish to reconsider. Think about our forefathers and how hard they fought for the right to vote. We take it for granted. Look at the attitude to voting taken by our citizens born before 1930. Ask them why they vote and why they approach the exercise with such seriousness. More than likely, they may not be able to articulate their motivation. They vote because they must. These citizens were 21 years or older at the time of adult suffrage in 1951. For them, voting is a privilege, one they will not easily give up. Let’s take a leaf out of their book.

Those thinking that their vote will not make a difference should consider this: In Grenada in 2003, Dr. Keith Mitchell’s New National Party, NNP, was narrowly returned to power in the November 27 elections when it edged out the main opposition party National Democratic Congress, NDC, 8-7 at the polls. The NNP won in Carriacou and St Patrick’s West by fewer than a dozen votes in each. You never know. Do not be complacent.

Go out and vote. Exercise your democratic right. The choices you make will determine the future direction of this country and its people.