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Our democracy


Today’s column will further develop on the theme started last week about elections and our democracy.

It is a very relevant topic in the context of the continuing controversies we have to endure in the Caribbean after each election, general or even by-election. We have to seek to find solutions to these ongoing problems.{{more}}

However, before we re-engage there, developments surrounding the tragic death of Edgar ‘Crookie’ Cruickshank in an unfortunate accident, also demands attention. In particular, there are some who seem determined to drag Mr Cruickshank into their ongoing political wrangling as if oblivious to the pain of his family.

Arising from ‘Crookie’s’ death, we now have had a public disagreement between the Prime Minister and the president of the local Human Rights Association over an invitation by the association for the PM to join in a purported “prayer and peace rally” being organised by the association, “to mark the death” of Mr Cruickshank. Prime Minister Gonsalves has reportedly declined the invitation, referring to it, according to the SEARCHLIGHT (Dec 16, 2014) as “politically contrived” and “inappropriate”.

I am in no position to make judgement as to whether the invitation from the Human Rights Association was indeed “politically” contrived. What I can say, is that I am at a loss as to how Mr Cruickshank’s death has become the subject for a “peace” rally. When one speaks of peace, especially in the context of inviting all the existing political institutions to rally together under such an umbrella, then it presupposes that there is either a state of war, at the worst, or at least grave social conflict which has arisen from Mr Cruickshank’s unfortunate death. Certainly I am not aware that either such state of war exists or has been declared. We have to be more careful and responsible than that.

For sure, in the heated aftermath of the accident which caused Mr Cruickshank’s death, there have been inflamed comments. That can happen in a politically charged atmosphere. But as the dust begins to settle, there are fewer reasons for making irresponsible statements, aimed at stirring up emotions and, worse, making serious allegations about political opponents, tantamount to accusations of collusion to cause the death of innocent persons.

Perhaps this is why Opposition Leader Mr Eustace has appealed for “calm”, an appeal which seems to be lost on those in the leadership of his party and which continues to egg on supporters in wild and defamatory allegations. How far are we prepared to go along such a road with those who are supposed to know better continuing to mislead those who trust them politically? What will the perpetrators say and do if in the long run their allegations turn out not to be true? Have those who spread all kinds of rumours following the death of Glen Jackson ever apologised for the infamy circulated?

Be careful, you could end up with much more than egg on your faces!


But back to where we left off last week on the recommendations of the OAS Observer Mission to the recent general elections in Dominica. That Mission had given a clean bill of health to the 2014 electoral process in spite of the usual allegations from the Opposition. As a responsible body charged with monitoring the elections, the Mission did make a number of recommendations, one of which, cleaning up the voters’ list, I mentioned last week.

There were others. One addressed the allegations by the Dominica Opposition and some private citizens that the Dominica government paid for Dominicans abroad to come home to vote. The Opposition had even gotten itself into the ridiculous situation of protesting against Dominicans returning home to vote and arising out of this controversy, valuable airport equipment was destroyed.

The OAS acknowledged such allegations but noticed that they were not verified and that no documentary evidence was provided to substantiate this claim.

It made the observation that election campaigns have become increasingly expensive and noted in the absence of clear legal provisions on campaign financing, it “reiterates the need to consider legislation” in that regard.

The OAS as provided model legislation to Caribbean countries on electoral reform, particularly in respect of campaign financing, but thus far countries in the region, including our own have been hesitant to take the initiative. It leaves our process open to manipulation by both local and foreign “investors” in our political fortunes to the detriment of our democracy.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com- mentator.