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Constructive solutions needed

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I am fortunate to be able to participate in a regional process conducted by civil society organizations seeking solutions to development challenges facing the Caribbean. A wide spread of organizations is involved, including a healthy input from young people. One such organization, based right here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, is aptly named, Constructive Solutions.{{more}}

It is a very relevant name, for too often our approach to finding solutions is clouded by negativity and division. The need for such a constructive and united approach is brought out forcefully by the threat of the Zika epidemic facing our hemisphere, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency.

There is a positive side to this in that it helps to focus attention, and hopefully resources, on the threat and facilitates a collective approach. Yet, there are negative aspects arising mainly from the issuance by some powerful states of “travel advisories” warning their citizens against travelling to some Caribbean countries. The contradiction is that the Zika virus is already in that very country issuing such travel warnings. This use of “travel advisories” can sometimes be abused and often discriminates against smaller countries like ours.

Another negative development is when one gets the fight against such health threats mixed up with local politics. One prominent local parliamentarian, for instance, in making a very positive appeal to his supporters to be vigilant and safeguard against the Zika virus, couldn’t resist the temptation to engage in mudslinging, likening the Zika virus to his political opponents.

Such unfortunate incidents tarnish any constructive approaches to the challenges facing us and hinder our own political progress. For years now, this writer has been urging that we need to clean up our politics and engage in meaningful political and constitutional reform. Too few people seem to be convinced of this as was evidenced not only by the shameful “No” vote in the referendum of November 2009, but also by the backwardness in which that rejection was steeped.

As a result, we continue with the politics of old, of division and hostility and negativity. After every elections, no matter what the result, we maintain the confrontation and virtual enmity; how does that benefit us? In the current situation, the Opposition seems to be convinced that the game was not played fairly. It is entitled to that opinion and to initiate court action to “get justice”. But what is constructive about the hostile hounding of the supervisor of elections? What can she do about the situation? Or the Prime Minister for that matter? It is the Court which must rule definitively.

The tactic of boycotting Parliament, now time-worn, is also strange. For a simple refusal to be sworn in and to nominally accept seats in Parliament would force at least seven by-elections, if not a new general election. Is this not what is desired? The contradictions are glaring. One terms the Government, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance as “illegal”, yet Opposition MPs are collecting payments from the same “illegal” entities; where is the morality in this? What good is there in depriving the more than 30,000 persons who voted for them of effective representation in Parliament?

At the same time the Government must be careful in its reaction. I am not sure that legislating to punish the boycotters financially is the best course. Is it not better to let the pressure come from the electorate and for there to be a heavy political price to pay for neglecting one’s own parliamentary duties?

Finally, since we are talking about constructive solutions, what is there constructive in using the Internet and social media to preach violence, mayhem, arson and even murder. I am sure that the leadership of none of the political parties here would condone such irresponsible and reckless actions. Why is there not unified condemnation? It would be useful if some section of the media would compile these dangerous threats and publish them so all can see the very tsunami of violence being advocated.

Surely, we can solve our deep differences in a peaceful and constructive manner.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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