Our Readers' Opinions
February 9, 2016
Whither goeth our democracy? – Part 3

by Oswald Fereira

I viewed this campaign from a distance and I depended on what I read in The Vincentian and Searchlight, as well as on the Internet to follow its course. There was much at stake in this election. On the one hand, we had a Prime Minister trying to win a fourth consecutive term and equal a record. On the other hand, we had the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss under the same leader.{{more}} The election of 2010 was so close, both parties wanted to score a decisive win. We had candidates getting up in age and perhaps given a final shot at gaining political office. With so much at stake, the stage was set for a hard battle and by all reports, so it was. It was also many other things.

I read of several references to “gutter” politics; need I say more. One editorial stated that it was a bruising battle, financed to proportions that ran afoul of the economic conditions of the last two years, with harsh, unadulterated language that was shot across the political spectrum, and with rhetoric and propaganda that were at times wild and redundant and often too hurting. Another stated that the campaign sank to depths never before seen in this country, with social media providing those intent on getting dirty with a convenient vehicle to execute their nefarious deeds. Collin Ca$h Haywood wrote that regrettably, SVG continues on an unprecedented downward spiral, created by a senseless political divide. This malaise has caused families to be torn apart and colleagues to become competitors, competing against the common good. Renwick Rose, in sober thought, called for a national “upliftment” and a debate of “meaningful things,” rather than being sidetracked by negatives. He further called for a healing of the deep divisions and a rising above the muck and nastiness. Brother Rose, truer words have never been written. After the election, the SVG Christian Council called for a divestment of our party colours in order to put on robes of State. The Council called for calm and the rule of law. A letter to the Editor of the Vincentian of December 31, 2015 called for Vincentians to get rid of the colours that divide us (I am sure those are the red of the ULP and the yellow of the NDP) and unite under the banner of our national colours. With such statements from diverse sources across the media, it is clear that the campaign was wild, nasty, combative, destructive and disruptive. This is sad, given that once the election was called the major parties signed a much publicized Code of Conduct, but given the way the campaign was conducted, signing the Code was nothing but an exercise in public relations and was merely window dressing.

Some of the statements I read need specific comment. I notice that the campaign at times took on racial overtones. This is sad, because in SVG, many persons who consider themselves black carry a variety of races in their DNA, thanks in large part to the Madeira Portuguese. So, even though one may appear black, it is folly be to arguing against the DNA that one carries in its being. We should instead be working towards total racial harmony. So, when I hear it being attributed to the Honourable St Clair Leacock that too many young people and black people are supporting the Unity Labour Party (ULP) I am surprised on a number of fronts. I know Mr Leacock from my days at the Boys’ Grammar School. He was a couple forms below me and I remember that he had a stellar career in the cadet corps. He has risen from humble beginnings to a position of prominence in SVG society and rightly so. With that military training, I expected that he would have been able to exercise a higher level of discipline. But St Clair, it was a heated election and many things were said in the heat of the moment, so I am willing to overlook the statement, except to recommend that you never again allow a situation to overwhelm you. Lean on the discipline garnered from the cadet corps and make sure “head is turned on before mouth is engaged.” When you say too many young and black folk are supporting the ULP, the flip side is as good as saying that the ULP is a party for “old people and white folks”. This is silly, because there are not enough old white folks in SVG to elect one seat, far less a government so if anyone forms a political party just for old white folk they are doomed to fast failure. Let us not go down that road of political division along racial lines. We already have enough division that needs to be healed to be finding more ways to widen the divide.

I also read about the need to elect a Black Prime Minister. This, I hope, is not a call to be electing our Prime Ministers based on affirmative action. Arnhim Eustace is a well educated man. He is as qualified as any to be Prime Minister, whether he be white, East Indian, Garifuna, doogla, mulatto, or black. He does not have to play the black card to be Prime Minister and in fact, if he can only become Prime Minister because it is the “black” turn, then his ascension to the office would be dubious. The fact is that politics is not a kind master and there are several cases where politicians who were well suited to the office of Prime Minister were overlooked by the electorate, so Arnhim has nothing to be ashamed of in that regard. If we are going down the affirmative action road, I daresay we already had a black Prime Minister, so perhaps it is time for an East Indian, Garifuna or doogla Prime Minister, so join the queue; see how ridiculous this line of argument gets? So, let us not travel down that road. If a party has a proper method of selecting a leader, then that leader should be fit enough to be Prime Minister, regardless of colour or racial composition.

(I will continue my observations on the 2015 general elections campaign in my next article in the Weekend Searchlight on Friday, February 12, 2015)