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Keep them on their toes

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EDITOR: It’s over and done and we have given the mandate to Dr. Ralph Gonslaves and his crew to steer the ship of state for another five years.

I don’t question that decision. I simply remind us all that our role in democracy in and development of SVG can’t stop there. Indeed we must make sure that addressing the needs of the poor and destitute who form a large part of our population remains central to the government’s programmes if our society is not to be a replica of the lopsided economic arrangement we see in countries like the USA with its resulting great divide, made so evident in the aftermath of Katrina. {{more}}We must not build two SVG’s.

We must avoid that path which leads to a socio-economic reality where a minority buys guns to protect the living they are making, while a significant part of the majority feels a necessity to buy them to try and make a living. In the past we voted then sat, watched, waited and finally begged for political favours.

We must now stop hoping for someone to put us in the pool; we must take up our bed and walk. The alternative is that government will remain the guarantor of the well-being of the party’s financial backers only.

So from now on when they brag of 5 and 7% economic growth, we must demand that this is mirrored in a reduction in unemployment and the provision of better public health, education, roads, water and the like and not become the private assets of Almando Rolla. Henceforth, when they boast of per capita income increases, we must insist that the real wages of ordinary workers must go up, or this would be just statistics, useful only for government chest-thumping and feting the likes of Hartley Henry and others in the ULP’s coterie while the super-exploited continues to literally slave for the $80 per week in the Middle Street store. Put another way, the good IMF, World Bank and ECCB reports must mean visible improvements in the lives of those who need it most.

Some of you campaigned with such verve that you ended up in fights, got burst face and could have even lost your lives, while others, poor, old and feeble saw no choice but to surrender to their promises. It’s your right to insist on delivery now; this contract of faith must be honoured, this time we reject the political bounce checks. They, the entire legislature, not just the executive, must appreciate that betrayal of individual, community and national trust placed in them has consequences at every instance.

Their compliance however will not come out of the good of their hearts. This is not because they are evil, it is rather acknowledgement of the simple truth that democratic governance blooms and perfumes under the sunlight of people’s participation. This is the only guarantee that development does not remain a secret known only to a privileged few. In contrast, the ray from a narrow window of limited people’s involvement, or worse still, from a minute crack such as a weak and poor opposition, will only result in under-nourishment, culminating in a twisted and deformed development process that excludes the majority, in particular the Lazaruses of our society. Who then would lick their sores?

Lest there be any misconception, I am not calling for confrontation or opposition for its own sake. There are no winners in a war and if we are continually suspicious of office holders, then why elect them? What I am asking is simply that we do what we can to ensure government for and by the people (‘of the people’ was settled on December 7th). And lest we forget, second-term administrations from 1974 onwards have been notorious in their abuse of our country. Labour from 1979 to 1984 tolerated no dissent (ask Renwick Rose), called in Barbadian soldiers to shoot Vincentians (check with Unionites), passed laws that turned the treasury into a political pension fund; and allowed ministers, more so an Attorney General, to treat the laws and courts of this country with contempt. NDP from 1989 to 1994 decided to change the face of Kingstown (which nobody asked for) and made NCB a free for all for their foreign friends. So by the time we chased them, our capital had become a virtual landfill scorned by cruise ships; Terry Bynoe had become a modern-day Chatoyer, fighting for our people’s birthright on Canouan; Ottley Hall came tumbling down like a pack of cards; and, upon all that, a thief, alias Adames Bensicomo, left NCB grinning from ear to ear. This must not happen again!

Consequently we must guard against the guards this second term, keeping them on their toes by demanding inter alia commitment, discipline and patriotism every step of this five-year journey. But we must also work as hard as we can and as long as necessary and go the extra mile everyday, week, month and year for the prosperity of this nation. We have to forget the culture of dependency and begging and develop one of sacrifice, thrift and investment. These are our only way to the pearly gates of socio-economic advancement. More than that, this would demonstrate that we mean business and our MP’s better fall in line.

Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

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