The People have Spoken
Well the people have spoken and the ULP has been given the green light. The NDP secured the majority of votes cast but this has little meaning in the first past the post system.
There were some interesting contests – North Leeward, East St George and North Windward. North Leeward contests always provide interest. In 1966 Sam Slater of the PPP won that constituency by 4 votes. There was a court challenge, but he crossed over to Labour, and the PPP reacted by calling new elections in 1967 with Dennie of the PPP opposing Slater. Mathews won by 12 votes in 2015 but has now lost at the preliminary count by 7 votes to James of the ULP.
Two remarkably interesting battles were fought by Laverne Gibson- Velox and Shevern John of the NDP. Appearing on the political battlefield at a late stage Gibson-Velox gave heir apparent Camillo Gonsalves the fight of his life.
Similarly, Shevern John’s encounter with Montgomery Daniel was something to behold. I am pleased with the number of women who are moving to the political centre stage. Long may it continue to be so.
The 2020 campaign was a fascinating one, played out in the time of Covid. At first the emphasis was on virtual campaigning, but then our guard was let down and it became business as usual, ending ironically enough with arrangements being made to allow persons in quarantine to vote. The campaign involved the good and the bad – a lot of scaremongering, a rush to complete projects, to have ground- breaking ceremonies and to bring forward activities that were largely geared to the eyes and ears of the voters. Things that would normally have taken years to come on stream were hustled through in weeks. Endless promises were made. Forty-seven police officers got promotion, tablets were distributed to students and a hundred other things were at play on the eve of election. The voters became heavily involved as evident by the large crowds attending meetings. It is not clear to me if this manifested itself in turnout at the polls, especially with the young people. Covid provided opportunity for locally artistes to be upfront instead of being side-lined by international super stars.
What was remarkable was the mysterious calmness that prevailed in Kingstown days before the election. There were not as many party t-shirts in town as one would have expected. An eerie feeling prevailed. What issues moved people, drove them to the polls and influenced how they voted is difficult to say. There was talk about poverty, unemployment, state of healthcare, Five in a row, lifting SVG higher, Get SVG working again. Did SVG’s turn to chair the UN Security Council mean anything? What moved us? The last three weeks in particular were crazy. I am disturbed that our voters are taken for granted. The assumption is that we will be moved if you hurriedly put things together and promise greater things later. The question is – why was this energy not displayed before? It is as if we are easily bought.
I am appalled by our failure to intelligently discuss issues that impact on the development of the country. Little thought is given to the post-Covid world whenever that becomes a reality. Covid cases are spiking in the US and with flights coming in we have to be continually on our guard. Let us take this seriously. As we plan ahead, are we paying enough attention to what the world would be like over the next six months, and how we fit into it? Our efforts in tourism are taking a lashing. What do we do with those persons who depend on that industry? Things are likely to get worse before they get better. Remittances will continue to be affected but many of our people depend totally on them. There is a lot of work to be done. Let us hope that in the mad election rush we have not emptied our treasury. It cannot be business as usual.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian