R. Rose
December 10, 2010
Act with maturity, choose wisely

Only the voter now stands between the present and the future where the governance of St.Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned. Never is the ordinary citizen, me and you, of such importance as on the DAY OF DECISION when it is our ballot which decides the direction in which our country is to be steered. The pity is that we have yet to learn how to harness that power of ours on a sustainable basis and to maintain it so as to determine that it is the will of the people, not any political party or leader, which is paramount.{{more}}

That power quickly evaporates into the euphoria of election victory or the bitterness of defeat, leaving most of us incapable of independent thought and action outside the perceived interests of “our party”. We give up the right to determine the direction of the party and government we support, unable to distinguish between positive criticism and being considered as hostile to the interests of this or that party. But, we are still a young democracy, and hope lies eternal in the human heart, (well in mine at least), that the message will one day seep home.

General elections bring with them a particular set of emotions. Persons who have hitherto been quiet politically, suddenly emerge from their cocoons, becoming very vocal supporters, and neighbourliness is often punctured by political partisanship. We get very psyched up to the extent that we lose sight of reality and delusion sets in where our view of the outcome of the elections is concerned. On one side or another, we cannot comprehend anything but victory and any other result leaves us not only deflated, but groping for the explanations we had refused to consider.

It may be useful to reflect on a recent experience in the international sporting arena. I refer to the recent allocation of the right to host the 2018 World Cup, football’s premier tournament. Right up to the last minute, the English media had so psyched up its people, and itself, that it seemed a foregone conclusion that England would win. The absence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the final proceedings was interpreted as a sign that Russia knew that it had lost and victory was theirs (England’s). Lo and behold! When the results were made public, England got only one vote, besides its own. How can one explain this? It must be fraud, eh?

That is the danger in which so many political parties place themselves. In defeat, facts do not matter, it must be “CHEAT”. No other explanation will do because none other was contemplated. That is what can lead to social unrest and instability. WE must keep this bit of sobriety in our heads, and realize, that whatever our feelings, it is the will of the electorate which must be respected.

Having said that, we must turn to the real choices before us. The incumbent ULP has made it plain that it is standing on its impressive record. That does not bring automatic re-election, as both Kenny Anthony in St.Lucia and Owen Arthur in Barbados found to their detriment. Social and economic achievement is but part of it, there are a host of less tangible factors. In the case of the ULP, those are the issues, more than its performance in government, which have damaged its reputation and made it have to fight hard for a third term. They represent the springboard on which the opposition NDP has based its campaign, successfully convincing many of the poor that Gonsalves and the ULP are against their interests. The facts do not support the assertion, but in politics, perception, misconception and misrepresentation are powerful tools. Worse, the scandal concerning the Prime Minister and a female police officer, while no judgement of wrongdoing was made, did considerable harm to the P.M. and his party, allowing the opposition to attach all sorts of wild allegations to their campaign. But we must be guided by the law, and while some people’s sense of morality would cause them to be estranged from Gonsalves and the ULP on its handling of the issue, to come to all kinds of wild conclusions, or to fail to take real achievements into account, can be a grave error at the national level.

The irony of it is that the NDP overreached itself in this campaign, and allowed itself to get bogged down into a quagmire of defamation and slander that not only saw several legal judgements against some of its leading spokesmen, but also, more damagingly, undermined the credibility of its word. To add to that, it is only on the eve of the election that some idea about policy options began to emanate from its camp. Rather, to base a campaign on the old discredited smears of “communism”, inducing the gullible to confuse even “Talibanism” with what exists in one of our most noble benefactors, Cuba, is doing a great disservice to all involved.

This brings me to a critical issue. Following developments at home from abroad, I read that NDP Leader, Mr. Arnhim Eustace, had outlined some 10 major projects that his party had already negotiated with investors and had in the pipeline, ready to implement if it won the election. Good! Was my reaction. Only to read on that these investors would only be so inclined to invest if the NDP were victorious, for they were not interested in investing in a country with ties to Libya, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela etc. Are we serious?

In the first place, I reject any such conditions by political parties, governments or investors. I do not agree when Dr.Gonsalves says that “only the ULP” can build the airport, save and except that it is the NDP’s hostility to Cuban/Venezuelan assistance and failure to provide an alternative which lends some credence to his assertion. But we should never be compromised by any outside forces dictating our foreign policy. This is what the NDP appears to be doing.

Secondly, (and I must admit not being privy to the facts), who are these investors? Where are they based? Do they have any investments in Britain, in the USA,in Europe or Canada? For all those countries have investments in one or more of the countries named as “No-nos”. Can those investors tell the British government not to deal with Gadaffy’s Libya? Will they tell President Obama to stop buying Venezuelan oil? This blatant disrespect for our sovereignty and independence must be condemned. It is also an insult to the intelligence of our people.

The choice in next Monday’s election must be based on taking our country FORWARD, on enlightening our people, on providing vision and leadership, on strengthening social programmes which have tremendously benefitted the poor, the young, those with disabilities, in promoting wider social dialogue and creating a solid platform on which our children can build. That is how I will make my decision on Monday. What about you?

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.