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Why I did not vote in 2005

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09.JUN.06

Editor: I voted in 2001, but not in 2005. When I voted in 2001, it was the first time in my life. I was not of age for the last elections before I left SVG and I never voted while I lived in England and America, although I was eligible to do so.

I did not know who to vote for in 2001, because I had recently returned home and had a difficult time keeping track of SVG affairs while I lived in Alabama. I asked a minister of the previous government why I should vote for its candidate and he gave me reasons why I should not vote for Ralph. There was no one by that name on the ballot in my constituency. The minister had missed the boat. We protest against much, but do not always know what we protest for.{{more}}

I voted for Clayton Burgin because he seemed the most capable candidate on the ballot. As a former teacher myself, I hoped that he would be capable of independent thought and sound judgment. To date, I am not aware of any independent thought and decision in government by this honourable gentleman. This may be because government seems to have all chiefs and no Indians. There are no backbenchers. Everyone seems to be in the Cabinet, where they may either have to toe the line or get dealt with by the foot. There does not seem to be any opportunity for dissent in parliament. If the “ayes” always have it, there is no way to tell if he gave assent or abstained on any decision.

I may have voted for him partly by default, because I saw repeated requests in the media for information on the Ottley Hall project. These were always met with a stunning silence that I considered an insult to tax payers. Then I noted the passage of the so-called “greedy bill” in the face of vigorous protest outside of Parliament, clearly demonstrating the utter contempt of the elected for the electorate.

Come 2005, I had moved to a new district and was again confronted with the question of who to vote for.

It would have helped if I had heard the candidates speak on matters of importance to the state and even better, debating each other. I did not know the candidates, but had met one briefly. You might say this gave him a slight edge, until I passed him one day on a deserted side walk and said “Hello”. He breezed past me, ostensibly busy with his own great thoughts and ignorant of my hand raised in greeting.

“Big fish, small pond”, I told myself sadly. My friends in Texas would say “Big hat, no cattle”. He lost my vote. I did not vote. A few days later, I walked behind two Caucasian ladies and eavesdropped shamelessly on their conversation. One said to the other, “They will be wining again tonight.” She was speaking deprecatingly of a party political meeting. I guessed they did not vote either.

I have looked in consternation at “honourable” men and women, hewn from the same rock and dug from the same pit as us ordinary mortals, who hold themselves a cut above the rest and tell us they are masters and not servants. And people actually cower in fear before them. I was getting my hair cut when I remarked to the barber that when the Prime Minister, who is a usually confident, self-assured man, appeals to the people for ideas, this must mean either that he has run out of ideas, or that the future looks bleak for SVG, or both. It seemed a logical deduction. She cautioned me to be careful what I say, as if the walls had ears. I wondered whether she was intimating that we now have our own Gestapo, Stasi or KGB. I assured her that I was not afraid of anything or anyone, dead or alive.

Not long afterwards, I related this conversation to a young man who informed me that it was now commonplace, when people receive a call on their landline, to ask the caller to hang up, then call back cell phone to cell phone. I had no idea I was coming home to a culture of fear. People are afraid to come out after dark and are scared to speak freely for fear of reprisals from politicians they put in office. I am disappointed.

Clifford Pitt

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