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Lift the campaign – Part 2

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One major factor in the deterioration in the level of political dialogue and discussion is almost a contradiction in itself. It concerns the continued, and wilful, abuse of the social media and the airwaves in the pursuit of purely partisan, and sometimes personal ends.

These are tools which should be uplifting us all, allowing us to be better informed and providing a more sound basis for political analysis and conclusions.{{more}}

Instead, they are misused to create a state of permanent “breaking news”, many unproven allegations, from which, when the facts can’t stand up, the accusers, some of them leading political figures, back away and move on to the next one. No apologies when wrong, no regrets at misleading, whether intentional or not. The ends are used to justify the means. Is this the direction in which we ought to go?

There is no shortage of issues on which one can engage in constructive national debate, no scarcity of opportunities to criticize both Government and Opposition with good reason. Why are we then either picking non-issues or failing to grasp the substance and significance of real issues?

Take the claim of teachers and public servants, or at least their union leadership, for a one-off payment which, according to PM Gonsalves, will cost this country some EC$25 million. Even the PM has been forced to concede that public officers, and workers as a whole, need pay increases. So, there should be no argument on that, and the effort by some in the ULP camp to pooh-pooh wage demands are out of order.

The big problem in all of this is the fixation of the NDP leadership and its long-time, hard-core supporters, about how the NDP government had to cut short its life and hold elections, which the party lost, two years before its due expiry date. This fixation, on the so-called “Roadblock Revolution” of 2000, the role of civil society and the unions, has led to misconceptions that persist up to today. Faulty analysis or diagnosis can have fatal casualties, as witness the continued failure of “bad-John” attempts to remove the Government.

The James Mitchell regime of 1998-2000 was not brought to a premature end because of any conspiracy and roadblocks, and repeated attempts to replicate it are doomed to failure. If one does not understand nor appreciate the objective conditions existing then, the arrogant nature of official responses, the insensitivity in dealing with the demands of public employees and their unions, and above all, the drift that had occurred in the Ship of State, then one is bound to end up “playing down the wrong line,” as we say in cricketing language.

The younger generation in the NDP owes it to party and country to move on from such faulty analysis trapped in the past. That is what prompts those on the airwaves and social media to advocate a confrontational approach, prodding the inexperienced union leadership into advocacy of positions which presuppose massive support for their positions. Their best bet would be an equally confrontational approach by the Government, which has not been forthcoming. How do they counter the arguments about the many non-salary benefits to public servants and their children?

The year 2015 is not 2000; conditions have changed and no matter how well-intentioned, tactics must change as well. The arguments must be won. To attempt to buttress your position by referring to Government borrowing to complete the international airport and equating it to borrowing for the proposed one-off payment, may be politically attractive to those who do not want to understand, but cannot be sustained.

Which brings me to another current topic, the Argyle airport. I agree with the Editorial of the SEARCHLIGHT of September 29, in regard to the need for proper parliamentary accountability and transparency. Whether one agrees with the position of the Opposition on the project, or not, it cannot be an excuse to avoid such scrutiny. From the beginning, the Government, for whom praises cannot be too high for realizing this long-standing dream of our nation, attempted to “hog the show”. It is difficult to attract support from those opposed to you politically unless you reach out.

This in no way exonerates the Opposition for its lack of patriotism and its failure to appreciate what this project means to our long-suffering people and their stunted development. By all means criticize, call for proper measures, but be patriotic enough to put country and its development above all else. Never be afraid to criticize shortcomings, nor to disavow those in your camp who deliberately mislead the lesser informed and who confuse opposition to Ralph with opposition to a basic developmental need. Show how you support the project and how you could deliver it more efficiently. That is the direction in which we need to go, upward, not descend to the gutters.

I have never forgotten a slogan from 1979 -“UPFUL IS THE WORD.”

(Final part next week)

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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