Charting a new direction
I am happy that the local sporting community has honoured, posthumously, the late Jules Anthony of Troumaca and more appropriately North Leeward for his massive contribution to sports locally. He and his family are richly deserving of such an accolade as befits the significant role he played in the development of sports in North Leeward and at a national level.
Jules was one of the many patriotic “unsung heroes” selflessly devoting his efforts to national development. His efforts were not confined to the field of sports for which he is being honoured, for they encompassed community development as well. Many who are aware of his contributions in these fields may miss another important role he played, in the trade union movement.
Jules was a vital cog in the National Workers Movement, the trade union which represents the workers of the utility company in which he worked, VINLEC. He was instrumental in bringing democracy to the union when it was saddled with an undemocratic leadership, bent on using the union for opportunist and selfish reasons. The entire local trade union movement has benefitted as a result.
The honour being accorded to Bro. Anthony leads me to yet another comment on our collective failure, even after 40 years of independence, to develop a system of national honours. The best that we do at a national level is to recommend persons for the colonial honours handed down by Queen Elizabeth. There is quite a lot of ambivalence in this regard for while in principle, many accept the need for national honours, there is still a lingering feeling that, because of its local nature, such an honour would not be as respected outside our country as say, an O.B.E. or M.B.E. The question is how long are we to hold on to the coattails of monarchs foreign to us?
One of the obstacles to progress in re-asserting national pride and identity is the political division which continues to plague us, each of the two major parties often looking over its shoulder at the other and how it can exploit any dissatisfaction with a policy for its own narrow political purpose. Our country suffers as a result, often ending up with not the national interests being paramount but the perceived electoral interests of political parties.
In this regard, our country and people are victims of what I call “oppositionism”, the practice of opposition for opposition sake. Two factors can help to explain this. First, there is the misconception of the role of “Her Majesty’s Opposition”, with the emphasis on opposing rather than on proposing clear directions for the country. The second comes from trying to please a base, not only inherited with an anti-Labour outlook, the ULP being simply considered as an extension of the old Labour party, but a base which has had its outlook grossly distorted by the politics of denigration and lack of respect since the heyday of the late E.G. Lynch.
That base has become, at its core, not forward-thinking and progressive, but reactive and what we would call “tear down” in nature. With a heavy emphasis on the media, particularly radio and social media, a culture of disrespect has been cultivated which rather than debating ideas, concentrates on attacking the character, not only of opponents, but even of those who may share differing opinions on any matter. In order to please this base, the NDP leadership, rather than providing positive leadership, often abdicates its leadership role and ends us tailing, not just the base, but sometimes the most backward elements within it. One can’t help but note some similarity to Donald Trump and his pandering to his right-wing base.
On a litany of issues therefore, the NDP often gets caught supporting all sorts of characters and issues, many of which are anti-national and get the party in trouble, in the courts and politically. They make it difficult for persons with genuine disagreement with policies of the ULP to associate with the strident positions of these characters. Many of them are simply trying to use the Opposition to air their own grievances.
Time and again, on major national issues, the Opposition has found itself wanting, whether on constitutional reform, national honours, the Argyle International Airport, the CCJ or on major foreign policy issues, including accommodating hostility to Cuban and Venezuelan personnel and programmes very beneficial to our people. It has screwed up on issues where a level head would have won it many more admirers and instead remains in bed with the politics of hostility and isolationism.
This is doing neither the country nor the NDP itself any good. Our country needs not only a vibrant Opposition, but also one which can be recognised as a viable ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT. We need to see an Opposition which places emphasis on policies rather than personalities, which is level-headed enough not to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water” and which can maturely separate the bibical “wheat from the tares”. Is that too much to expect of the NDP?