R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
November 11, 2022
Democracy in Danger – Part 2

Last week, I began raising the issue of rather alarming developments in the so-called “bastions of democracy” in western states which are upheld as “models” for developing states like ours. In particular reference was made of the trend towards mainstreaming of extremist racist and anti-democratic trends in prominent western countries such as the USA, Britain, France and Italy, and the open challenge to elections when results do not suit the interests of these forces.

More and more in many countries, rather than having pre-election broad agreement on the regulations governing conduct, including and especially election funding and spending, we are seeing not just post-election refusal to accept results, but more worryingly doubts being raised as to whether the popular franchise ought to be the method of selection of those responsible for governance.

It is causing post-election confrontations which in many cases are not only disruptive and destructive but result in loss of life, limb and property. If it continues, what we get is not only continuing chaos, as in Haiti, but situations ready-made for minority-led mob rule.

We in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with our system of governance largely a relic of the Westminster Parliamentary system, profess an abiding faith in that system. It is to the extent that we would countenance none other. Part and package of this system, for us, is the reverence for the British Privy Council as our final arbiter, so much so that even though we have globally respected eminent jurists, we are more than hesitant to fully embrace our own Caribbean Court of Justice.

At a time when tens of millions of Americans are expressing a lack of faith in their own democracy, we still swear by it. Many judges in the US system are politically appointed, including those of its highest Court, the Supreme Court, yet we have more respect for it than for our own judges, appointed by an independent body.

If truth be told, long years of distrust and division fostered and inculcated by colonial authorities, have left us with a situation where we just do not trust each other, and are too quick and willing to use the transgressions of others, real or imagined, as a basis of committing misdeeds of our own.

Our abiding commitment to what is referred to as “king and country”, is so strong that every time there is a hint of constitutional change, we balk at the prospect, making all kinds of excuses in the process. It is as if we can conceive of no other path than that laid out for us, whether it serves our interests or not.

Take our politics for instance. We can neither conceive, nor brook contemplation of any other system but the parliamentary one which was foisted on us.

I remember with pain but also some amusement, the virtual horror with which some citizens reacted to the exhortation of the Constitutional Review Commission (2003-2009) to “think outside the box”. The instinctive and largely thoughtless reaction of many parliamentarians of an alternative system of governance was instructive in evaluating where we are as a people. They just cannot conceive of any other system but that of political parties, Government and Opposition etc.

Our major parties in the region have external linkages, some to the old European Social Democratic network, and worryingly, some, including our own New Democratic Party (NDP), connected through the Caribbean Democratic Union with such right-wing parties as the Republican Party in the USA, the British Conservative Party and the Christian Democratic Union in Germany. These are parties well-known for their right-wing, racist and imperialist policies.

It befuddles me when the leader of the NDP here is proud to boast of his affiliation with such bedfellows yet speaks of defending the interests of the poor of St Vincent and the Grenadines. These parties and the governments they formed or influenced have been the biggest supporters of those who, like the racists in apartheid South Africa, then Rhodesia, and Namibia were trampling on the rights of black people. How could we in today’s world when we know better, affiliate ourselves with the worst expressions of the ruling classes in developed countries?

What kind of self-respect do the leaders of this party have to continue with such affiliations? But they raise concerns about the foreign relations of the ULP government. Can you get worse than affiliation with Donald Trump’s Republicans, the British Conservatives or the Nazi sympathizers among the German CDU crowd? What are you going to tell them? To support the call for reparations? Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are!
We have come too far to link ourselves with such anti-democratic forces. Even the parties of the Caribbean, once proud to belong to the Socialist International are no longer active members. We must come of age.