January 8, 2016
Is national reconciliation an unattainable goal for St Vincent and the Grenadines?

The results of the December 9 general elections again reinforced the political division in this tiny country of ours. Yet, divided as we are, in terms of party of choice, that does not mean that for the vast majority of Vincentians, the pursuit of the goals of national development is not our main priority. Governments and parties may come and go, but the battle against poverty and ignorance and for raising the living standards of our people must continue to be waged relentlessly.

Unfortunately, since the results of the general elections were announced on December 9, there are some who refuse to accept them and have been carrying out a campaign of protest and civil disobedience.

Court challenges have been launched, but this seems to matter very little to the protesters, one or two of whom appear to see political martyrdom as their own road to glory and are beginning to violate the laws of the country.

But the picture is much bigger than this tiny snapshot. The big issue before us all is how are we to achieve the goal of national reconciliation? No country can progress and develop if its people are so deeply divided. There must be ways and means by which we can respect our political differences yet keep our focus on national development.

The political leadership of both parties have special responsibilities where national reconciliation is concerned. On the part of the Opposition, it is imperative that a clear message be conveyed to supporters about respecting and observing the laws of the land. Court cases have been filed challenging the election results, so what is the point of the relentless, vicious attacks on the Supervisor of Elections and her staff?

How could the Opposition remain silent in the face of open appeals on social media for what amounts to open insurrection? Does it not have a responsibility to rein in the politically insane in its ranks and demonstrate responsibility and maturity? Or is it abandoning its responsibility and gambling on social chaos as a pathway to power?

On the part of the governing ULP, the restraint so far has been admirable. It is easy and tempting to mount counter-demonstrations of support for the government, but there is the risk of political clashes. That restraint must be maintained even in the face of obvious provocation, for violent confrontations will do us no good.

The government cannot fall into the trap being set by the reckless and politically irresponsible. Indeed, the ULP, as election victor, has the added responsibility of not only being firm and maintaining law and order, but also paving the road towards national reconciliation. Even civil society organizations, churches and families are being seriously affected internally by political divisions. We cannot go forward on this basis.