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EDITORIAL: A Government for all

rhondathompson, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: A Government for all

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Now that the battle is over – as Leader of the Opposition Mr Owen Arthur remarked in welcoming Mrs Mara Thompson to the House of Assembly – it is useful to reflect on what must be a disturbing aspect of the recent St John by-election.
We refer not so much to the debate surrounding the St John Polyclinic itself, but to the unpleasant and, some might say, subliminal political message that the sight of rusting steel and weather-beaten concrete blocks has sent to all Barbados for the past 20 years.
In politics, as in most things in life, the reality may not matter. History abounds with examples of major changes of political power on the basis of false information, and in one case a forged letter caused the first Labour Government in Britain an election.
Rumour and perception, like Usain Bolt and his peers, are the quickest of quick sprinters. They reach the winning tape long before the facts can accelerate out of the starting blocks, and truth is often the first victim of political propaganda.
The political advertising by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) suggested that they had done a fair amount of physical work in St John, and since these advertisements were not disputed by the other side, they may be regarded as fact. But that matters not because a perception has gone abroad which suggests that constituencies which return Members of Parliament of the losing party may expect some form of benign neglect. This is unacceptable.
Whether it is perception or reality, such practices must not be part of our political system, and its perpetuation whether on the ground or in the mind is anathema to the proper development of the principles of representative politics which has served us so well in the past.
If St John was an isolated case, we might have regarded it as an aberration, but there is evidence that a similar fate befell St Peter when the late Burton Hinds of the BLP won the constituency vote when the DLP held office, and it was left to Mr Owen Arthur to use the Special Development Legislation to accelerate development in that northern rural area.
Current events in Tunisia and Cairo, in which ordinary people are prepared to face the military and other state might in efforts to democratize their societies, should cause us to reflect on our national good fortune. Over many years, we have created a political system in which we can express our views within the law, associate freely in political organizations and fear only the due application of the law, and not be subjected to the capricious application of the jackbooted foot.
So that one of the enduring lessons that both parties must take from St John ought to be a commitment not to allow partisan tribalism to so entrench itself in our country that anyone may credibly claim that some constituencies can only receive the attention of the Government when a particular party is in power.
Our institutions can be destroyed by deliberate and open attack, which is the lesser danger because it is visible and can be repelled. But the unintended destruction of our institutions by practices that may appear “par-for-the-course” is the greater danger, simply because those practices may send the wrong message, even when that is not intended.