Political violence rears its ugly head, if only…..
Vincentians are currently preparing (or at least ought to be) to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the recovery of our national independence on October
27, 1979. Unfortunately the independence celebrations will once again have to take second place to another set of national activities, that is, our ongoing election campaign. Time and again the significance of our national independence has had to take back seat to other matters, always diluting our appreciation of such an occasion.
What is worse is that our political campaigning has taken an ugly turn with incidents of political violence. How could we still be resorting to such actions, in the 21st century? It is a throwback to the sixties when ignorance was rife in our country, but there is no excuse for that today. The blame must surely be laid at the feet of our politicians, not for directly instigating such acts, but who, by their macho language and image are giving the wrong message to our people.
The midweek edition of SEARCHLIGHT on October 20 lamented the failure of more women to contest elections, but when there is resort to violence on the campaign trail, women, no matter how well qualified, must be reluctant to come forward. Not only must there be strong condemnation by all parties, but their actions and words must indicate strong abhorrence of any such actions. Strength is not best indicated by physical prowess and certainly not by violence.
Strength of character and integrity are far more important.
To a large extent, the roots for this failure to appreciate what the regaining of national independence means has to do with the manner in which we approached the occasion, in political disunity in the run-up to October 27, 1979.
Those who represented us in Parliament were in disagreement as to whether national independence was indeed a worthy objective. It was left up to extra-parliamentary forces, led by the progressive political movement YULIMO and civil society organisations to hold a principled line on independence while disagreeing with the approach of the then Labour party government.
Now, IF ONLY we had started our journey into the reclamation of national independence on the right foot and made the appropriate connections – with the indigenous inhabitants, the Kalinago and Garifuna and with the legacy of Paramount Chief Chatoyer, our only national hero, we would have been able to understand the achievement of independence in 1979 as a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle. This resistance led up to the insurrection of October 1935, which helped to pave the way to Adult Suffrage in 1951, giving all over the age of 21 years the equal right to a vote.
It is sad that even up until today, national consciousness is yet to embrace the significance of the 1935 October rebellion in our country, one of the first to occur in the thirties throughout the Caribbean. We failed to make the link with the achievement of Adult Suffrage in 1951 and with the continuing chain of events which led to our reclamation of national independence in 1979.
Be that as it may, our sad reality is that even as the 85th anniversary of the 1935 rebellion passes us by and we prepare for our national independence celebrations, it is the November 5 elections which are at centre stage. COVID or no COVID, the parties and their active supporters are hell bent on nothing else and nothing is being spared to make the elections the be-all and end-all of all things Vincentians.
But as I observe, recollect and reflect, I can’t help speculating that, IF ONLY……..
- We could harness and deploy our energies and creativity in the service of our country as a whole, instead of narrow political interests! What a great country we could build!
- The huge sums of money spent and resources expended were not just deployed in order to ensure the election of persons or parties, but were done so for the national good! What a tremendous contribution they could make to our forward progress! Just think of for one day during the campaign, each of the parties could involve themselves in a huge national development effort, for instance mobilizing their members in each community in a clean-up to prevent dengue, in an environmental awareness campaign to preserve our beaches, rivers, forests and parks! What a healthy country we could be!
- The politicians would not compete among themselves to be Mr and Ms. Promise. I recall the classic calypso composition, “Promise them the moon, promise them the stars, Promise them a weekend trip to Mars…” Let us judge them by their record, their character, their accomplishments and not what they promise to do in the future.
- We would pay attention to the process of the conduct of our elections and how to broaden democracy, instead of continuing idle speculation about the outcome. It is not just who wins, but the context of that victory and the platform which will matter to us most in the long run. The November 5 poll is but another step, another stage in our historical development. It is what we do afterwards which will determine our fate.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.