ST VINCENT AND THE Grenadines is today a deeply distressed and battered nation. In less than two years, we have had a dengue outbreak, a closely fought election, a volcanic eruption, hurricane Elsa, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic then the resultant and compounded social, economic and political fallout of these.
With street protests which began earlier this year turning increasingly violent as evidenced by the bursting of the Prime Minister’s head last week, the need for us to step back and consider what we are doing to ourselves could not be more urgent.
As the supporters of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) reacted with outrage to the brutal assault against the Prime Minister, the supporters of the New Democratic Party (NDP) have expressed deep dismay at what they see as retaliatory police raids against persons presumed to be in the leadership of the protest movement. None presumes the good intentions of the other.
Less than two months ago, the Director General of Finance and Planning warned that if we look at 2020 and 2021 together, the potential contraction of the economy of SVG is about 10 per cent and if things continue as they are into 2022, this will spell disaster for each and every Vincentian.
Emotions are heightened on both sides and hardly anyone is listening. What we have is a sustained struggle for dominance with neither side willing to yield to the other.
There needs to be a fundamental re-thinking by the leaders and supporters of both parties of what it means to be Vincentian. It demands that the ULP and the NDP re-imagine a politics where they see each other as engaged in a common cause, a sacred cause: the transformation and development of St Vincent and the Grenadines. One would have thought that by this stage, we would have matured enough as a nation to embrace the fact that as Vincentians, we are all sailors on the same ship of state; that we are taking turns pulling the oars, that our ship needs every man and woman to give of their very best as we navigate treacherous waters. And if the ship goes down, everyone drowns.
But the problem is who gets to chart the course. Although general elections were held just over nine months ago to decide that, we seem to be still engaged in an epic contest to win control of the government, election results notwithstanding.
To NDP supporters, 20 years ago the ULP used its strength in the popular vote to prevent the Sir James Mitchell government from completing its full five-year term. Today, to the ULP supporters, the NDP’s current challenge to the ULP is nothing more than a ploy to prevent the Gonsalves’ government from completing its full five-year term as the legitimately elected government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
If the NDP is indeed seeking to repeat that history by removing the ULP from power before it can complete its full term, social scientist Karl Marx has a warning: history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. What this actually means is that history never truly repeats itself.
Today, in this season of conflict, Vincentians have a choice to make. We can choose the perils that Marx warns about – farce or tragedy. Or we can choose to put the welfare of the nation ahead of politics, ego, personal ambitions and agendas.