R. Rose
October 19, 2007

We deserve better than this

The Caribbean is once more awash with election fever, particularly in the southern half, where at least three governments are due to seek renewed mandates over the next twelve months or so. Naturally, as a result of this, politics, of the partisan kind, dominates the regional news. Even here in SVG, with almost four more years of this administration still possible, we seem to be in permanent election mode.{{more}}

The sad thing about all this is that the Caribbean people are being sold short by their politicians. Perhaps the fault is ours, but one would have thought that by now, almost 50 years after the beginning of the end of colonial rule, we would at least have matured somewhat in our approach to politics. Those forty-odd years have seen major and rapid developments: in technology, in communication, in the economy, in the ways of conducting and transacting business. Whereas in the fifties, a member of a household with a completed secondary school education was a wonder to behold, in the 21st century that’s what we have come to expect of our children. Whereas a university graduate was virtually worshipped in the sixties, we today have university graduates who have difficulty getting jobs. That’s how we have advanced. Why then do we suffer fools in our political dealings?

Our politics in the region has failed to demonstrate that comparable level of development and lags so far behind socio-economic development that it has become a veritable stumbling block to progress. Even those politicians who are themselves better educated, either formally or politically, seem to pander to the worst sides of our partisan politics, sinking in the depths rather than helping us to rise above the muck.

Part of the problem lies in the failure to bring about any major constitutional reform, leaving us trapped in the mire of a political system that is largely inappropriate to our needs. So, in an age when science is at a level when we can make fairly accurate predictions about climate changes in 50-100 years from now, the date of the next elections is treated as a mystery. So we still have leaders engaging in the drama of “Only I know the date of the next election”, or, “I have the date here right in my back pocket”. And they, (we too), believe that is good politics. Even “enlightened” persons like Arnhim and Ralph played that card here. Portia tried it in Jamaica, as did Manning in Trinidad. Now we have Arthur in Barbados and Mitchell in Grenada playing the guessing game. What good does that do for us? Prove how “smart” a leader is?

With all the side-shows, the real issues often get lost. So even when our economic and developmental future is on the line as we engage in negotiations over international trade agreements, that is not an issue in the elections in T&T for instance. There, the media gets hooked on the politics of race and personality, not on the fundamental question of the dictatorial Executive Presidency fancied by Patrick Manning in his version of constitutional reform . No wonder Jack Warner of FIFA fame (Leacock is not the only football politician!) could have the brazenness to announce as a grand political stroke that if elected he would accept a salary of only a nominal $1. As if that would change the price of eggs! Gimme a break!

In St.Lucia, with a by-election due, the opposition Labour Party, rejected by the electorate not too long ago, is clamouring for elections by year end. Nothing about trying to contest for the late John Compton’s seat, nothing about its failed ultimatum for Ausbert Dauvergne to resign in 30 days or else…Where is the leadership?

Much had been expected of SVG, and the Ralph Gonsalves administration in this regard. There have been many positives in the way of programmes, even if implementation does not sometimes match conceptualization or formulation. But in the realm of politics, one cannot help but be disappointed. Even the members and supporters of the governing party have not been lifted beyond the politics of the tribe which has marred us for so long.

We are still in the world where those in office seem not able to distinguish between SERVING the people and RULING. This is what leads to the confusion in the minds of the Selmon Walters of this world. Two decades after our people openly rejected the brand of politics epitomised by Arthur Williams and Grafton Isaacs, Selmon not only borrows a leaf from their books, but had the gall and insensitivity to brag about it in public. What advances have we made then?

That is why we cannot and must not acquiesce with the P.M. in sweeping it under the carpet. It represents regression to the past. It is good that Walters, willingly or unwillingly, has been man enough to apologize, and I applaud him for it. But that does not erase the fact that it is simply UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR. Not only must he pay the price of his folly, but a firm example must be set for all to see. It is gross disrespect for the public and police services for him to continue in a ministerial portfolio. P.M. Gonsalves must know that there is a price to be paid for such disrespect. Our people deserve better than this.