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Already, I bleed for SVG

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It was 1998. A closely fought elections. FOUL! Was the cry of the defeated. “Election irregularities. The results do not reflect the popular will”. It could have been 1966 or 1972 for that matter. What do we conclude? That Labour is a sore loser? So how to explain 2001? The road- block revolution? Or 2005? Electoral fraud? But it is the NDP, not Labour in these two instances.

Labour or NDP, the problem is deeper than any of these two forces, and the deep worry is that, at a time when polar bears are threatened with extinction, we are more and more being led into becoming a bi-polar society, with seemingly irreconcilable divisions, implacably hostile to each other. {{more}}While we talk of having to cope with globalisation, while we recognize the need for closer political union and sign on to deepening regional integration through the CSME, we can’t even practise integration in our own tiny country. Integration? Sorry, we can’t even exercise tolerance for differing opinions.

Clearly the opposition has convinced itself that it was bulldozed out of office in 2001 and cheated in 2005. Long ago it seems to have come to the conclusion that what it perceives to be Labour’s tactics, rightly or wrongly so, in the 1998-2001 period, worked to its benefit, so it is going to be just as intractable, will try to make the country as “ungovernable” as Labour promised in 1998. So the war is far from over and the NDP is still on the warpath. The courts will have to pronounce judgment over any election petitions that may be filed but in the meantime, the war of words continues.

Part of the problem lies, I am tired of saying, in our failure to lift the level of political consciousness and understanding of our people. Even though both political camps were long ago preparing for elections, neither appeared to have significantly increased the knowledge of its supporters of the electoral process. Mr. P.R.Campbell in his “Law and You” made a commendable effort but most of the rest of the media’s contribution was a lot of blah! blah! That is why in 2005, on election night people could be talking of missing ballot boxes, just as it was rumored in the sixties and seventies. Does that tell us something of the political leadership provided by the respective parties over the years?

There seems little doubt that there were inconsistencies and lack of proper preparedness on the part of the electoral machinery. To what extent this affected the result is left to the courts to decide, but fundamentally the results reflected those of 2001, the almost identical divide among those who voted. How those who did not vote would have cast their ballots is a matter for speculation. So, the NDP has a right to challenge if it feels aggrieved, go to the courts if it feels that the matter should be so decided, it has a right to demonstrate if it believes that such demonstration would serve its cause. But it also has a duty to try to be factual, to educate its supporters and to avoid irresponsible statements and behaviour. Above all, conscious of its own striving to lead the country, it must at all costs avoid actions or words which would contribute to further reckless political tribalism.

The ULP, ever more so has those responsibilities. It is the winner of the elections which must be magnanimous, which must demonstrate tolerance, which must understand dissent. It cannot be talking of seeing about only those who voted for it, the ULP has formed the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It has the sacred responsibility to represent ALL of the people of SVG, irrespective of how many or who voted for that party. It must not be led into analyses which conclude that it did not do better at the polls because it tried to embrace national rather than partisan policies.

Such thinking will lead it down the road that the NDP embarked on in the post-1989 period which inevitably led to its political humiliation. It is my view that the “TOGETHER NOW” policy expressed by Prime Minister Gonsalves was not sufficiently put into practice. Of course there were those in the public service who tried to undermine it but so did many in the ULP hierarchy and among its chief advisors. Like it or not, both parties are in danger of placing our already precarious future in jeopardy. We cannot afford more political tribalism and the government must lead the way, it cannot make any display of NDP backwardness or recalcitrance an excuse to itself turn away from the path of righteousness.

Its judgments need to be sober, must appear to be fair and unbiased. Whatever one thinks of Dougie De freitas or NICE Radio, they are entitled to all the rights as the rest of us Vincentians. Let the law and the courts deal with any alleged transgressions, it is for the government which professes Christianity, to FORGIVE. Our Head of State has openly and correctly stated that we cannot continue in this suicidal way, we must find a way for national reconciliation, for healing. After all, take big Germany as an example. Years of political rivalry between the two big parties, the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats and interchange of power culminated in a stalemate at the polls. You know what they did? They CAME TOGETHER in a government of NATIONAL UNITY to try and chart Germany’s future. If they, with a longer history of rivalry than any of our parties, can do that, why can’t our political tribes converse in the national interest?

If the political parties won’t do it, then we as citizens, led by our civil society organizations must take the lead. Should we shirk our responsibility, I fear what will become of our beloved country. The much-vaunted Constitutional Reform Commission, supported by both parties, identified the sorting out of political tribalism as one of the nation’s urgent tasks. Those parties must at least take this seriously. The price of neglecting this is too high to pay. Already, I BLEED FOR SVG!

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