Our Readers' Opinions
March 11, 2016
For the good of the country, we need to go back to the polls

Editor: The claims in certain circles, including by the New Democratic Party (NDP), that the elections of December 2016 were unfair, have a lot of merit.

I am even willing to go further and agree with the description of the elections as “stolen”. One acquaintance has referred to the result as “a coup by the ballot.”{{more}}

In light of recent revelations, it puzzles me that a position on the unfairness of the elections is yet to be clearly expressed by the Christian Council, the observer missions that came here to “monitor” the elections and in the editorials of the local newspapers.

I strongly disagree with those who believe that the onus is on the NDP to bring “evidence” to support its claims of impropriety. How can the NDP compel reluctant credible witnesses such as the Christian Council, for example, to disclose vital evidence? I believe the Christian Council has done a great disservice, or even an injustice, to the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines by not revealing before election day the information that subsequently became public knowledge – that in the view of the Council, the claim that the distribution of “lumber and galvanize” (building materials) by the Government during the election campaign was virtually a bribe, had some merit.

In my humble opinion, as someone with a bit of experience and formal training in journalism, that is “the story” of the last general elections. Did any journalist or editor know of the Christian Council’s letter to the Prime Minister on the “perceived bribery” matter prior to its subsequent disclosure by the head of the New Democratic Party, Arnhim Eustace. (Yes, the story was broken by a politician, not by a journalist). If the answer is in the affirmative, why wasn’t the information published? Did the observer missions know about the Christian Council’s letter, but still went on to declare the elections “free and fair? Why? If they weren’t aware of this letter, what is their position now that the letter has been made public? These are legitimate questions that require answers. I am sure that journalists and newspaper editors have not abdicated their responsibility to pursue the truth and have instead opted for an approach in which we are mere scribes who report “he said/she said.” I strongly reject the latter approach.

The leadership of the ULP is no stranger to accusations of misconduct in elections in which it has been involved. Over the years and as recent as the run-up to the last General Elections, the leadership of the ULP was accused by some members of the party of manipulating the process of the selection of candidates to ensure that its favoured prospects prevailed. One potential candidate was so peeved a few years ago that he took to the airwaves to condemn the process. Others who still feel hard done by have chosen to grumble their disdain for “Ralph and Julian”. One such person has since died by “accident”.

My view is that for the good of our country, we need to go back to the polls in general elections very soon. We, however, must not do so with the same electoral machinery in place, which many believe has been hijacked and tainted. It must be replaced by one with an integrity beyond reproach. The results of general elections should reflect the will of the people, not the cunning of a politician in control of the electoral machinery. We want free and fair elections.

Bernard Joseph