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Our strangled, privatised state in 2012


Round table is putting forward for serious thought the ideas that after 33 years of independence,{{more}} the political/power apparatus and the citizen community of our nation are in a mess…. In 2012, we operate a state machine that is twisted to one side, is also citizen oppressive and is indecently personalised. That is the character of the state as it has developed over the past six decades since 1951, and most of all since 1979, the personalisation becoming indecent and private after 1984. The nightmare that ought to keep us preoccupied and cerebral is the prospect that such a state is capable of and seems devoted to keeping the citizen community at a stage of political and social infancy.

I will tell you this, the hairs on my head nearly stood upright in scared attention when I heard a Ministry of Education argument that the subject and practice of (social) corruption is not sufficiently worthy of intellectual investigation by secondary school students! Which one is the first cause? Is it that the state machine directly oppressing the intellectual content of students’ thinking says ‘no way’, or is it as citizens working in the administration of the state, we back away in infant terror, from a topic which may have students explore indecent practices and offices of the state? Social corruption is, of course, an accepted subject of intellectual interest in academia and policy analysis. I am hoping and praying that the offer of the corruption topic to students by a civic organisation is evidence that in 2012, some subjects in our infant community are not comfortable with infancy, and that by 2013 there will be more evidence of retreat from infancy.

Looking ahead from the strangled state in 2012, what minimum and maximum positive development can we work towards? Like any other strangled creature, our state has trouble with its breathing. In fact, it uses only one lung, the ULP lung, in its system. In the independence celebrations, other political entities were treated like citizens, not state parties or partners; we can set out to change that in 2013. Starting on Nation Day, let us open the airways of the state, pump oxygen-enriched air into both lungs of the state, and enable all political actors and their representatives to enter and access and input into state bodies and activity-boards, committees, national issues. Unstrangle the political power now. Unstrangle the nation. Decolonize the opposition for all time.

The Personalized State

For nearly 20 years now, leaders of government have increasingly put their image on the nation state of SVG. It is not only that the nation comes to be christened as Son’s SVG, or Ralph’s Kingdom; what flows from that is the behaviour that citizens accept as normal. A kind of worship develops; a military mentality grows where citizens must defend the king from any real or imaginary criticism. Naturally too, only the leader and his court officers give citizens entry to their rights of employment, promotion, study, speech and justice. If I exaggerate and I admit the likelihood, it is not gross exaggeration. The indecent personality cult around the head of government and de facto chief executive of the state turns the good citizen into a loving, forgiving, defending, depending, applauding infant. Dynasty, the passing on of rule by the leader to his genetic or genuflecting offspring, is one emerging trait of the personalized state.

Sadly, what I have put forward here is a characterization of the state and how it functions in SVG. The tendencies are deep and whoever they are who become the political executive are drawn into accepting the terms of reference for holding on to political power. The basic commandments are these: keep the citizen in their infancy by all means; twist state power around your person and teach that the State = You; treat the ‘loyal’ opposition as enemy citizens; engage in international relations as your personal gamesmanship; claim to be special; design impressive projects and, bind the security services to you.

The more I ask you to explore with me this view in SVG in 2012, the more I become confident that this is a temporary, transient backwardness that we are caught in. Why do I feel this confidence? It is because I have not discussed the other side of our Vincentian reality and subjectivity. What looks like the status quo, or a solid social power, hides its opposite, a brooding, breeding call to change; it is there, and also a weakening of the political forces in office is surfacing. Politicians are tired, unmotivated and visionless.

When Nation Day 2013 arrives, a new mobilisation will have begun. Citizens will throw off their infancy and a mature political conversation will spread. It will be a grand time.