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Ominous start to 2020

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I had intended to focus this, my first column for the year 2020, on matters local, but global events which can have far-reaching effects on us all are such that they cannot be ignored.

I refer in particular to the Middle East, that persistent hotbed of global conflict and the ominous thud of the drums of war following the assassination of Iran’s top military official on the orders of President Donald Trump of the United States of America. It has brought in its train the very real threat of all-out military confrontation with disastrous implications for all of mankind.

There is no greater scourge and challenge to the safety of the human species and the preservation of the planet than that presented by war on a global scale. The experiences of the two world wars in the last century are there for us to learn from and to strive to prevent with all the means at our disposal. Given the nuclear arsenals now in stock and their capacity for virtual annihilation, it is all the more imperative that every effort be made to restrain the proverbial “dogs of war”.

That the President of a nation which preaches to the world about “democracy” could resort to ordering the assassination of an official from another government, on the territory of a third, which it continues to occupy illegally, tells us a lot about where we are in the world today and the nature of the administration which occupies the White House in Washington.

Yet, assassinations of foreign leaders is nothing new in the history of the USA, it is just that the arrogance has reached the stage where the assassination is no longer a covert affair, carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, the notorious CIA. The President himself not only orders it but boasts of it for the entire world to hear. The late Cuban President Fidel Castro is undoubtedly the outstanding example of surviving assassination attempts orchestrated by the USA but no American leader has been so bold-faced as to publicly admit that he had given such murderous orders. It tells us what kind of world we live in today.

That is the situation confronting our diplomatic staff at the United Nations and our government as SVG assumes the prestigious post of non-permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. What a challenge to our tiny nation-state and to Ambassador Rhonda King and staff! There must be feverish activity in the hallowed halls of the U.N. Our very best wishes go out to Her Excellency and support for the peace-making tasks ahead.

Apart from the possible deadly military confrontations, there is the threat of what military persons today refer to, cynically, as “collateral damage”, the slaughter and maiming of innocent civilians. There are wider repercussions as well, especially in the economic field. Already oil prices have been climbing and both the stock and money markets have started to reflect the jitters in the corridors of capitalism. Small countries like ours will be most vulnerable just as we were after the global financial crisis of 2008.

The government of our country is in the process of finalising its 2020 Budget, expected to be presented later this month but a global conflagration can wreak havoc with those plans and cause further hardship for our country and its people. Clearly war can never be to our advantage whether we support Trump or Iran, we are bound to suffer as Singing Sandra reminded us in her classic, “Nobody Wins A War”.

The repercussions can divert us away from pressing tasks. This is the year 2020, a target year for many goals set during the last century. Already many targets have had to be revised but those goals, elusive as they may be, are still valid.

This year is also the final year of the fourth term in office of the ULP administration. Elections and electioneering are bound to dominate the political landscape. Are we to remain at the same level of hostilities as in the past? Do we wish to have a repetition of the past or are we willing to take a mature approach towards the conduct of elections, electoral reform and campaign financing?

A lot will depend on how we collectively face up to these issues.

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