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Let the 2015 general elections reflect the maturation of our society


General elections are by their very nature contentious and divisive. They tend to bring out both the best and worst in us, the latter more than the former. At times, and especially depending on the nature of the leadership provided, the contest can degenerate into actions which can quickly lead to incidents of violence.{{more}}

A half century or so ago, such actions, while not excused, could be blamed on our relative lack of democratic exposure in politics and to what was then still a low educational level generally. Today, we have no such excuses, for while we are still a young democracy, we have had 10 general elections since the attainment of internal self-government in 1969. Additionally, we have made impressive strides in the field of education and literacy.

It is therefore expected that we would bring those experiences to bear in our electioneering and conduct ourselves in a manner reflective of those social advances. We ought also to be strengthened by valuable advice from regional and international bodies and the intervention of civil society bodies, urging contesting political parties to sign on to accepted rules of behaviour encapsulated in codes of conduct.

One such was signed earlier this week by our political parties, but even before that there were glimpses of the ugly side of politics in SVG. One such notable one is what some commentators have described as the “uglification” of the Sion Hill intersection overlooking capital city Kingstown. The overdose of party graffiti has already been roundly condemned by the National Trust and the governing ULP, which has urged its supporters not to stoop to such acts of wanton misbehaviour. One also recalls not too long ago, new bridges built with the support of the government and people of Ecuador being defaced and repainted. It behoves the Opposition NDP to also issue a strong call to its supporters not to engage in such irresponsible acts.

There has also been a most unfortunate incident at Petit Bordel, which risked breaking out into violent partisan conflict. It would appear that some element of “turf war” was involved. Now, each party would have its stronghold, but to resort to violence is unacceptable; we must resolve our differences peacefully. Jamaica is the best example in our Caribbean of the grave dangers of turf wars and violent partisan conflict. We must not allow ourselves to be taken along that road.

Freedom of association is a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution. It is the right of each individual to support the party or candidate of his/her choice and to campaign for that party or candidate if so desired. We must never allow intimidation, bribery or any such influences to determine political conduct or the outcome of elections.

Equally, as a maturing society, the level of our politics must reflect that growing maturity, higher educational levels, and vision for the future. The resort to what is commonly referred to as “gutter politics”, personal attacks by whatever means, is a reflection of intellectual bankruptcy and a deliberate attempt at disrespecting the level of intelligence of our people.

The presence of social media is a big temptation to hide behind anonymity in stooping to nefarious deeds. Whatever the veracity of the so-called “sex tapes”, what place does this have in our politics?

We have come too far to succumb to degeneration. Choosing a government calls for calm, intelligent choices, respecting the views of others, and at all times trying to act in a way as to bring honour to our country and to uplift our democratic practices. Let us stay on that path!