Round Table with Oscar
February 19, 2016

Coming, a ripe ‘Marsa’ Government

I want to discuss five signs of a ‘Marsa’ Government that Clive Thomas presents in his book entitled ‘The Rise of the Authoritarian State’, p133-134. See if we have any of these marks of Marsa here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

(Professor Thomas is a committed and brilliant political economist from the Caribbean. He has provided service to the Government and to civil society in SVG.){{more}}

The five symptoms of a Marsa government are:

1. … the combination of open terror with a façade of parliamentarianism/constitutionality

2. the manipulation of media and mass consciousness

3. the administrative/police methods of restraining freedom

4. the ability to discriminate economically against all sections of the population, and

5. the quasilegal status of political parties.

Overall, numbers 2, 3, and 4, are definitely happening daily in SVG. Number 1, is very close at hand, and of course, Thomas makes us examine the real status of political parties, their legal existence and the non-legal disenfranchisement and blockages. They have no access to state media, to public assets like truckloads of building materials during elections, appointments of Election Supervisors, Service Commissions, surveillance intelligence and harassment forces. Can we look forward to more limitations on effective political parties and alternative social voices as our politics develops? Let us watch closely.


Our Government has access and much of the media time and space covering its business. The National Broadcasting Corporation is virtually an agency of the Government; it does not carry live press conferences of other political parties, nor seek to air their positions in interviews. The Prime Minister seems to have a battery of commentators paid from public funds. Media houses and journalists that seem to do independent coverage and analyses of social and political matters receive veiled, open and implemented threats to their character and welfare from the Prime Minister and the paid commentators of the Government. Add to that, the notorious rote parroting by simple and advanced citizens of the text of Prime Minister Gonsalves in response to any query about national and political affairs, and you face a loyalty that mimics mental enslavement. That is certainly what Professor Thomas refers to as ‘the manipulation of media and mass consciousness’.

As for ‘restraining freedom’ by administrative and police methods, the book is open at the page now. Police in riot gear with teargas facing down a Sunday school picnic of justice seeking, inexperienced protestors! What advantage and scare tactics and what a failure to break the people’s will! Read the case of alleged victimization of Mr Philip Jackson, an education revolution candidate seeking study leave to pursue a further degree in an innovation area. Application refused.

Remember Otto Sam, the teacher refugee, exiled from the classroom and from productive work for advising, quite rightly, Prime Minister Gonsalves on the protocols for visiting a school. Is the authoritarian state emerging in SVG? Professor Thomas seems to be nodding his head sadly.

But perhaps we should just look at economic discrimination across the board societally. Bigger Biggs and Erica Mcintosh come to my mind immediately. You may think of others that you know. The pick and choose policy of awarding contracts for small and medium projects, even going down to having the constituency representative sending names to BRAGSA for ‘Road Work’ gangs. Not to mention the varieties of licence vending exercises that businesses may have to undergo to get a rightful opportunity, and the selective and general indebtedness of Government to the private suppliers of services. Marsa has ways to discriminate and to divide and rule economic agents. Those who resist and survive may lose their will to become part of a ‘non marsa’ coalition, but that is what is needed to replace an authoritarian state apparatus.


The value of this diagnosis by Clive Thomas is that it opens our eyes to see the whole picture of the degeneration of our society and polity. As a rigorous political economist, Thomas sees the particular national and international economic strategy as part of the problematic of the authoritarian state. All the different social elements, which the authoritarian state holds in bondage, are brought into partnership, not just spontaneously, but in a conscious and deliberate process. Media agencies, economic actors like workers’ and farmers’ organizations, other business coalitions, professional organizations and political parties are victims of this ‘Marsa Oppressive Uprising’. We have to work together. This is no time for isolation. Our nation needs us. Let us come together.