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To vote or not to vote

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Part II

by Oscar Allen

One of the men on the block in Diamond Village presented me with this placard message, two weeks ago:

DIAMOND PEOPLE, WE VOTING ULP, BUT WHAT ARE WE VOTING FOR?

The placard was saying: we know whom we are voting for as villagers but, what do we want in the next five years for our votes?

When I wrote “To Vote or not to Vote” a month ago, I was declaring that for me to vote, there must be no king ruling over us, there must be no figurehead or token man or woman whom we call our representative. I really want to vote for “Change”. {{more}}It was good to have some media discussion on the issues, and the case against me presented by Saboto Caesar was revealing. Jomo “Plain Talk” Thomas put some challenges to me even as he put a bit of meat on the dry bones of my argument. Others have dismissed my views. I want to say more.

I would like to vote ULP. In the past 4 years, it has shown itself to be full of energy and excitement. I liked the severance back pay that it gave to Orange Hill workers particularly and it didn’t cost much. What the ULP government put out in its first term is quite impressive. Even though some of its projects show weak design, half way implementation, late implementation and fast talk and slow action, the ULP has produced a lot. The criminal shortcoming in its output has been that in the production departments of the economy, from primary agriculture to modern technology (IT), there has been little forward movement, no progress. In agriculture, a few small to medium sized processing units are operating or in the making with state investment, but otherwise, the ULP has been hanging onto the coattail of WINFA-Fair Trade and the Taiwanese Agricultural Project. And yet, I would like to vote ULP!

I am unable to vote NDP, it has a bad history. In its first term, it was not kind, nor gentle to working people when it slammed the door shut, BLAM! on stone mills, sugar factory and other government businesses. In its second term, it abused the 15 seat parliament that it won; in its third term, it could not handle the opposition that it generated. Its investment mistakes still haunt us. Among the pluses, its 1987 initiative on OECS unity was educative.

In 1984, the NDP attracted new men and women, some of whom had long been tested in the struggles of the poor, yet the party became a hapless one-man show. Today, under a solid new leader, the NDP is policy cautious, too cautious perhaps and timid in some of its statements on foreign and regional affairs. New persons have come again to the NDP, they are at least as skilled as those in 1984, less tested in the struggles, and in my mind, they can still sell out again, especially on matters of foreign and hemispheric policy. I want to watch the NDP grow in opposition. I am unable to vote the key.

I will not vote for a king to rule another five years. As a citizen in a democratic state, I insist that democratic conditions surround the elections.

Let the king step down and build up his cabinet to become responsible colleagues and effective leaders in the matters under their portfolios. Let Minister Browne and his team enter or share the foreign relations discussions with the Cuban and Venezuelan and Mexican Ministers on our airport project. Let Minister Burgin set the policy on the Learning Resource Centres, the sequencing, siting, administration. A code of non royal conduct should give structure to the principle that cabinet is made up of equals. There is no king, just a first servant among equals. There must be continuous signs that the cabinet members are rising to stand erect and responsible. Perhaps the citizens’ civil society forum can draft the code of cabinet conduct for broader discussion on how to take down our king.

But we also need a code of conduct to secure and protect our public servants in the government departments and other bodies. No public servant, no permanent secretary, or supervisor of daily paid workers must be harassed or directed by a (government) parliamentarian or minister. No hiring and no firing, and no suspension, and no victimisation must be allowed because “the minister say so.” Any such minister must face automatic sanctions.

I call on our Prime Minister Gonsalves to present, and have implemented new guidelines and regulations on sexual harassment. Our males must be taught to cherish, respect and protect the sexuality and vaginas of our young women, princesses of our civilisation. Groping paws and trigger happy penises haunt school spaces, places of power, the buses and bushes in our land. Let this election become a moment of female elevation in our society.

Am I going to vote on Election Day? Not for the NDP, and if I see that the ULP does not move to meet the conditions that I have noted, not for the ULP. What about you? Will you share your conditions for voting?

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