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The bell has been rung

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The Election Bell, proverbial and (even physical) has been rung amidst a lot of controversy. What a way to kick off the official start of the election campaign! The atmosphere began to get warmer on Saturday night when the Leader of the Opposition attempted to or maybe upstaged the Prime Minister by announcing Wednesday, December 15, as the election date.{{more}} At that time, the debate shifted from the issue of whether the election was going to be called this year or next year. Those who thought that the news circulating about an announcement of the election date on Sunday was simply a ploy, then began to turn their attention to a December date. Even if the date that was originally decided on was December 15, anyone who knows Doctor Gonsalves would have known that he would have changed it. But then the confusion started. The Prime Minister appeared to have been doing his best to convince the listening public that Eustace was mistaken and that the date he announced might have been purposely communicated to him. Then two things happened. Media Consultant Elson Crick on Monday, the day following the official announcement, circulated to the Media a copy of the Prime Minister’s speech with the election date being shown as Monday, December 15. A photograph of Gonsalves holding a copy of his speech taken by Oris Robinson after the Prime Minister had written in the dates (according to Kenton Chance) has it listed as Monday, December 15.

More hell broke loose. Crick described his action as an ‘honest mistake’, whatever that is supposed to mean. He described the photograph as being doctored. What a mess! Was Crick the fall guy? Was the mistake (if you can call it that) made by the Prime Minister? Was the date December 15 written by him? Crick claimed to have typed in the wrong date for the election, but the photograph by Robinson shows Monday, December 15, written in and not typed. If the mistake was the Prime Minister’s, then one couldn’t expect him to accept his beleaguered Media Consultant’s resignation. We probably would never know the truth, but there will continue to be a lot of speculation as to what had happened. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the election date has been announced, something the country has been waiting on for months. So the real silly season has started in confusion and the next three weeks are going to be hot ones. This has in fact been a long election period. The country has been in election mode since last year’s Referendum. The Referendum might just have been one of the most significant events to have taken place in this country for many years. There has undoubtedly been a change in the mood of the people since then. I have disagreed with those persons who attributed the ULP’s Referendum loss to supporters staying at home. It was in my view a comment on the leadership of the country. The question is, does that remain so? This election will undoubtedly be one of the most important elections that this country has ever faced. I believe it will mark a turning point in the politics of the country.

I sense a new spirit in the country and believe that politicians in the future would not get away with a lot of what they had gotten away with over the past years. SEARCHLIGHT’s editorial of Tuesday, November 16, while suggesting that there was a lot of excitement in store over the next four weeks, asked that we “try to not get caught up in the excitement but we should take some time to soberly reflect on the issues at stake this time around, and decide which team is best poised to deliver what is best for ourselves, our families, our community and our nation.” This is really not the time for sober reflection. I believe that reflection had been taking place for some time. Vincentians have already made up their minds. They have had since 2001 been looking at the operations of both government and opposition. Now is silly time! Whatever comes out of the mouths of politicians now is likely to be election talk. We are hearing of who really loves the people. That love should have been shown during the last four years. We should never judge politicians by their utterances now. They are expected to say all sorts of glorious things now as they seek our votes. They should be judged on what they showed us over the past years. What we saw over the past four years was real. What we are seeing and hearing now, if different from what existed before is false, is nothing but election gimmickry.

SVG is a small country. We know what the politicians have been doing. Obviously the focus would have been on the party in power since they were in control of the governance of the country. We have seen them in action and have formed impressions of them. We have developed a sense of whether we are better off now than before. We also have seen the Opposition and how they went about their business. So we are going to judge all of them on how they presented themselves to us and not on the empty rhetoric surfacing at this time. So I agree with the SEARCHLIGHT’s editorial that “Each of us should make judgements based not on what these people say, but based on our own experience and the experiences of the people around us. Each person knows his or her reality and should have confidence in it and not the others sway him or her, with what, in many cases, is scaremongering and lies.” The editorial was referring to ‘political propagandists’, but it equally applies to the persons who come before us seeking our support in getting them into office.

We, however, have to be calm and respect each other’s right to vote for the candidates of their choice. This country has suffered over the past nine years from deep political division, with many people being treated as outcasts because they were not prepared to sing from the same political song sheet. This has got to stop, so let us hope that on December 14 we begin the process of bringing the country together again and harnessing the talents and skills of all of our people. It is only by doing this that we can move on and face the challenges that lie ahead.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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