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The NDP and political tribalism

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Fri Oct 11, 2013

Editor: Recently with the naming of three new senators in the house of Assembly, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines made the announcement that he would be recommending to the Parliament, that opposition MP, Dr Hon Godwin Friday be nominated as Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly. This announcement I must admit, caught me by surprise and I was confident that a positive response by the Opposition would have gone a long way in creating a more amiable political climate in our country.{{more}} I believe that the intentions of the Prime Minister were good, as was the case with his mantra “together now” and his subsequent offering of an “olive branch” to the opposition NDP after the 2010 General Elections.

The New Democratic Party has time and again expressed unequivocally that as a political organisation, it is not interested in fostering a meaningful working relationship with the Government, even if such a relationship may offer positive results to our nation. One has only to remember the statement of the MP for Central Kingstown during the 2009 debate on the proposed constitution, where he proclaimed that although he was convinced that the proposed constitution was an improvement on the existing constitution, his allegiance to his party was of more significance and as such his decision to not support it was based more on political expediency rather than national development. This attitude seems to be one that the NDP will live and/or die by.

The Leader of the Opposition in response to the announcement made by the Prime Minister, was more concerned with appearing to be in control of his party and its processes, than to be seen as one who takes leadership seriously and whose decisions are the result of sound reasoning and deep analysis. His pronouncement that Ralph Gonsalves is not the leader of the NDP and cannot make decisions for his party, reflects one who is unsure as to his own influence on the decision making processes of the political party he leads, one with deep-seated insecurities. Our country’s constitution doesn’t allow for any nominations, selections or appointments to be made by the Leader of the Opposition; that is a privilege enjoyed by the Prime Minister. Hence, to expect that such a decision, to select a member of his party for the position of Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly be given to him as the Leader of the Opposition is laughable.

A more well thought out response to the Prime Minister’s suggestion would have been to challenge the genuineness of his offer by making a counter offer that he felt was more in keeping with the principles of inclusiveness that the Prime Minster referred to. A leader who embraced sound reasoning would have thanked the Prime Minister for his gesture, but while accepting the offer in principle to have a member of the Opposition as deputy speaker of the House, lament the fact that the decision was made by the PM without real consultation with the Opposition. Such a leader would have suggested that the Prime Minister make the offer in principle and allow the Leader of the Opposition in discussion with his own colleagues to select two or three names from which the Prime Minister could make his final selection, noting that such a process would have allowed for meaningful consultation and agreement between both sides of the House. Alas this was not to be. Instead what we had was a continuation of the overt expressions of unwillingness by the Opposition to work meaningfully with the Government and the perpetuation of the divisive brand of politics that it believes will keep its base together and translate into political mileage and eventual success at the polls.

Although this strategy of the NDP has so far been unsuccessful in achieving their goal, the party continues to employ it.

One thing is certain in my mind that this approach serves only to deepen the political divide in SVG and worsen the political tribalism that can only serve to retard our nation’s progress.

Sehon Marshall

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