Bonding with our brothers and sisters
You are reading this column on December 6, General Election Day in Dominica, but it was written on December 4, two days before. A lot would have happened since and at this stage it is difficult to predict what will happen. The Concerned Citizens who had gone to Court asking for a postponement of elections until at least two things have happened, the issuing of ID cards and the cleaning up of the Voters List, were denied by the Judge. An appeal to the Court of Appeal, I believe, was launched on Wednesday, and the expectation is that the matter will reach the CCJ, which was expected to decide before Friday. How all of this will work out is difficult to say, given the short time involved. I must applaud the manner in which the Court System is handling this if things work out as anticipated. I contrast this with SVG where election petitions from 2015 are going snail’s pace through the system. Matters dealing with elections which are critical to transparency in our democracy need to be given priority attention. The SVG issue has led to a great deal of criticism about the Court System. If the Dominican situation is handled in the time given it will restore some measure of confidence in the system, but will then leave a number of questions to be asked about the SVG matter, even though the issues are different.
What happens in Dominica should be instructive and will set a precedent, although there was a case in Barbados that was handled quickly and allowed Commonwealth citizens to vote if they met the other criteria. But I go beyond this issue to look at other issues that have surfaced. It is amazing, perhaps absurd, that CARICOM instead of trying to calm the situation and listen to the concerns of the people, is sending in its RSS forces. This is a powerful statement. At the time of the so-called ‘Road- Block Revolution’ in SVG, the then PM Sir James Mitchell took a different approach. He called in a CARICOM delegation whose only role, as it turned out, was to rubber stamp an agreement reached after a mysterious walk on the beach. We talk about the CSME as representing the future of the Caribbean, but CARICOM leaders are sending out ugly signals. It is in our minds an ‘Old Boys’ Club concerned with the preservation of its own rather than with the future of the Caribbean people whose voices ought to reign supreme.
Plantation slavery ended a long time ago, relatively speaking, but Plantation Politics has continued. Our politicians must be reminded that the people of the Caribbean do not live on their plantations, and moreover it is the people who elected them and gave them that illusion of power that they have captured and transformed into their version of reality. The Al Jazerra report has confirmed what many in the Caribbean have been thinking and talking about, the issue of fair, free, and transparent elections, and the existence of wide-spread corruption. Hopefully this expose has added a new dimension to Caribbean politics. Electioneering and Election campaigning have taken on a life of their own and have gotten out of hand. Our countries cannot afford the cost of the Campaigns that are now being run. Outsiders with money and skeletons in their closets are quick to fill the vacuum. It has reached the stage in the face of all of this that I have no objection to other countries supporting whatever parties they want, but the matter has gone beyond that and all sorts of deals are being made, though not on behalf of the countries. While we are unable to pay our workers decent salaries and maintain our infrastructure, we are spending millions of dollars on election campaigns, enriching many in the process. Is this what democracy is all about?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian