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Elections without vision, leaders without dreams


In October, 1951, when Adult Suffrage was born here, and all adults were free to vote in that pathbreaking election, the people did vote. There was an unspoken conspiracy,an almost wordless anthem, a militant rally and a volcanic emancipation forged by the electorate. It ripped the Legislative Council out of the hands of the colonial minded estates elite, the white local club that was at times more repressive than the colonial officials working for the British Crown. Other progressive candidates, tarred with the colonial brush, were also pushed aside. The elections results were a 7 seats to 0, victory for the new ‘Liberation Army’ party of George Charles. Our Vincentian grandparents, who were voting for the first time, concentrated their power, expressed their submerged vision and changed the complexion of the then Power House, now National Assembly. That was an election with a vision.{{more}} The same thing happened in other Caribbean territories when they had their first general elections.

Where the vision is lost, the election is a circus
A vision factor is absent in the upcoming elections. Our four political parties lack that compelling portrait of St Vincent and the Grenadines that makes us want to share in their struggle and campaign to open the gates of the future nation. More terrifying though, is the fact that we, as citizens, no longer have a capacity for community dreams and national visions. Our imagination is darkened and dazzled by the bright lights of battery powered leaders. Look at what the parties are projecting on our imaginations.

The incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP)’s substitute vision of SVG is a collage of the international airport, possible hotel developments, student tourism, expanded infrastructure, housing estates, banana production and trade, hospitals and poverty relief and other millennium/sustainable development goals…all wrapped around the figure of Prime Minister Gonsalves and his Mitchell style hand-picked successors. Even if we were a one-eyed people, that kind of basket of projects would not give us a sense of where we are heading and the warm desire to get there. The place where vision should reside in us and soar above us is vacant. What we get instead of vision is a caricature of what the other parties will plunge us into, if they got the chance; a call to avoid a choice.

What the New Democratic Party is offering in place of an alternate path and portrait for SVG is a narrative of the ULP’s descent into rhetorical progress. This party, the rank and file of which are central victims of depraved governance, is nourished by error, slackness and lack of transparency in critical areas of administration – from airport to poverty control. The NDP projects to the nation, not its vision for SVG, but the need to escape from a form of ‘digging a pit to fill a pothole’. Their vision is not up on the ballot paper.

More than the other electoral parties, the Green Party stays on target with its short hit list of targets and issues. ‘The University of SVG’, factories, taxes on the rich of Mustique and an end to Taiwanese trawling our fish, are far from a vision of the SVG we want to build. They suggest only a point of departure for an essay in development, not yet for a party vision. The Green organization needs to add depth to its disciplines.

The perspective of the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) does not seem to have a social and political community in its focus. Ethical issues, personal ties and some degree of constitutionalism are important planks of this movement. The networking with a Thusian Adventism may enrich, or otherwise, its capacity for emerging with an inclusive imagining of a way ahead for SVG. As it is with other contending parties, the DRP has to focus on its oppositional task, but fundamentally also give attention to a broad based net of Vincentian experience.

Our political parties do not have captivating visions that can inspire our electorate to open a new chapter in the social history of power and governance in SVG. The elections under their leadership is going to be a Vincentian circus. But that may not be the only option that we have to grapple with. Round Table wants next to look further into the matter of our people’s need for and recapture of vital visioning, leading to transforming change.