February 25, 2014

Curb political over-exuberance

Fri Feb 25, 2013

The front page story in the Searchlight weekend edition of Friday, 21 February, with a flashback to the 1994 general elections, should be a chilling reminder of what can happen when heightened election tensions overly excite some political foot soldiers.{{more}}

And maybe we all should accept that, even while we agree that we operate in a competitive political environment, and that at times the language may become robust, even combative in style, time out has to be taken, particularly by leading party officials to assess the mood of the various groups of supporters, with a view to identifying and containing unwanted over-exuberance.

No one believes that the leadership of the four active political parties would promote or condone election violence. Neither, we believe, would the majority of rank and file members of the parties, including the larger Unity Labour Party and New Democratic Party, whose respective memberships appear to be in a constant ‘battle’ for dominance of public opinion. We should, however, be concerned that not all followers are likely to receive the political message as intended, and there is often that tiny, but worrying minority, who may feel compelled to defend the party, literally.

Those elements have always been present in election campaigns; not just in 1994, as reported, when events turned deadly for Elizabeth Keane – killed in a stone throwing incident during an election motorcade, and almost fatal for Charmaine Bailey, who lost an eye in a bottle throwing episode on another motorcade.

As we enter the home stretch to the next general elections, there seems little hope that the intensity of the current discourse will lessen. In fact, we anticipate a rise in the level of passion, accusations and counter-accusations, and even name-calling. And the whole country will be swept up, if it is not already, through the myriad political radio talk shows, social media postings and public events. We can only ask that presenters remember that the audience is multi-strata and there may be segments they need to rein in.