Over the past 10 days a number of issues have commanded the attention of the populace in SVG and the rest of the region. Here are some thoughts on two of them.
The Election Petitions
The decision did not entirely surprise me. When I heard quite early, even, I believe, before oral arguments were made, that the verdict was to be handed down on March 21, I wondered. Why was he so precise about the date? Not toward the end of March, but precisely on that date! Were there particular things that determined that date? My non-legal mind went wild. Did it mean he had already made his decision and just wanted time to rationalise it?
This whole petition issue is somewhat farcical. The system stinks. No election petition should still be played out in court four years after the election. In most other countries the reaction would have been different. After four years what is a judge expected to do? Overturn the elections and claim that the incumbent government was illegally elected? Does this mean overturning all the decisions made by that government? I am just wondering! No judge in our part of the woods would dare to do that. There should be strict regulations determining that election petitions be dealt with in a specific time period. Otherwise it makes little sense.
I am not privy to the full judgement of the court but have many questions and concerns. Is the indication here that all is well, so that election officials who admitted to irregularities and on occasions not following the book and even developing amnesia at times could claim victory and satisfy their consciences? I would have wanted to hear recommendations (this might not be the correct legal term) that those who admitted making myriad mistakes be prevented from holding such positions in the future. Could the court insist on the implementation of changes that would prevent the kind of irregularities voiced and the ensuing amnesia before the next election?
Does the verdict in anyway make clear to those who operate the electoral system, that changes are badly needed to restore confidence in the system? Did the judgement admit to irregularities but conclude that they were not enough to affect the outcome of the elections, because that is highly debatable? Is it not logical to assume that the irregularities noted occurred in all constituencies, for to suggest otherwise will force us to ask what is so unique about Central Leeward and North Windward?
That Trump Meeting
There is much hullabaloo about four CARICOM members meeting with President Trump. First, that was not a meeting of CARICOM members. It was by special invitation and really amounts to a statement on the state of CARICOM. Trump has made it clear that he will favour countries that abide by his foreign policy and those four countries voted for the OAS resolution on Venezuela. CARICOM publicised its disunity at that meeting and maybe that is to be expected. CARICOM is really a union of independent countries that are looking after their own interests. To them bilateralism rather than multilateralism is the order of the day. This is not the first time that division has surfaced. We saw it in relation to participation in the Venezuela led ALBA. We cling to different masters.
But there needs to be some reality checks. We are small fish in a big pond. Would any of the other countries have refused to accept an invitation to meet with the US President? What has to dawn on the minds of such leaders is, among other things, the reality of a large diaspora in the US, that helps to keep our SVG a float. One would like to see CARICOM acting in unity. But that is not even a dream. It is mere political rhetoric!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian