As we get closer to the much-anticipated elections and I read some of the comments on Facebook or the ones that follow articles in the online newspapers, I am disheartened by the vituperative nature of some of them. Vituperative – uttering or given to censure; containing or characterized by verbal abuse (Merriam-Webster). Yes, some of these comments can be very abusive of the other commenters and much of it is because they support different parties.
This is not only ridiculous and unnecessary, but it is damaging to the nation. I always say that six is half a dozen when it comes to the two major political parties. Both have done wonderful things for the country and both have done damaging things to the country. So for people to take a hardline position in defence of their party, to the point of abusing others with a different opinion or position, is sad.
A city divided cannot stand so how much more so for a nation. If we cannot yet understand and see that this political system and system of governance cannot serve Barbados any longer, we are in the serious position of completely disintegrating as a country. We need a political system that is not based on the Westminster model and one in which the elected officials have limited power. For example, they would not be able to intervene into the appointment of people to key leadership positions or make significant financial decisions on behalf of the country (such as the awarding of contacts) without the proper levels of accountability.
Rumours are rife about vote buying and containers leaving the Port unchecked and various other allegations. I would hate to think that they are anything but rumours because if we prize our democracy and our nation, we cannot be so shortsighted as to either sell votes or buy them.
I saw a meme that was circulating on WhatsApp equating the cost of a vote to the cost of one brown sweetie a day for five years and comparing it with the salary of a parliamentarian for same five years. The money could be spent in one visit to the supermarket and there would still be food to buy the next week while the electronic equipment has a finite useful life.
The buyer of votes is simply perpetuating the same plantocracy system that is condemned, and rightfully so, by seeking to enslave the economically vulnerable through creating a paternalistic system which feeds dependency in their constituents. In other words, if constituents are given money or electronic equipment for their votes, every time they see the elected official, they will want a light bill paid, or a water bill paid or a house. Instead, it would be in the best interest of the country to teach them how to acquire those things for themselves, so that the elected official would be free to visit the constituency and meet with the constituents without being harassed for money, and the constituents would have the dignity of providing for themselves and their families.
Looking at the results of past elections, I see that the independents tend not to do very well at the polls. However, I think it is increasingly important that we have people in Parliament who are not tied to a party so that they can vote objectively on issues that come up. That is not something that tends to happen in parties. Let us not forget the last Budget. There also needs to be people in the House of Assembly who can bring controversial issues to the awareness of the public before they are voted upon, as we are likely to have a lot more controversial issues coming down the pipeline. Our votes on international issues that have implications for us as a country should not be determined by 15 people.
As we go forward, we need to do so in unity and rally around a vision that will inspire all Barbadians. When I read books like Built to Last about how some of the largest companies in the world, have lasted more than a hundred years in some cases, one of the things that has contributed to their longevity is a vision which unifies the employees and the leaders, and which inspires everyone to work to achieve it.
We cannot build anything meaningful if it is created only by the party in power, does not include everyone and does not transcend party. We have many intelligent people in this country, but unfortunately, many of them are afraid to get into politics because it is seen as a dirty business. It doesn’t have to be! Votes don’t have to be bought. Personal vendettas don’t have to be waged. Reputations don’t have to be torn down.
I believe that all Barbadians want a better country to live in; one where we are secure, healthy and prosperous. However, as a city divided cannot stand, so we cannot achieve anything meaningful if we are divided. It is time to put aside the partisan politics and put Barbados first.