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Political observations


I am encouraged by the effort of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) to engage the public in a series of agricultural consultations. Too often the impression has been given of an Opposition riveted on to the words and deeds of Prime Minister Gonsalves and being more reactive than proactive, more opposing than proposing. If the consultations go smoothly, they can only stand the party in good stead.{{more}}

Even as the talk of elections keeps making the rounds, oblivious to the fact that constitutionally, we can have up to 24 months more before the polls, both political parties must be aware of the need to rebuild their images in a positive light. The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) has had an impressive record of achievements, but its image and popularity have suffered by the acts of its own supporters and leaders. Subjective issues are the ones hurting the governing party most.

The NDP, on the other hand, is affected negatively by the extremism of many of its leading protagonists, its apparent sense of always being ‘wronged’ and its consequent seeming isolationism. Time and again it has turned to its own, rather than seeking to engage a wider audience and has missed excellent opportunities to get its message across to a wider audience instead of its own followers. Several opportunities to display statesmanship in Parliament have been eschewed in favour of fruitless boycotts.

In addition, the fervour of supporters has too often been chanelled along the line of hostility to anyone perceived as not being “one ah dem” and using Nice Radio unfairly to lambaste all and sundry, placing the station and its proprietor in financial straits, unnecessarily so. That image needs to be seriously addressed; but in order to do so there must be recognition that it is a problem. I do not know whether the leadership of the NDP is of that inclination.

The agricultural consultations and others of its type can only be a step in the right direction, provided that the leadership is willing to listen, not just to supporters, and to engage those of differing opinions and genuinely exchange views and opinions, showing respect for opposing views and persons. We in the Caribbean are apt to hold on religiously to our own viewpoints as a virtual political Gospel and to vociferously blast any to the contrary.

In the process, both political parties here, like their counterparts in the rest of the region, have not sufficiently lifted the level of consciousness of their members and supporters and to bring them in line with global trends and developments. It is still too easy for the bandwaggonists to hitch a ride even in the frontline and to get away with all kinds of deeds, all because they are strong supporters. Additionally, in both camps there are persons who can make genuine contributions to the development of our country, but in one case these are overshadowed by the overwhelming personality of the leader, and on the other the aggressive ‘loudmouths’ predominate.

In the long run, the country and its people suffer as a result. Every issue is milked for partisan political advantage, that being the ultimate aim. If the Government of the day joins ALBA, the Opposition must be in vocal opposition, irrespective of whether the country benefits from it. But that cannot be our approach to serious issues; you can agree in principle with a policy, but disagree with how it is implemented. You do not have to rubbish relations with Turkey in order to make a point on the situation in St Kitts/Nevis, nor dismiss an enlightened approach to decriminalizing marijuana or exploring the economic benefits of medical marijuana.

Similarly, to dismiss the concerns of the Opposition in St Kitts/Nevis over the untenable situation there where a “No Confidence” motion is being resisted for over a year, because the Government will fall as a result, on the grounds of “wrong tactics,” or whether the proposers are power-hungry, is unacceptable. True, the Opposition has neglected political mobilization in favour of legal challenges, but one does not have to wait until law and order break down to tell Dr Denzil Douglas and his government that they are morally wrong. I do not agree with the tactics of the Opposition in St Kitts/ Nevis, but they have a case, whatever constitutional or legal fig leafs are held up, there must be more to our politics and we must manifestly demonstrate it.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.