Our Readers' Opinions
March 1, 2016
Whither goeth our democracy?

by Oswald Fereira

The NDP has taken a challenge of the election to Court and must now await the Court to proceed. So what is the point of this demonstration of might anyway? Is it to show the ULP that you have the capacity to do so? Newsflash, the NDP received about 48 per cent of the popular vote in the election, while the ULP received about 52 per cent; so, as 48 is less than 52 and if need be, in theory, the ULP could show more might than the NDP. Do you expect that the ULP will fold at this demonstration and hand over the reigns of government to the NDP?{{more}} I doubt that you will ever see that. Is this a show for the Courts regarding matters before it? This is pointless, as the Court does not conduct its business on the streets, nor is the Court subject to public opinion from either side of the debate. The Court will have a hearing in chambers and will make a decision on evidence presented and deemed admissible. Therefore, the responsible thing to do under the circumstances would be to advise your supporters to remain calm and let the Court follow its process. Ultimately, you will get a ruling, even if you go all the way to the Privy Council. Court proceedings are often lengthy, but this is your choice. In the meantime, the nation has to be governed and that process must be respected. We cannot all go on holiday for two or three years while we await the decision of the Court. You should be using the time to prepare evidence for the Court. The Court has already dismissed an application from the NDP on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The judge is reported to have said that the application was a “fishing expedition”, strong language indeed. So, all the more necessary that you use the time wisely to be prepared and ready. I am sure that you must realize that the foreign commissions from the OAS, the Commonwealth and Caricom that overlooked the election found no reason to fault the process and the Government will be taking their reports as evidence to the Court hearing. And are you prepared to accept the decision of the Court? A decision from the Court will be final, so it must be accepted. If you are not prepared to accept it, what will be next, more civil disobedience, civil strife, a coup d’état? This mode of politics by mob rule is stale, unproductive, divisive; it should be sent to the scrap heap.

It disturbs me when I read that people who are not living in SVG are using social media to post messages to incite disobedience. While they live in comfort abroad, they expect Vincentians to destroy their homeland. I hope they are caught and brought to justice. Who will rebuild SVG when it is recklessly destroyed? Governments may respond to nation rebuilding after natural disasters, but who would want to be seen as condoning reckless abandon? It seems that even when we leave SVG, we cannot cease being political hotheads. This is insanity gone mad. Ralph, we need to rethink the practice of allowing Vincentians who live abroad to vote in elections in SVG or to exert such an influence over the election campaigns. Both parties, government and opposition, need to rethink their strategy of having constituents who organize rallies in Brooklyn, Queens, Toronto, the UK and such. When you attend these rallies, you drum up the same hysteria in the diaspora as you have in SVG and when the opposing factions do not get the election result they were expecting, it leads to the same disappointment and post election malaise. So, forgo these fund-raising missions. People, like myself, who live abroad and contribute nothing to the SVG economy have no right to participate in the election process in SVG. I can see that if someone maintains a residence in SVG or has a business or shares in a business in SVG and therefore contributes to the SVG Treasury they may want to be involved, but to do so they should be required to live in SVG for a minimum period every year. Coming to SVG once in five years to vote is not good enough and should not be allowed. Elections in SVG should be decided on SVG soil. Change the Constitution now to ensure this undue influence cannot be exerted in future.

Both parties need to work together to come to an understanding of how to deal with elections and their aftermath. It is clear that there is a lack of trust between the parties and there need to be some form of arbiter to ensure that trust can be established and the process of government can get underway once an election is concluded. Perhaps there is a role for Caricom to play, seeing that there were disputed election results in other nearby nations? The Prime Minister needs to look at a Constitutional amendment to establish rules of conduct for parties when an election ends up in dispute. We need provisions in the Constitution to govern attendance in the House and remuneration for time served versus boycotted time. The wheels of government need to roll without the threat of boycott by the party on the short end of the vote, civil disobedience and so forth. A clear process needs to be developed to resolve election disputes in a fair and transparent manner.

The Government must remember that they are a government for all the people, not just for these who supported them. People who voted for the opposition party need a voice in Parliament and Opposition members in the House must be included on committees and contribute to the process of government. All members of the House need to contribute and we need to stop the ideology that the Opposition is the enemy.

Both parties need to reinvent themselves. Young blood must be recruited and elevated to positions of prominence in order that the parties can stay fresh and in tune with a young, educated constituency. They need to set up strong constituency units and elections should be fought at the constituency level, rather than all the grandstanding of conventions and trucking of people from one end of the nation to the other. Elections are not won on how many people one can bus or how loud we can shout down the other. The election campaigns need substance and an honest debate around issues and policies. People need to be convinced to vote for a party, not coerced through peer pressure. The Government needs to set up a strong system of local government. All that political energy must be harvested productively and what better way than to give the people responsibility to run daily matters at the local level and be a natural conduit to the national government.

The next article, on Friday, March 4, will deal with changes that the people as a whole need to make in order to move forward.