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Owning the Government



Editor: As I sat to contemplate the elections results a few hours after they were delivered, the reality of our local troubles soaked in once again. A friend detailed to me how she fared during the election season, as “big men” from the ULP in my constituency gave her the ultimatum “you have to vote ULP in order to keep your job”.{{more}} For her, it was a baffling scenario. Active political support was what they demanded, which included the posting up of ULP posters on her property. What will “owning the government” mean to her?

A few hours before that, as I spoke with close family from Owia, I heard the pain in their voices as they lamented the fact that a ULP victory spells another five years of victimisation. “What are we going to do now?” was the question I heard on the other side of my telephone. It was a night of moaning for many there. They were waiting patiently to be treated fairly in the allocation of relief supplies and other resources, and their hopes were dashed. To this day, one family wonders if their lands will ever be surveyed. What part of the Government can that family own?

Over two weeks after Election Day, as I waited outside the door that leads to the Parliament, I was stunned and angered at what prominent ULP supporters regarded as the meaning of “owning the Government”. “No NDP person getting in there before me”, “I am not passing any programme sheet to any NDP people” “All the NDP people should stay outside the house” were the phrases repeated in that waiting area. As the door opened for us to enter, a little lady was violently pushed aside by two ULP “champions” and may have suffered worse if the strong voice of rebuke was not heard. That little lady supports the NDP. Is this the way ULP supporters “own the government”?

We are no fools with this prime minister. His rhetoric is long winded and theoretical, with little or no positive practical substance. His concept of owning the Government cannot help any of the persons I mentioned above whose lives are built on a hope for a real change in the way this country is run. After all, it was only ULP supporters who “owned the campaign”, so the pairing of “as you owned the campaign, own the Government now” is just the same old partisan battle cry to ULP supporters who now think they have exclusive rights to the Government of St. Vincent and its supporting institutions.

He has bred a class of politicians who do not know how to earn the respect of the people of this country. A set of parliamentarians who only know leadership as it is practiced by Ralph Gonsalves. They know little about owning their own consciences and much about subjecting their sense of right and wrong to the rusted anti-freedom and pro-communist dictates of the Prime Minister. Statesmanship means little to him. His unstatesman-like attitude is a disgrace in many respects and his notion that delivery without class and respect is what makes for a good politician is just downright despicable. Those politicians who were spoilt under Gonsalves’ leadership must modify the phrase to “Owning back our consciences”. Only then can they truly own what is rightfully ours – our Government.

For that young lady who was threatened with losing her job if she voted NDP, owning the Government must mean she has the right to rebuke the present administration and protest against them by the very manner in which she votes.

For the people in Owia who lamented their many troubles, owning the Government must mean that qualified NDP supporters must be given equal opportunities as the ULP supporters. Owning the Government must mean that they can make demands of the representative of that constituency and have those demands met simply because they are citizens in need of help, not because they support the party in power. It must mean just and fair treatment and respect from their elected officials.

For that little lady, owning the Government must mean her active participation in national events, while actively supporting a party of her choice without the fear of violence to her person.

For me, owning the government must mean that I can rebuke the leader of the ULP as a God-given duty when he is going wrong, in the manner in which I just did, without any fear of transfer or other forms of victimisation from my Government. Owning the government means protesting it abuses against our rights, too, including publicly condemning the PM’s selfish move to amend good provisions in our laws at the expense of our rights and freedoms. He must remember we are the masters, he is our chief servant! We demand that he make the road to justice easier for us. The fact is: we, the people, are the true owners of the Government!

Shefflorn O. Ballantyne