Our Readers' Opinions
March 31, 2006

Will big brother still be watching

by Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

While our prime ministers like dressing themselves in papal robes and portraying their leadership as messianic, they are usually demonised by detractors equating them to Lucifer who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Cato was nicknamed Magoffie, Mitchell dubbed Anansi and The I-Man and Gonsalves is labelled the encyclopaedia and papa. Our obsession with our prime ministers and indeed their self-obsession is primarily due to the fact that legally, that office is the sun of our political universe. It is quite literally the only seat of real power (though not necessarily light), from which all others take their bearing, marking time in their delegated space. There is of course the Opposition, but it is merely a moon hoping to cause a solar eclipse.{{more}}

Our democracy is one where the Prime Minister is legally, a dictator democratically elected. This awesome power makes it possible for a holder of that office to bring to book if he so desires, anyone who dares express dissent. In truth, our constitution gives ample opportunities for any prime minister to use his vindictiveness as a Joseph Stalin tyrannical sword, forcing all Squealers to take flight or be sentenced to hardship by prime ministerial sanction and connivance. In our democracy genuflecting to the prime minister is imperative for most to survive. Consequently, disclosing the Emperor’s nakedness or emptiness could cost you your breadfruit tree.

Our constitution clearly shows that the idea that a rule of law state is sufficient to protect the rights of the masses against executive abuse is farcical. Law is in essence the concentrated expression of politics and when it stipulates that one office or a small oligarchy should weld so much power it de facto legalises dictatorship, the antithesis of democracy. Governance is then executed by decree, so in the same way a horse was named a consul in ancient Rome, so too in contemporary SVG it’s not unusual for us to name asses to the senate, and Speakers of Parliament who were just that, instruments wired to the prime minister for the sole purpose of relaying his dictates in an amplified manner.

This constitutional “prime ministerialdom” is an “historical wrong” blessed by the SVLP and then upheld by the NDP. Before I address these, let’s understand one thing: When I refer to the misdeeds of Labour and the NDP, as I am wont to do in much of my writings, it’s not out of malice to Cato, Mitchell or Gonsalves. It is rather to put those actions into proper perspective as regards their effects on this nation, thereby helping to ensure that they never reoccur.

Labour accepted political independence in our name and exerted the greatest influence nationally on the norms of our British granted constitution. It’s true that they spearheaded some discussions on the basic law, but this was more out of obligation rather than conviction, and their contemptuous and dismissive treatment of peopled-centred proposals seems to imply that power of the ruler, not justice for the ruled was the central preoccupation. They therefore agreed to replace the colonial cloak with a prime ministerial iron fist that aided and abetted their excesses and blatant abuse of power from 79 to 84. There are Stargazers who alien to the truth (whether through genuine ignorance or lying denial), paint Labour a church choir. They must remember that objective reality is not a function of imagination or interpretation.

Like the stargazers, the Son worshippers erroneously believe that Mitchell was the Santiago of democracy in SVG. But again history exposes this fallacy, for Mitchell chose power over reason and elected dictatorship over consensual democracy in 89. Parnell Campbell’s plea of conscience was rejected and the right of prime ministerial might embraced. Old people say the upholder is worse than the thief; this was the NDP’s role in this “historical wrong”. They knew that the constitution was seriously flawed, but guess what? 17 years in power, 5 of which they held an absolute parliamentary monopoly were insufficient for them to make change. But come their 2001 loss and eureka! Mitchell now reads groundbreaking lectures on constitutional reform. Old people are right, “Wonders never cease.” Sorry, Sun worshipers, but history can’t be seasoned to your taste or framed to your specification.

So we are now in the Gonsalves era, which began with a drive for constitutional change. But the fanfare over, there seems now to be some pussyfooting, threatening Campbell with déjà vu. But even if it goes forward, will it be meaningful, relieving our democracy of the debilitating and undermining prime ministerial overlord? Some insist that Ralph will maintain the status quo for being master is innate to him. But will Gonsalves simply follow base instincts and be another Cato or Mitchell, rule and that’s that? Or will he rise to the occasion, answer the call and thus live as long as history itself goes on in the same way that George Washington, Winston Churchill and last but in no way least our own Joseph Chatoyer do? Will he surrender the self-destructing temporary dictatorship for the universally uplifting permanent broader freedoms and justice for all? Chatoyer gave his life for freedom, Macintosh and Joshua went further and laid a foundation, Gonsalves’ task is to oversee its implementation.

Funny, but Orwell knew even down to the year. After all, 1984 is when Cato left and Mitchell arrived, but Big Brother continued unhindered. Will he still be watching at the end of the Gonsalves era? The decision is Gonsalves’ today, but history will have its say tomorrow.