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Parliament unites on national issues



There are rare moments in the history of our country when the national interests take precedent over narrow partisan ones. One such occurrence was on Monday of this week, March 26, when parliament met. On the agenda paper were two matters which had the effect of gaining support from both political factions represented in the House. These were the Resolution on the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the passage of an Act to formally commemorate the date of the first landing of Indian immigrants in 1861.

Not since the establishment by Parliament of the Constitutional Review Commission in 2002 has there been such unanimity on an issue of significant national importance. Of course, such is the nature of both issues that nothing less was required. Nevertheless it was heartening to hear and witness the oneness emanating from the House as a very positive step in nation-building, for forging of a national identity, one of the aims of both measures, is a road along which we have very far to travel.{{more}}

Two comments are in order concerning these matters. One is the realization that there are far more issues which unite us than divide us. In spite of the (worst may be more appropriate) efforts of politicians over the years to sow divisions among us, those issues which matter most affect us all, not just one political side or another. We may have differences over approach, perception etc. but what is of fundamental importance is the degree to which we are all affected. When the crunch comes it is immaterial whether one supports the NDP or ULP, those minor divisions pale into insignificance in the face of the critical issues of our time.

The second comment arises from the first. It is that if our real interests are so intertwined, why then do we find it so difficult to arrive at a national consensus? Why is Parliament so often a theatre of rancour and animosity when it ought to provide the platform, to create the enabling environment for a common tackling of national problems? Is it that we tend to be more preoccupied with trivia and matters of minor import than those which should really occupy our fullest attention?

Political democracy and a multi-party system are the inevitable outcome of differences in political thinking. Yet very often these differences are exaggerated to suit partisan ends or to fuel selfish political agendas. It often reads to opposition for the sake of opposing and on the other hand the mistaking of ruling for governing. This country is too small to permit ourselves to go down the drain of partisan enmity. Any impartial observer of our politics cannot but notice that danger hanging over our heads.

It is occasions like these of the past Monday in the House of Assembly which provide further opportunities for deep national reflection, for us to pause and pull back from the brink of political tribalism, and not to casting differences aside, but to engage in critical and intelligent national debate aimed at bringing out the best in us in seeking national answers to common problems.