Our Readers' Opinions
December 17, 2004
Support for alternative approach to governance

I support Maxwell Haywood’s call to freedom-loving Vincentians for a non-partisan approach to poverty eradication in SVG (Searchlight, November 19).

I argue, too, that such a step forward would signify the long awaited revolution that could effectively exclude party politicians from the planning process of such policies. {{more}} Despite the rhetoric about full- and non-partisan participation in the ongoing consultation on constitution reform, there is proof a process that could lead to local governance is an expensive charade.

The Embassy of SVG based in Washington, DC announced in 2001 that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves instructed them to approach the Organization of American States (OAS) for assistance with constitutional reform. This was no surprise as the Unity Labour Party (ULP), in its pre-2001 election social contract, promised “a new departure, for the better, in the governance of our nation”. Needless to say, many Vincentians looked forward to the implementation of these progressive plans.

As if anointed by the Almighty, the ULP government and the people of SVG not only enjoy the benefit of intellectual capital but, as member of major donor organizations, they have been participants of and contributors to the discourse on significant issues of sustainable development in the region. For example, the OAS sponsored two major conferences on “Constitutional Reform” and “Local Government in Small States” within two years of the existence of the ULP government.

Local Government

Evidently the participants, who included SVG nationals and government officials, recommended that even the smallest of the island states should implement local government to maximize citizen participation at local and community levels. Further, they recommended that political parties should be barred from competing for local office.

At this juncture, the question must be: to what extent have these opportunities been used to strengthen the process of implementing better governance that will ultimately lead to sustainable development of which a vital part is poverty eradication? The consultation process is already tarnished when Dr. Gonsalves has insisted on making sure that the representation of the ULP outnumbers that of the opposition, New Democratic Party (NDP).

He has done this by stacking the commission with individuals who are either party activists or supporters.

This is evident in HIS personal appointment of the representative of the diaspora: an active member of the New York-based ULP support group. In fact, this appointment has made bogus the claim of non-partisan participation. There has been little or no attempt to seek the views of the wider Vincentian community in the United States of America despite the existence of an umbrella organization in New York. There is no clear evidence of any co-ordinating mechanism to include the representation of multi-party views in the diaspora!



The other disappointing aspect of the process is related to the proposed structure of local government. Dr. Gonsalves’ observation that power and authority under existing constitutional arrangements are too centralized. It is deceitful when he shamelessly suggests a direct replica of the Constitutional Reform Commission in his proposal for Local Government Authority. His idea of a local government authority will comprise SEVEN government appointees, TWO by the minority party and FOUR by NGOs (2003, OAS Conference on “Local Government in Small States”). Based on our experience of the SVG Constitution Reform Commission, can anyone truly expect Dr. Gonsalves to not use his unmeasured “powar” to stack the Local Government Authority with his political party activists and supporters? How does this instil confidence?

I support the call to freedom-loving Vincen-tians to not rely entirely on party politicians for their sustainable development. Our party politicians will not, at any time soon, genuinely address the issue of poverty eradication.

Luzette King