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The ’Silly Season’ is upon us and somebody must be mad!

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We are well and truly into the ‘Silly Season’ and the political temperature is heating up paralleling the heat that is coming from the sun. We have got to be careful for things could get completely out of hand. For the second time this year, a scheduled picketing of parliament by Opposition forces has generated a counter picket by the Government forces. Over the past week we heard about law suits being brought against the New Democratic Party and at least one media house and threats against Talk Show hosts.{{more}} Earlier today (and I am writing this column on Wednesday afternoon) we heard about billboards put up by the New Democratic Party being sabotaged and posters pulled down. But that is not all; threats are made to make SVG inhospitable to a Consulting firm that is apparently providing service to the main Opposition party. They are accused of being descendants of white colonialists. We have really to be careful when we talk about our descendants for we just might find things that are quite uncomfortable for us. A young public servant has been charged for, among other things, brining the public service into disrepute. And the craziness goes on and on. Somebody must certainly be Mad! It is presumably still early in the ‘Silly Season’ and we are unwittingly, perhaps, creating a war zone.

Responsible citizens of St.Vincent and the Grenadines must begin to fear that things will get out of hand, especially if the political campaign drags out to the end of the year or Lord forbid, until next year. This is compounded by the fact that nobody in the country appears to have the credibility or really the nerve to say that this must be stopped. We have to pray that things do not get out of hand on Thursday because two camps are going to assemble outside the Court House for the meeting of Parliament. At Thursday’s meeting of Parliament, a bill to increase the number of constituencies will be discussed and because of the Government’s overwhelming majority in Parliament, passed. The Opposition is claiming that this was rejected by the people of this country at last October’s Referendum. This is only partly true, theoretically so, perhaps. Most of the persons that voted against the proposed constitution were not voting against every recommendation. But this is not the point. The point is that increasing the number of constituencies is at this time, uncalled for and even ridiculous. I do not accept that we can justify this by saying that we have a smaller number of constituencies than other named countries that have smaller populations than ours. Those other countries, in any exercise to revise their constitution might recognise also that they have too many constituencies when you take their population into consideration. But let us also recognise that population is not the only factor to be taken into account. Our geography plays a part, hence the Southern Grenadines having a separate constituency.

With a population of a little over 100,000 people, smaller than many small towns elsewhere why do we want to have a 17 member parliamentary body? Is it to find jobs for the boys? Is it to gain a political advantage by gerrymandering? In any event we cannot afford it. We have difficulty meeting our current needs why do we then want to add to our financial burdens? When you look at the present composition of our parliament and in particular of our Cabinet, we find that some persons are under-worked and have been missing in action. The job of governing this country can be done by less rather than more parliamentarians. This issue was discussed during the Referendum campaign and the Opposition Party which secured the majority of votes with their “No Vote” campaign was strongly against it, why then is the issue brought to parliament so soon after it was part of a package rejected by the majority of Vincentians? While efforts are being made to increase the number of seats/constituencies we are hearing that the very Electoral Office which is supposed to get this thing going when it has passed parliament is suffering from lack of financial resources. Are we putting the cart before the horse? Do we have our priorities right? There are many more things that at this time demand our attention. Let us get our Electoral Office in order. Give it funds to hire photographers to remove any attempted fraud to secure ID cards. Get the resources to allow them to revise the hopelessly antiquated voters list. There are other matters that urgently deserve our attention. Have we ensured that our suspension from the OECS Pharmaceuticals Procurement Service is lifted and that our hospitals are supplied with badly needed Medical supplies? Our priorities are screwed up. Somebody must indeed be mad!

Then there is Anesia Baptiste. You might not agree with everything Anesia says or does but you have to admire her. A young person, academically gifted, made the nation stand up and listen with her contribution to the Referendum debate if it can indeed be called a debate. She inspired a number of persons. She highlighted what she considered our fundamental freedoms and was particularly strong on the issue of Freedom of Speech and Conscience. It is really ironic that in this 21st century we are taking such a backward step in prosecuting her for what she dared to say during the Referendum. If we brag about having had a debate on the Constitution during the Referendum we will have to accept that there is more than one side in a debate. Is her problem one of not having been on the right side? What of the other public servants who were on the right side? Did they make themselves immune from prosecution by being politically correct? Freedom of speech and conscience has certainly become a hot issue in the society. The legislation regulating public servants as it relates to their involvement in public debates needs to be completely overhauled and brought into the 21st century. It is hard to believe that this is a country that had recently boasted that it would have had the most progressive constitution if the proposals were accepted. I believe it was Curtis King who recently reminded us of the involvement of public servants and teachers in the 2000 Road Block Revolution. No one suffered for this. Are rules only made for certain persons?

While we are caught up with these issues the country is drifting aimlessly. There is little sense of purpose and one suspects that nothing that would contribute to the economic advance of the country will take place this year. Time will be taken up with political posturing and verbal battles, rehashing old issues and fighting old wars. The political divisions will continue. The country will suffer and continue its decline. The best thing for this country is to have early elections so we can stop the bleeding that is taking place. Any government that wins power at the next elections will have a major task restoring things and getting the citizenry to work toward a common goal. But there might be some time before this could happen and we will continue to drift. We will be told that things are good or bad, but we will not be fooled because it is the people on the ground who will best know what is happening. Dr. Kenny Anthony seemed to have made some remarks to the effect that SVG has surpassed St. Lucia economically. He was obviously playing to his home crowd not to Vincentians. I was in St.Lucia recently and was surprised at how robust their tourism appeared to be. Did he see something that we cannot see? Tell us Sir, so that we can look and find it. When will this Madness stop!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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