Letters & Opinion, Politics

Let’s Debate Debates

THE EDITOR:
The challenge was thrown at me to write an opinion piece about political debates in Saint Lucia in light of the alleged no-show by an opposition candidate at a recently sponsored debate by the South Castries Youth and Sports Council. Notwithstanding the fact that the motivation of the challenger was less than honourable I decided to accept it anyway.

Understandably, the supporters of the ruling party reacted as expected in a silly season and exploited the alleged no-show for all it was worth. After all politics is a game of wits and when one side seemingly demonstrates timidity, cluelessness, and stupidity the other side is expected to make all the political hay it can out of it. That is the nature of the beast.

There is no precedent for, or history of, pre-election public debates of which I can recall, but nonetheless an argument can be made for such debates to become part of our election process. To this end we should commend the youth organization for taking the initiative to introduce the idea and its efforts at bringing it to fruition.

However, the question remains to what extent say a debate between Guy Joseph and Joachim Henry will change a constituent’s perception of any of them, or cause them to shift their long standing alliance to that of the opponent’s party based on their performance therein? Let us all agree that the possibility of that happening is infinitesimal.

The truth is a candidate could come to such an event with a list of promises, even based on the constituency’s needs but in the final analysis accomplishment of any of these matters will be solely dependent on his/her party winning first and foremost. Still that does not guarantee anything will be done as he/she does not have the final say on priorities for expenditure.

Ideally attendance at such an activity should encompass a wide enough cross-section of the electorate but given the high level of political apathy in the society, more than likely, the audience would be sparse and perhaps highly skewed towards the more popular candidate. With near accurate predictablity the supporters of each party would announce their candidate the winner.

It is no secret that many of the persons offered to the electorate as candidates leave a lot to be desired. Consequently the quality of some of the responses and the repartee will simply confirm our suspicions of their vacuity. This no doubt would rob the activity of any redeeming value except of its entertainment value as attendees would be rolling on the floor laughing at the “bullets.”

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and we may get a nugget here and there which could gain immortal in our consciousness. Remember Bro. George’s: “What this budget reveals is significant, but what it conceals is vital”?

Perhaps a debate between say the Minister of Economic Development and the opposition’s Shadow Minister or spokesperson on such matters can duke it out in a structured forum for national consumption. This to me would have greater resonance as they discuss the nuances of their party’s plans for the overall development of the country.

Needless to say they would have to come ready and fully briefed about their party’s vision for the country and be able to articulate same to the general satisfaction of the viewing public. Just maybe that would be a more productive and valuable exercise.

Should debates ever become a fixture in our political zeitgeist it can have the effect of political parties being more deliberative in their candidate selection given the fact that they will have to face their opponents and the electorate in a contest of wits.

But given what we have become accustomed to in our parliament year in year out I will hold my breath on that.

– Lucian boy

2 Comments

  1. The number of callow personalities offered by both political parties signals that in the short to medium term, Saint Lucians cannot expect a real bright future. The political system is so rotten that the majority population believes that once a presumptive prime minister is had, the rest of the card could be, or should be the equivalent of serial community development officers. They must have worked to feverishly give handouts to people from the community or constituency in order to qualify. And, just vote for those people in order to get “our prime minister” in power. The rest of the slate of candidates might just as well be broomsticks.

    Note the absence of the word policy from this observation!

    This is the pattern since gaining the status of Associated Statehood from Britain. We have seen those persons merely as placeholders in the ministries. They do get ministerial positions because there are “jobs for the boys.”

    In our system, the budget is CONTROLLED by the PM who holds the title of Minister of Finance. This is the pattern, whether or not that title holder can understand or pass first level CXC Mathematics, and far less university level economics, business and finance.

    Invariably, the rite of passage to the House of Assembly, comes through some community development activity, even when having been voted in, such activity will depend on the degrees of freedom to dispense largesse to a certain representative in a certain constituency based upon the whim of the PM. Of course, certain funds have been allegedly siphoned off from grants and international financial assistance. But that is for another show. Did somebody say square pegs?

    What those repeating “I will work for the people” mantra as it is with most of those candidates not considered prime ministerial candidates plus their followers, fail to realize is that the large debt burden that this country is forced to service from the non-performing, non-growth expenditures of the past, places a HUGE stumbling block to the realization of those empty promises made in the past and in this campaign now underway.

    Unless and until we as Saint Lucians make a 180-degree turn away from our current reasoning, we will forever be wallowing in the miasma of hopelessness and futility of hollow political promises.

    The rising tide of awareness by our youth for political debates, and for the vetting of candidates is therefore very a refreshing change. They are for once wresting control of their future from the hands of our resident political dinosaurs in the party hierarchy on all sides of the political fence.

    If the voting public can for just once seize the opportunity to vote for the most able candidates, rather than for a party based on listening to the debates, we will eventually take our country to the next level.

    But before this happens, the arrogance of dog-in-the-manger callowness will further drag this country further down the slippery slope, as facing us now with the spate of suicides, political indifference, cheered mendacity, murderous mayhem with cutlass attacks, and the dysfunctionality of our “Johnny-one-note” economic dependence on tourism.

    The president of the US is today in Cuba;. Our marketshare in the tourism market is not expected to grow from this development, irrespective of whatever different the pollyanna naysayers fool themselves, and try to fool us with.

  2. Alexander the Great blanketed the known world from Greece to India. You, sir, appear to have covered StLucia From Pigeon Pt to Moule a Cheque.
    Although, your closing forecast of Gloom over the anticipated Cuba tourism product is cause for concern; I like your revitalizing hope for the youth and grass roots people’s movements to utilize a well structure town hall debate forum -in every constituency- as a vital proactive catalyst in St Lucia’s eventual world class political reformation-amen.

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