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The sound of the bell

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Well the bell has sounded loud and clear and the race is well and truly on. One would have thought that this would have prevented the tension that a prolongued election campaign would have encouraged. But not so! This country has gone crazy.

Election crazy, like never before. I don’t think I have seen it like this before, even when compared to the 1966/67 period. There are a few things that are making the difference. First radio, but this has been making its impact felt long before the election call. Then there is money. This is the key factor for there is obviously a lot of it around. Where it is coming from is anyone’s guess. {{more}} Much more than at any other time! Unfortunately we are back to the dark years of our politics where money is being traded for the vote. It is really the sale of a vote and certainly there will be no refunds, no guarantees. The strategy is obviously to capitalise on the poverty of our people. This election is a watershed one where our choices are going to determine what happens to this country and its people and the direction we are likely to take. The choices have probably never been clearer in terms of leadership and teams. There are certainly different styles of leadership and personalities, if not policies. We have probably got to see if there is anything to the slogans, ‘A kinder and gentler society’ and ‘Unity Now’. One critical factor in all of this is the prevalence of persons moving out front to be counted and to hopefully secure for themselves certain privileges in a system that is growing even more corrupt.

Clearly, regardless of the outcome of the election this country and its politics will never be the same again. What will make the difference is the choice we make. We are mostly sane, sober and intelligent people and must understand that we have the right and responsibility to vote for the candidates of our choice once we go into the privacy of our polling booths. We have to be alarmed about the future of this country. Unfortunately one has to generalise, but the campaign is beginning to stink with its personality attacks, entertainment hype and growing degree of lawlessness. The politicians have to begin to appeal to their followers to calm down. In fact the churches and civil society bodies have to play a role in this for the good of the country. Let us as the electorate begin to focus on the real issues in the society and force the politicians to come down to earth and to deal with them. Apart from policy issues, the style of government, and the style of leadership are important for life does not end on December 7 and moreover we have to live with each other.

Some persons are fearful of what is likely to transpire over the next few weeks. The noise around town is deafening, the trading of insults and the cursing are becoming too common. This morning, we were informed by one of the radio stations of a few incidents that occurred over the past night where politics seemed to have been the motive. As I write this is just the third day after the announcement of the date of election and it is as if some pent-up emotions are being released. The political campaign had, indeed, started a long time ago but has now moved into its final lap. And this is where everything seems to go crazy for there is really no restraining hand particularly since our Prime Minister has declared that he is a gift from God to this country. I continue to be appalled by this for my reading of history has pointed me to the danger. Very vividly in my mind is the issue of the Divine Right of Kings. Perhaps the best summary of this concept is that given by the Collins English Dictionary. It describes it as the concept ‘that the right to rule derives from God and that Kings are answerable for their actions to God alone.’ Is it a coincidence that on the same banner that had the slogan, ‘A Gift From God’ was that which described the Prime Minister as the Caribbean King? At least one Minister is on record as referring to the Prime Minister as the Lord’s anointed, suggesting that he should be immune from criticism. But the divine right label is one that is usurped not only by kings. Other rulers, many of them Dictators, try to justify their power by clothing it in religious garb.

I was hopeful that in this our 26th year of Independence our politicians would have grown up and realised that this is really no game, that the lives of ordinary people are at stake. The country is not for sale to the highest bidder. Early this morning, on the day of writing, that is, Wednesday, November 9, an elderly lady whom I do not know and who said that she was not going to give her name, phoned me at home informing me that there were trucks in the area delivering political goods and that even her neighbour had gotten some of the goodies. She seemed not only ashamed of what was happening but also frightened, hence her determination not to give her name. She apparently wanted this publicised. But this is not unique for there is a lot of information around about this kind activity.

While our eyes are focused on the December 7 elections, as they should be, we also have to begin to look beyond that date. One of the first priority items of any new government is going to be the handling of gas prices, and already some people are beginning to worry about the strong possibility that the government, whichever is in power, will have to raise gas prices. We cannot even say that this will affect only persons with vehicles for its impact will be felt throughout the society in the areas of bus fares, electricity and other areas that will necessarily be touched by the effect of gasoline prices. Are we likely to be faced with additional taxes? The present government has identified a heavy schedule for next year. Many of the details and the implications are left hanging. The ability of the country to handle this agenda will be severely tested. One would hope that these details are not left hanging for much longer but that the manifestos will spell them out more clearly. We have to scrutinise the parties’ manifestos not only for what they are proposing to offer but also to examine the cost of doing what they are proposing to do, and the likely sources of income.

It is a pity that there is no independent grouping of citizens that is prepared to forget the partisan political lines and discuss the many issues that are not being given enough play. In the early 1990s it was the Concerned Citizens grouping that began to change the direction of our politics. It is for us who are aware of the dimensions of what happened then to reflect on the implications of what was done. There might be lessons there. The grouping at that time had a specific goal. Perhaps all that needs to be done at this time is to create the kind of atmosphere where ideas can contend and where the issues facing the electorate can be discussed. But is it that our political divisions are so firm that we cannot cross that divide?

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