Characteristics of a maturing democracy
February 25, 2022

Characteristics of a maturing democracy

Our country and people are preparing to welcome home Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves who headed the local delegation to the Dubai 2020 Expo seeking opportunities in the Middle East for trade, investment and tourism. The Prime Minister’s delegation, quite substantial by our standards and capacity, in addition to government and state officials contained a strong cultural component whose members performed at different venues in Dubai last week.

Hopes are high especially among private sector actors that the visit will reap tangible rewards especially in the fields mentioned, for goodness knows how much our country, beset by natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic, needs such opportunities. As is his custom, one expects that early next week, the Prime Minister would not only report to the nation on the visit, but also make himself available for questioning.

Given the discussion in the media, especially social media, Dr Gonsalves can expect a wide range of questions, not just about his visit but on developments at home. There will be questions about the composition of the delegation and the respective responsibilities of those who represented this country. While there is always the possibility of frivolous queries, it is nevertheless important that the people of this country get to understand the why and wherefores of such ventures.

Each opportunity thus afforded is one not only for us to bask in success, if that is what it brings, but even when successful allows us to reflect on how we can do even better next time. Critical comment and probing questions if properly handled, can reap benefits for our country in the future.

One can expect that questions about the stone quarry at Richmond, which have more and more been emerging in the media, will be among the most prominent ones that PM Gonsalves will have to handle. He has been absent for most of the time that the matter has made the news. The more information on the project is released or public comment is made, the greater seems to be the controversy around it. Many unanswered questions are still in the public domain and without reasonable explanation can only lead to speculation and rumour.

While it is true that some questions can, and do, create discomfort for the government, it is nevertheless important that they are handled with maturity. When a government is in office as long as the ULP, there is a temptation, indeed often a growing tendency to take the electorate for granted, to believe that come the next election, the old magic will again guarantee victory.

Our history speaks otherwise.

It is vital that we continue on the path followed by a maturing democracy. In it, those charged with the responsibility of governing, not ruling, must understand that public accountability is essential to the process of democratic maturation.

Governments must not do as they please, nor be allowed to do so. Respect for the views of the populace and the right to question and demand answers are fundamental to our forward movement.