More of the same for election 2011

By all accounts, St Lucians will be given an opportunity very soon to choose a new administration. Prime Minister Stephenson King has made it abundantly clear on several occasions, that when he rings the bell, as is his constitutional mandate, there will be twenty-one days left for campaigning. Nothing shocking there: business as usual. Maybe, just maybe, one day the country will elect men courageous enough to implement constitutional reform that will standardize the election date. Enough of the grandstanding and carrot-dangling by successive regimes and their arrogant, demi-god, tin-pan prime ministers, with the timing of the people’s general election. What about the second Tuesday in August? Yes, I just pulled this off my convenient calendar to make a bigger point.
With a disgraceful deficit of fresh ideas, a lack of insight and a complete absence of vision coming from the political platforms at this stage of the campaign, the electorate is in for nothing substantial but the same old mepwis (bad-talking) and mauvais-lang (bad-mouthing) political sound bytes. I have argued in an earlier piece that this election will usher in nothing new except business as usual. The same old dirty and worn out khaki pants! The choice is simply going to be between keeping the status quo or returning to a Kenny Anthony administration. It is not a choice that excites and inspires.
The prospect for any progressive and meaningful change in the lives of the people is not on the agenda of some members of the present crop of politicians. They seem more interested in grandstanding and settling their I-know-what-you-know-that-we-know-that-I-know scores, than in providing a lifeline to those whose buying power continues relentlessly to decline under the cold and unforgiving onslaught of inflated prices and skyrocketing unemployment. Methods of calculating economic growth may change, but the hard times being experienced by ordinary people remain constant, deleterious and debilitating. A recent discussion on Newsspin concerning the fifty-cent increase in the price of coconut water by vendors highlighted economic truths that were beguilingly and deliberately glossed over during the recent budget debate.
These are difficult and trying economic times across the globe, but for developing countries the pain is compounded by politicians who insist on promoting and perpetuating the dependency mentality. Elections should be about the future and St Lucians should be looking towards building a country based on sound economic principles, as well as innovative social engineering, not on failed policies that have resulted in increased indebtness and a complete dependence on, inter-alia, the vagaries of a very shaky tourism market, with nothing to show for such indebtedness. Remember the social engineering of the STEP Programme that gave many unemployed and unemployable persons some pride and dignity? This administration has nothing to show, not even the seven thousand jobs that Prime Minister King’s government promised the youth of St Lucia! It is important to note that on April 13, 2010 St Lucia’s creditworthiness was dubbed “adequate” by the Caribbean Information and Credit Rating Limited (CariCRIS) but it issued this pointed caution: “We expect the authorities to make further strides in their tax reform program including the introduction of a VAT in 2010. The ratings also hinge on the resumption of real GDP growth in 2010, led by the tourism and construction sectors. Failure to achieve these objectives could result in a downward adjustment of the ratings.”
The two-party system of politics as practiced by this side of the globe remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks to meaningful progress. It is used simply as a glorified garage sale where useless and failed politicians, as well as unqualified and unfit wannabees (“bad boy” Attorney General Doddy Francis is the latest, most pathetic) can repaint their tainted, tattered and worn out rags and images, and refine their messages. John Compton, at 82, amazingly and incredibly achieved this feat, kicking out a relatively young and more modern Kenny Anthony, who in spite of certain infelicities, had been the most effective St Lucian Prime Minister in the island’s political history. Amazingly, the electorate in December 2006 was not in a mood to reward arrogance and sent Kenny a chilling rebuke. Now these misfits and wannabees are being offered again to a gullible electorate.
In functioning and more viable democracies, there is a process of elimination called term limits that ensures the system is purged and people with fresh ideas are brought on board. It helps prevent the constant recycling of the same incapable, failed, fractured, oftentimes dictatorial old hands. One of the biggest failures of the political parties in St Lucia is their structural inability to groom and secure cadres of young, qualified and vibrant people to assume leadership, or what is called succession planning in Political Science. The party leaders, once elected to office, ensure that any individual they perceive to be a threat, is systematically marginalized. Witness how devilishly deceased Compton dealt with an ambitious, experienced and capable Romanus Lansiquot.
Not too long ago, the brilliant Mario Michel walked away from the executive of the Labour Party to the relative comfort of the legal profession, because his party leader, Kenny Anthony, refused to make room for the more poignant and potent leadership that Mario obviously promised. Kenny went so far as to dismantle the SLP’s Constitution to achieve this, a Constitution that he himself had written! Meanwhile, he continues to exhibit complete disregard for the strength and ability of his deputy, the experienced and talented economist Philip J Pierre, who has been too constant and too “loyal.” What it is that imbues in these former prime ministers the gall to think that they alone can manage the affairs of state, particularly if the evidence shows that they have been found wanting in certain critical elements of honest and talented political leadership?
The newest party on the block, Lucian People Movement (LPM), that talks about change in St Lucia, still does so from its offshore perch in New York! Any serious alternative must be rooted in the ideals of a grassroots movement that can influence change from the bottom up. More importantly, political parties are formed by building constituency confidence with men and women whose boots march in the trenches, not by failed, bitter bureaucrats, former party hacks, and so-called professionals, shooting off e-mails and faxes and press releases. It is quite plausible that in this modern era of Twitter and Facebook those tools could be used to rally people, but politics as practiced in our tribal, grass-roots environment, requires honest and decent personal contact and confidence building.
You should not service the constituents like US Congressman Anthony Wiener, tweeting his private parts; you must construct, maintain and nurture a decent symbiosis between you and the masses. Obviously, Weiner is suffering from an ailment that requires immediate treatment, not a congressional seat. Representative Weiner is being called upon by his colleagues to resign not because he did anything illegal, but because his sexting has compromised his judgment. President Obama puts it this way: “I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign. Because public service is exactly that, it’s a service to the public. And when you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can’t serve as effectively as you need to … then you should probably step back.” Tell that to our local political leaders!
So, this election will provide no profound changes, but it will lay the groundwork for a new and more competent breed of politicians. I know of several SLP and UWP stars who are busily getting ready for 2016! Hope is not lost. No, I will not mention any names. Just take my word, it is not me!

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