To be sure, both political parties are now campaigning feverishly to convince the electorate of just why they are deserving of being chosen to direct the affairs of our beloved Nevis for the next five years. Amidst the heightened exuberance and enthusiasm, however, I feel compelled to pause and share with the general public a few things that I consider to be important for the upcoming election.
1) The Weight of the Youth Vote
The saying that “the youth are the future”, has almost become trite in our society. In an era where our youth face numerous challenges, it can no longer be the practice or perception that we need continue to abide by this ole adage. The future of our youth must begin now and there is no better way for them to make this a reality than by participating in the upcoming election and allowing both political parties to not only hear the sound of their voice but also, feel the weight of their vote!
To all those young people, 18 and older, who are yet to register, I implore you to go to the electoral office tomorrow and do so. If you have a brother, a sister or a neighbour, then encourage them to do likewise. As you meet the politicians on the streets and in the supermarkets, stop them and ask them the hard questions! Ask them exactly where do they plan to take education and how do they intend to better incorporate young people in national development.
Inquire of them just how they intend to diversify the economy and create more employment opportunities for school leavers entering the labour force. Engage your leaders, forcefully but respectfully! Already, we have witnessed a sudden surge of political enthusiasm amongst quite a number of our island’s youth and I hope that those young people who are thinking of staying away from the polls on Election Day, would change their course of thinking and help elect the candidates who they think are best suited to solving the common challenges of our time.
2) Increased Security for the Election Campaign
It is manifestly clear that the atmosphere has become increasingly politically charged as we move closer to the election. Sad to say, it is in times like these, when what should be an exercise in democracy and civility, sometimes turns into an enterprise of disorder and confusion. Aside from the distasteful practice of some political operatives destroying posters of their opponents or occasionally engaging in an excessively heated exchange of verbal vulgarities at the bars, bus stops and barber shops, Nevis has been known for peaceful elections.
However, recent incidents have indicated that this election will be much more frenzied than the ones previously experienced. It is also difficult to deny, that some criminal elements in our society may use the heightened political tension as an opportunity to further their own criminal agenda. In that vein, I must make a plea to the law enforcement authorities, to be increasingly vigilant and boost public presence to the extent that is necessary to maintain law and order in our society, especially once the date of the election is announced.
Additionally, if it has not yet been done or considered, I believe that some serious thought should definitely go into outfitting our Premier with his personal security detail and perhaps, even the Leader of the Opposition. It was only two months ago that US Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, after leaving a public meeting with her constituents in Arizona, was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head.
While here in Nevis, we have been fortunate enough to avoid such incidence of recklessness, I still believe that we should put the necessary measures in place to decrease the likelihood that such dastardly assaults on our politicians would ever occur. As either of the two good gentlemen who presently occupy both the Office of the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition will be tasked with the immense and important responsibility of governing Nevis for the next five years, it is essential that they be adequately protected and are able to conduct their campaign without having to fear any sort of unfounded or unwarranted harassment!
3) Early Return of Election Results
The bi-election of August 2007 and the Federal election of January 2010 were particularly painful for me, as I imagine was the case for a vast majority of citizens who were forced to wait until the following morning to learn of the victor of the battle for Nevis 9, between the Hon. Mark Brantley and the Hon. Hensley Daniel. Without holding any water in my mouth or attempting to lessen the ink released as I put pen to paper, I say that this was absolutely ludicrous! I remember that in the recent election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I already knew by 10:30 p.m. that Dr. Ralph Gonsalves would receive a 3rd term in office. I’m also quite certain that everyone vividly recalls the 2008 US Presidential election when we were all enamoured by the fact that Barack Obama captured the Presidency, even before the clock struck midnight!
Mark you, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a population in excess of 100, 000 people, while the United States has a mammoth population in excess of 300 million residents. Why then, in a tiny island such as St. Kitts and Nevis, with less than 50,000 people, we should have to wait until sunrise the next morning to learn of the results is just totally beyond me. Whether it is the case that more polling divisions are required or additional enumeration officers are needed to count the ballots, I am not too sure. However, this is a matter that urgently needs to be rectified and I am making a plea to the Supervisor of Elections and the relevant electoral authorities to try and remedy this situation in time for the upcoming election.
4) Voters Need To Think and Act Independently
In small countries such as ours, one cannot deny the moments of fun and frolic that party politics brings to the table. After all, most of us, save those who spoil the ballots, will be voting for one of the two political parties on Election Day. However, this should not mean that we follow the ideas and ideologies of our party of preference blindly. There are instances when the politicians associated with our parties would say or do something that is inimical to the national interest and instead of condemning them, be it publicly or privately, we cheer and clamour in support of their actions.
I have listened in total astonishment to some individuals in our community who I honestly believe would jump in support if certain politicians claimed that the sun is purple! What is even more amazing, if not often amusing, is that some of these supporters may not even bother to look upwards to the sky to verify for them whether the sun is truly purple or maybe, just maybe, has some tinge of yellow in it! Far too often, when political propaganda is disseminated on the platform, instead of making an attempt to verify fact from fiction, the misinformation is simply accepted; either because Mr. X is the leader of the party and so he can do no wrong or Mr. Z is “bright” so he must be right! Pure poppycock!
For this election campaign, we should refrain from depending on politicians to spoon feed us and instead, go out and make our own inquiries. Listen to independent bodies or individuals, not only here in St. Kitts and Nevis but throughout the entire region. Read ALL newspapers, to get ALL sides! I also make another plea for the execution of national political debates, as this would afford the electorate a greater opportunity to sift fact from fiction and verbally scrutinize politicians of both parties, side by side. It is so important that we keep an open mind and not turn ourselves into political zombies to be manipulated by politicians. If we raise our standard of thinking, they in turn will be forced to raise their own!
As we move closer to the election, I encourage one and all to keep your eyes and ears open. Be vigilant and vociferous, of course, but let us all do so within the parameters of civility and cautiousness which have always been the Nevisian way! I also make an appeal to both sides, to be careful, be very careful, with what you say and do when seeking political attention, both here and beyond our shores. Tourism remains the bread-winner of many and the engine that drives our economy; and after the election, all of us, not as members of the CCM or the NRP, but as Nevisians, will still have to come together to promote our island’s image and ensure that the rest of the world still knows that NEVIS NICE!