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In the wake of December 7

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One would have thought that after December 7, we would have been able to settle down, enjoy Christmas and work towards healing the nation. It appears that this is a wasted thought for the conditions are ripe for a continuation of more of the same.

Up until December 7 Christmas appeared to have been put on hold as the country was put on election alert. {{more}}

As I write today, seven days after, not a lot has changed. True enough, there is more Christmas activity. ‘Nine mornings’ was officially launched but many hearts are not in it. There is a feeling of being cheated, actually of being betrayed. The exercise that this country went through on December 7 has produced more questions than answers and has introduced a frightening new dimension into our politics.

Elections in the past have often been marred by irregularities but this year something is fundamentally wrong. There are just too many! The number and nature of the irregularities being reported are scary and represent a dangerous trend in our body politic. It is difficult to put some of them down to incompetence although this was a factor. But it appears obvious that it was more than that and that certain persons had set out to frustrate the process and deny some people their rights.

Indeed, December 7 was the culmination of what was a bitter political campaign when everything was thrown into the ring. It has never been like this before and for some persons there was too much at stake. There was a lot to defend, a lot to protect.

This was business like we have never had before and the results of the elections did not help to calm the situation. Instead it worsened it. As so often happens with the first past the post system, in fact very much like the situation in 1998, the gap between seats and votes was alarming.

The country is really split right down the middle and no one should ever attempt to see this as an overwhelming victory. It would have been so even without the host of irregularities that were unearthed. The closeness of the margin of victory in some constituencies, moreover constituencies in which the bulk of the irregularities were uncovered, meant that it really cannot be business as usual. In three of these constituencies the margin was less than 40. This cannot be simply slighted and thrown aside as if nothing had happened. And this is even when taking into account the nature of the first past the post system by which we are governed.

Some means will have to be made to bring closure to the exercise for without this it will be difficult for us to move on as one people. A number of things have been exposed. It is now absolutely clear that the Supervisor of Elections is incompetent but that is putting it mildly because there appears to be more in de mortar dan de pestle. I will hate to think that some of the rumours about his visit to the headquarters of the ULP are true because if they are it shows gross insensitivity. His business there, if he did in fact go, might even have been legitimate but one has not only to act fairly but to seem to be acting so. Given the concerns that were expressed before, if the allegations are true it shows a total disregard for the responsibilities of his office and for his own credibility.

It appears likely that petitions are going to be filed challenging the results of the elections. This will be a long, drawn out process. What happens in the meantime? Will a platform be created for the healing of the nation? The sounds that are coming out so far give no indication that this will be so. The treatment that was meted out to Dougie Defreitas who had in the past been providing music for the Nine Mornings celebrations has sent the wrong signal.

Are victimisation and spite going to be the order of the day? This kind of approach and attitude beats me for we cannot afford these kinds of antagonisms especially at a time when the country is going to be facing serious challenges related to the onset of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the growth of globalisation.

Really the results of the elections should be a wake up call to Dr. Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party. Given the amount of money spent, the handouts, the transportation to vote of students studying overseas, even from Cuba, the unprecedented entertainment packages of top regional entertainers and if the claims about election irregularities are substantiated, then the results of the election should be serious cause for concern.

There is no evidence to suggest that the spate of foreign entertainers who converged on the country had the kind of impact that was expected. We have often been hard on the voting public but it appears that a large part of the country was not taken in by all of this. This augurs well for the future for it sends a message that there is only so much that, at least a large part of the populace is prepared to take. There is a level of political consciousness that we should not underestimate.

Many persons were prepared to take bribes and to conclude that they were under no moral obligation to fulfil their part of the bargain, spoken or unspoken.

The truth is that we are still not sure about the nature of and the extent to which the people of the country made a statement about the politics of the last four-and-a-half years. We know that quite a large percentage did not vote the ULP but the level of corruption might have made it appear less than it really was. This brings out a point that I had been making now for some time.

We must not underestimate the extent of the growth of political consciousness in the country. True enough we are still a poor society and the handouts mean a lot to a number of people existing below the poverty line. Some of them would obviously have been caught by this but in many cases it did not have the impact it was meant to. The constituency of East Kingstown that was literally bombarded with all sorts of things spoke clearly on this. The other thing that stands out about East Kingstown was the alertness of people who expected the worst and were on full alert hoping to forestall any efforts to sabotage their will.

There are a number of things that happened that do not spell well for the future of the Caribbean community. Perhaps the most despicable was the presence here of Mr. Kenny Anthony, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia on the platform of the Unity Labour Party. This appearance of sitting Prime Ministers on political platforms in different countries during electoral campaigns has always been a bone of contention. But Anthony made it worse when he referred to the leader of the New Democratic Party as a manicou. This is really not acceptable and is an insult to the people of the country and can poison relations among the people of both countries.

Prime Minister Anthony has fallen in the estimation of many people, even among those who have no problem with his partisan political position

As I write today, the New Democratic Party is planning a protest march and rally against the large number of irregularities that they have uncovered. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess!

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