The Problem with Unity

At the helm of the controversy was a political unknown named Dr. Denzil Douglas. He calculatingly incited the people to take to the streets of Basseterre and to take Government Headquarters back. By July of 1995, the Kennedy Simmonds administration had fallen and it was Denzil Douglas who had become the shining star of the “New” Labour party and the federations “New” Prime Minister.

After almost single-handedly sowing the seeds of unrest in 1993, eighteen years later, the once acclaimed “All 8” leader now has but four Labour party seats. He relies “exclusively” on a unity front or coalition with NRP through its lone representative, Patrice Nesbitt, to shore up his standing in parliament.

Today, our Prime Minister vehemently condemns the concept of a Unity Government, although the Labour Party is currently aligned with NRP in a coalition a lot like the very same Unity concept; which is really about various political parties working together to move the country forward.

A host of questions have been asked of those who propose the concept of unity. How will it work? Who will lead? Who will follow? How long would it last?

The Unity concept is nothing new. In fact, our current Labour government administration is a perfect model of the Unity Government concept.  However, the six elected opposition parliamentarians propose a Unity Government that will include ALL political parties. They propose this alternative as one that can work even better than the current alliance between Labour and NRP.

But alas, the problem with the concept of a Unity Government for some is that fundamental tenets that should form part of the essence of good governance do not serve the interests of many of our politicians and their clique of loyalists. Some fear the concept because of the twisted belief that they can only prosper if they are close to a politician in power who will guarantee them access to various benefits that come from such an alliance; a symbiotic relationship of sorts referred to in local lingo as “breast suckers”.

A Unity Government will be a truly new dispensation that doesn’t endorse blind allegiance to any political party as a requirement to be able to live comfortably in the federation. And as for that claim of a backdoor entry into government some have suggested is PAM’s plan, it CANNOT and WILL NOT happen given the involvement of other political parties, who have clearly declared they are NOT PAM candidates nor do they  intend to contest an election on a PAM ticket. In fact, the calls from the electorate for more stringent legislation to avoid irresponsible spending, the lack of transparency, and overall abuse by government officials is expected to be given priority by a nationally aligned group of politicians such as a Unity Government. They will certainly face the wrath of the public if partiality to party becomes their modus operandi.

Excessive spending and squander regarded by the Prime Minister as “responsible debt” has become synonymous with this current administration. Election after election, loads of pie in the sky promises are proffered to the electorate. The 2010 general election was awash with electorate goodies despite the economic grip under which the country found itself. Even the opposition tried to match the big name artistes brought in to “nice up de people,” an ill-advised decision given the fact the country was already “broke”.  True to form, once the elections were done, the nation was plunged into further “responsible” debt and citizens were rewarded with a 17% VAT slap from the lovers of the people who wondered, “How on earth did we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked yet again?”

The problem with the concept of the Unity Government for some of us is that it will take absolute power from one man and allow wholesome multi-partied perspectives to make decisions for ALL citizens. The problem with unity for some is that it will finally dismantle the political “members only club” and make ALL PARTIES accountable and transparent.

Some call Denzil Douglas’s ability to blatantly evade the truth political savvy and we have now grown accustomed to his lack of forthrightness. “It’s politics” some say, yet we demand politicians be honest and forthright. No new taxes, then the country faces astronomical VAT rates. Promises to upgrade electricity met with stark increases and unreliable service. The promise to make crime the first order of business repeatedly stumped by his unwillingness to accept responsibility for the hundreds of deaths, particularly of young people, that occurred in the federation under his watch. The promise to legislate the Integrity in Public Life bill is yet to come to fruition after almost eighteen years as leader.

The problem with the Unity Government for many of us is that we have developed a deeper love for political parties than a love for country so we just cannot see beyond the party we support. Some of us care more about what we can acquire so long as the party we support is in power rather than what we can contribute to nation building regardless to the Government of the day.

If all citizens agree that politicians on all sides of the fence have gotten away with too many wrongs, all citizens can certainly agree that sweeping changes must be implemented to stem the tide of misuse of power irrespective of which government is in charge. A Unity Government is one such change. It will serve as a legitimate check and balance system that can alleviate practices such as nepotism and tribalism that have hurt individuals of ALL political persuasions in St. Kitts and Nevis; Unity will ensure an integrity in public life bill which will finally make high ranking public servants accountable; Unity will bring about the implementation of term limits and due attention will be given to electoral reform, among other aspects of governance in dire need of an overhaul.

Every opportunity for the electorate to exercise its franchise is a victory for democracy. Not too long ago, ordinary citizens were denied that inalienable right. But that was a time steeped in colonialism when our ancestors were lost and had no voice. Fortunately, today we have a voice through our constitution, which allows citizens to fearlessly exercise their franchise.

The prospect of change from the political status quo to another alternative will understandably spark uncertainty. Long before our forefathers could vote, all they knew was life as they experienced it on the plantation but that did not minimize their desire for freedom. Many former slaves were skeptical about what life would be like away from the life that was forced upon them, but they truly believed a better life existed for them.

Modern day St. Kitts and Nevis has seen governments change hands more than once. Every Government has claimed it can do better than its predecessor, yet we have grown farther apart as a people in many ways because of politics. We have never seen a collective alliance of ALL political parties but the failings of all political parties that have governed are well documented.

Divide and conquer gutter politics has helped to sever many vibrant and once flourishing personal and business relationships and has destroyed the social fabric of our essentially young independent nation. A Unity Government will bring about an innovative, relevant and forward thinking approach to governance. It may well be the best political alternative to rescue us from the social, economic and political low we have sunken to. Our nation demands a change. Our nation begs for unity.


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