POLITICS is very much in the air these days as we move towards a general election. The political animals among us are already having a field day wallowing in the thrills and excitement that the “silly season” produces. It’s the time when people, especially the election candidates, say and do the darnest things. Many St Lucians though, have long given up on the charade because of its more unpalatable by-products or consequences, while still others care nothing for the glitz and spectacle, confining their participation to simply voting on election day.
Election campaigning brings out the worst in our people, especially those fanatics who see nothing but their party or their candidate and are prepared to war, if they believe that is what is necessary, in support of their cause. In a television interview this week, Jeannine Compton-Antoine lamented that St Lucians had become “tribalistic” where party politics was concerned, dividing and destroying people and country. Independent Senator Stephen King also made a similar observation.
The fact that this Compton, finds herself today operating politically outside of the party that her revered father founded and led for so many years, is indication enough, if any was still needed, of the divisive nature of St Lucia’s politics.
But we are not alone, as many of our neighbours are going through the very same experiences. In Dominica, the Leader of the Opposition announced this week that he was so fearful for his safety that he had decided not to attend carnival celebrations on the island, after the Prime Minister branded the opposition as “traitors” and urged his supporters to harass them wherever they saw them in public.
In nearby St Vincent and the Grenadines, two months after a controversial election, things have only just quieted down a little after the opposition accused the government of “stealing” the poll. The official results said one party won eight seats and the other seven. This produced several days of street protests prompting a number of arrests. The election campaign itself was marred by acts of violence by supporters of the two main parties. In the days immediately after the election, St Vincent and the Grenadines sat on a powder keg.
In Grenada, the ruling party won all 15 seats nearly three years ago but the country is still suffering from the effects of party politics.
We do not need to recount the St Lucia experience, because ours is tantamount to a soap opera with almost a daily episode. The fact is, politicians in these parts are notoriously divisive, vindictive and greedy. They have no desire to unite their people, because they thrive on disunity and chaos. Even when one set of politicians overwhelms opponents at the polls, they do not see unification of their people as a priority or goal to work towards.
The vicious nature of the game that politicians play also ensures that capable people don’t step forward to offer themselves for office. As a result we continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel with the quality of candidates being offered to the people, mostly men and women with no track record of tangible service or achievement, no leadership skills, but who see politics as a way to make money. Their parties use every dirty trick to stay in power.
In the end, we find that we have a government with no talent, no ability, no ideas, no plan. And even when their failure to meet the dreams and aspirations of the people is clear as daylight, they parade themselves as saviours and champions. So we trade one bunch for another every five years and our people cannot be productive because there is no motivation, no unity. Instead, what we see is the spewing of hatred and division.
It is no secret that very many St Lucians have turned away from participating in this process. That more than anything should have sent the message loud and clear that the present behaviours have to go. But we will be fooling ourselves if we believe that those who profit from it, will ever see the need to change it. Still, it is our hope that at least in St Lucia, our politicians will have a heart for their people and country and would refrain from doing anything that would further divide us, although we believe that this is nothing but wishful thinking.