Clash of narratives between NDP, ULP and civil society
February 18, 2014

Clash of narratives between NDP, ULP and civil society

A clash of the unique narratives of the Opposition New Democratic Party, the ruling Unity Labour Party and civil society – including the media,{{more}} is at the heart of the current political divisiveness in the country, says government senator Camillo Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, a lawyer, who is also the country’s Foreign Minister, offered an overview of the narratives and their points of conflict while speaking on radio over the weekend.

“One of the narratives that dominates the New Democratic Party’s outlook politically is that the ULP, the governing party, buys its support – it buys it by bribery; it buys it by relief supplies; it buys its support,” Gonsalves said of the first narrative.

“And therefore, it views every action of the ULP through that prism, as a corrupt attempt to purchase electoral favour. And if you view things like that, the nature of your discourse will be altered, because you will not talk about things from a policy standpoint or substantive standpoint, but you will think everything is an election gimmick.”

“So, the airport becomes an election gimmick, the relief efforts post flood are election gimmicks, and so on. That is a narrative that shapes their outlook,” Gonsalves asserted.

It is a narrative which clashes with the ruling party’s.

“The ULP has a narrative that essentially is ‘don’t let any challenge go unanswered, even if the challenge is not worthy of response’,” Gonsalves said.

“Because one of the things they would say is ‘look we tried to bring a referendum; we were talking in a high-minded manner about this and fellas were hitting us below the belt and talking about all sorts of different things, and therefore, never again will we be in that position.’

“Which is one of the reasons why there is a Star Radio to counteract a Nice Radio, because they believe that any charge must be answered immediately and quickly. So that contributes to a punch – counterpunch sort of diagnosis,” Gonsalves said.

The two parties’ narratives then impact on that of civil society, Gonsalves believes.

“Civil society’s governing narrative – painting with a broad brush, and talking about a civil society that is independent and has independent thought – the narrative that governs them is essentially a ‘no sell out’ narrative,” claims Gonsalves.

“And what I mean by that is that they are so intimidated by the political climate that they are afraid to speak, because if they speak in favour of this, they would be viewed as an NDP dog, and if they speak in favour of that they would be viewed as an ULP dog.

“So, they stay silent, or they speak with such timidity as to say almost nothing,”

“So, I believe again …that there is a civil society there, that is objective and independent, but they are cowed by the nature of the political climate currently, because people are always tarred with one brush or the other and they so valiantly and jealously guard their own independence that they would rather not speak.”

At least one contributor to the radio programme suggested the civil society’s silence may be driven by fear and intimidation.