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When will we wake up?


Anyone interested in the future of this country should have been alarmed by two matters that made the news over the past two weeks. (In fact, there were three matters, but the third, which had to do with a 12-year-old girl charged for the murder of a 15-year-old, even though alarming and frightening, is of a different nature and so is not given a lot of focus here).{{more}}

Who would have imagined that a Permanent Secretary would ever dare to represent a political party at a meeting with the Supervisor of Elections? Old civil servants, some of them dead, who had prided themselves on their knowledge of the public service, must be totally devastated; those dead, certainly turning in their graves. Our political system is still largely the inherited Westminster one. A key plank of this is the neutrality and impartiality of the public service, where public servants are expected and required to serve any party in power. This was unquestioned and no one dared to interfere with its impartiality. Public servants knew this and accepted it. We inherited the system, but not the norms. As true as this is, it is not the critical factor, because what is surfacing is something completely new and represents a total violation, really a rape of the system. What could have allowed that public servant to put herself in that situation? She was not representing herself, so others would have been part of that decision. In any event, we must assume that someone who has reached that level in the Public Service would have been mature enough to understand her responsibilities and be acquainted with the regulations that govern the Service. If she did not, then what is she doing there? One has to assume then that this was a deliberate act, the act of someone who feels that she is empowered to act the way she did. But there is more that could be considered comic, if it was not so serious. She is apparently deputy chair of the ULP and an executive member of the Women’s Arm! All of this is totally unbelievable and utterly appalling; an insult to all Vincentians who are concerned with the future of their country. How this could have happened blows me away completely. Would she be reprimanded? This is a serious charge! A serious attack on our system and civilization! Is Service Commission aware of this and does it have teeth?

The other issue has to do with a strange breed of people, as someone called it, whom we refer to as ‘caretakers.’ This has suddenly become a big thing, emerging not out of thin air but out of the bowels of a system that is collapsing. I say this in reference to the opening of the Bailey Bridge at Fitz-Hughes. Among those speaking at the official ceremony to mark the opening was the caretaker, not the duly elected representative. As I write this, I do not have information about the opening of the one at Hope. That might very well have happened there also, but perhaps not, because Jomo Thomas, the caretaker, is one who claims to stand for high political principles and is a critic of some of the decadence that marks political activity here. To have done so would have been to undermine all that he claimed to have stood for.

Two matters arising from these should send out a disaster warning. First, what is creeping up on us is a merging of party and government, a party dictatorship, as I call it. This will subvert everything we hold dear in a democratic society and will be difficult to undo. A ruling party is not the Government. There is a distinction between party and Government and this should remain. What is frightening about all of this, which is why I refer to my concerns about the future of this country, is that young people growing up would think that this is acceptable behaviour. They would begin to accept all of these deformities in our system and on our political landscape.

But even more important is the fact that these anomalies erode confidence in our institutions. In fact, they go a far way in destroying our institutions. There must be standards to which all of us should adhere. Although I said earlier that the murder of the 15-year-old girl is of a different nature, on considering the matter further, it isn’t. I am not sure about the circumstances which led to this charge being laid against a 12-year-old, but what has happened indicates a destruction of values and norms, with an erosion of the institutions that are fundamental to any society. Let us not separate the spate of murders happening from the other issues I mentioned. All of this points to a disregard for regulations and for civilized behaviour. It involves a particular mindset that has taken hold in our society, one that breeds violence.{{more}}

Where is all this aggression coming from?

Aggression appears to be the only way of settling disputes. And along with this, a rush for knives, guns or any other deadly tools! This, of course, is apart from those that are clearly calculated. Can we not see that we have a problem? A serious problem! Our society is collapsing around us and for those whose only answer is to say that it is happening elsewhere, I must say that they would only wake up when it begins to touch them. It will then be too late.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.