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Owning the Government and Opposition in SVG

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Editor: The role of the Opposition:

I begin my article by asking the following question; what is the role of the Opposition in parliament?

1. Is Her Majesty’s Opposition first and only purpose to bring down a government?

2. Is the Opposition’s main role to question the government of the day and hold them accountable to the public?{{more}}

I would want to go with the second question as a more suitable definition. The Opposition represents an alternative government. A good Opposition will challenge the policies of the government and produce alternative policies, where necessary. Any good government would want to reach out occasionally in solidarity with the Opposition on matters pertaining to national security, economic development and on other issues. A good Opposition would want to work together to influence the outcomes. If they succeed in working together and in building the “political numbers”, they will obviously increase their chances of winning an election. Any Opposition which resorts to gutter politics, lies and trickery to propel their popularity, or is on a quest to bring down any democratically-elected government, without legitimate reason, is not an Opposition worthy of leading a nation, for their primary purpose is just to grab on to power, one way or the other. Although it is the goal of every Opposition to get into power, it should not be by any means.

Holding the Government accountable

Opposition parties are to constantly question the Government. “Any Government has to remain answerable to the public at all times, and a good Opposition can put the spotlight on serious issues and have them resolved quickly.” Take for example, the issue surrounding the Bills. The people are free to exercise their democratic right to assemble in protest. But they have to respect the law of the land and not resort to hooliganism or any bad behaviour with intention to incite chaos in the country. I am thoroughly against all manner of hooliganism and will not support any political party whether in Opposition or in government in such a behaviour. In saying this, I condemn the behaviour of some NDP supporters in their attempt to ram the gates of our House of Assembly while parliament was in session.

Clearly, there is evidence of gross disrespect not only for our Prime Minister, but for the House of Parliament. The presence and actions of a former Member of Parliament, who should know better and should have set good examples, was disgraceful. This act of barbarism by a minority was not a true representation of the gentle spirit of Vincentian people, for we are better than that. The NDP in calling for a shut down of the city. This is not in the best interest of the nation; it is solely a desperate and cheap act to get into power. This is not how we as NDP and ULP hold a government accountable. The Prime Minister, in his election victory speech called on Vincentians to own the government. I believe he was speaking to ULP, NDP and Green Party supporters, who are all part of the electorate and are citizens of this country. He was speaking to the entire country and calling us to own the government. He said that he will listen more attentively to the citizens of SVG.

In light of all that is developing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I call on the prime minister to fulfil his promise by listening to the citizens and not just to the ULP. The government governs all citizens of St.Vincent and the Grenadines whether the majority voted them back into office; you are government of each citizen regardless of his/her political persuasion. Now, this is where the Opposition can hold a government and people owning their government, holding them accountable. The people who democratically elected them expect proper and sincere representation.

Leading the Opposition

I don’t think for one moment, that it is a bed of roses being in Opposition. The current Opposition in St. Vincent has now begun a third term in that position, Opposition parties don’t have the same resources as the Government, so they have to work twice as hard to get the results.

The Government has access to government departments and advisers to form their policies, where the Opposition often has to go down different avenues to source the same information.

Therefore, it is important that the Opposition go down to the grass root level and begin to listen to the common, ordinary man on the street. I want to believe that a well-balanced Opposition party will represent the interests of every citizen of the nation. Therefore, is it the will of the people to have the nation shut down? Is it the will of the majority to see a democratically-elected government brought down? Perhaps, it would be useful for the Opposition Leader to explain to the people why there is such an urgent quest to achieve this end. I reiterate, it is important that the Opposition keep a close eye and ear on what the public is saying, needs and wants – because problems are often caused by the Government not delivering. Sometimes, leading an Opposition into government requires endurance.

Government and Opposition in co-operation

The general public, some of whom are gullible to what they hear their political representatives say, come away confused and misinformed. Hence the reason why some take to the streets and protest violently, or even vote for a candidate without properly understanding the issues at hand. I grew up hearing the notion that politicians from both sides of the fence do meet and drink and some are very good friends and that politics is competitive. Well, if it is so, then the people who support the two main political parties have taken their politics to another level, not void of antagonism and mild violence, which have been successful in polarizing our little nation. So the ordinary man in the streets, who doesn’t fully understand the game, gets into a quarrel with his best friend, soon to become enemies. To top it all off, our political representatives play politics in parliament and continue to misrepresent our people. A gullible mind doesn’t always analyse things; however, it is important for people to know that at one end of the spectrum, there are occasions on which oppositions agree with the Government and vice versa. These tend to be where it is simply in the wider public interest that a problem is fixed, where the solution the government is proposing has wide support, and it is hard to disagree with it. But it is not in their interest to let you know that.

On the matter of reconciliation, I applaud the efforts of the government to set up such a ministry. However, it is my opinion that for this to be successful, the person(s) entrusted with the task for national reconciliation must not be politically affiliated. This should be on neutral grounds. I am dumbfounded as to why the Churches in St.Vincent and the Grenadines are so quiet in the midst of all that has been developing lately. If the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines lose confidence in the Church, then responsible society would have failed the masses. They will be left to the mercy of those who seek to use them for their own personal and selfish desires. I call on all Vincentians to not only own the government, but also to own the Opposition, Hold them both responsible, for they are elected to represent our interests. Hold them both accountable.

A responsible Vincentian