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Political bacchanal – Part II


The almost constant dose of political bacchanal in the Caribbean has become a feature of our daily life, practically a Caribbean characteristic. In the first part of this article last week, the developments in Nevis, consequent upon an Appeal Court judgement in an election case, were examined. That case, though in respect of a single constituency, has much wider significance in that the outcome of the required by-election will determine which party will control the Nevis Island Assembly.{{more}}

As if the controversy, settled by the nullifying of the election of the NRP’s Hensley Daniel, is not enough, the reaction of the NRP via its leader Joseph Parry, seems bound to create even more bacchanal in the island’s politics. Parry has refused to set the machinery in motion for either a by-election or general election and has instead left the electorate guessing, while he took off for a business trip to North America. He has said that he will announce his course of action when he returns.

Now it may be, as Mr Parry has claimed, that the visit is important in terms of securing the future of the vital tourism industry, but surely, the matter of good governance is also of paramount importance. Parry’s actions could therefore be construed as lack of respect for the electorate and even mocking the intelligence of Nevisians by trivialising the urgency of the matter, by saying it can wait until after his trip. His very legitimacy hangs in the balance.

In a similar way, charges of disrespect for the people and political process have been made against Grenadian Prime Minister Tillman Thomas. Those charges arise from a no-confidence motion filed in that island’s Parliament by a member of Thomas’ own governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Karl Hood. It is the second such motion to be filed against the Thomas administration in three months, a previous one by the Opposition New National Party (NNP), having failed to obtain the requisite Parliamentary support.

A no-confidence motion is one of the options open to Parliamentarians to test the level of support for governments by Parliamentarians or to force debate on matters of national importance. In the case of Grenada, it is palpably clear that the Thomas administration has imploded, following public disagreements within the Cabinet and governing party. Several ministers of government have either been fired by Thomas or resigned and the country is in a state of political chaos and financial and economic morass, (public servants have not been paid for some two months now).

Yet, bizarrely, Thomas chooses to soldier on with all but a “rump” Government, a clear minority within Parliament. He has resisted calls to have Parliament summoned to debate the motion. Rather, in a national broadcast, he described Hood’s motion as being “… highly unpatriotic, reckless, self-serving and disrespectful of the people of Grenada”. The prime minister went on to charge that the no-confidence motion was inspired by the political Opposition (though filed by his own NDC Parliamentarian), and aimed at “… pre-empting any improvement in the economic and financial fortunes …” of his country.

Interestingly, his argument runs very much like that of the Nevisian Premier Joseph Parry, trying to counterpose supposed economic initiatives on the part of the government to the imperatives of good governance. Whatever the merits or demerits of economic initiatives being taken by the Thomas administration, it is clear that the political chaos needs to be addressed urgently. No economic policies can be sustainable in a situation of political confusion and division and where the government seems to have lost the political and moral authority to govern. A clear political mandate is a necessity.

Ironically, it is Thomas who comes across as being “disrespectful”, for if he obtained a mandate to govern by presenting a slate of candidates, how could he continue to pretend to hold on to that mandate, when it is palpably evident to all but the political blind that he no longer has the support of his own side of the House, never mind those on the other side. Prime minister Thomas may very well have the answers to Grenada’s challenges, but he can only apply them by seeking the consent of the electorate.

If those whom he originally chose are found to be “ungrateful”, or “unpatriotic”, or whatever is his chosen terminology, the people must be allowed the right to exercise their choice. The prolonging of the political charades, whether in Nevis or Grenada, is a blight on the Caribbean body politic. It’s time to put an end to these manifestations of political bacchanal.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.