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FIRING LINE: Commission of inquiry for poll


Shantal Munro Knight

FIRING LINE: Commission of inquiry for poll

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The general election is over, the winners and losers declared and it is time – hopefully – to get a move on dealing with the country’s business.  
Short though it was, the election period and its aftermath raised many questions for me which we need to reflect on. Of course, it should surprise no one that I would want to comment on the widespread tales of vote-buying that seemed to occur on an unprecedented scale this election.
If true, this issue requires serious national attention and discussion at no higher level than perhaps a commission of inquiry. If this country was ground to a halt and a commission of inquiry appointed because of personality clashes at a single secondary school, why not for an issue which, if left unchecked, has the potential to forever pervert the course of democracy in this country?
Am I overreacting? Perhaps, but I think that this is a more desirable position than complacency in this instance.   
Similar to the “garrison” politics of Jamaica, vote-buying can become ingrained in the culture of politics within the country and can take on a life of its own irrespective of political parties and leaders.
Outside of the lip service of expressions of disgust and other mouthings, it is telling that neither of the political parties has so far put any serious suggestions on the table about how it should be tackled. This issue has all the markings of one that will be swept under the carpet, to be brought out only when no one can ignore it and the damage is more problematic.
While it is true that corned beef and biscuits politics was perhaps always part of the political landscape, it is the openness and scale of the reported incidents (if true) which make this particular moment so disturbing. I debated long and hard about my vote not because of any political party, but because of the historical significance of being able to place that X. To think that we as a society are encouraging and would not think vote-buying problematic is saddening.         
My other reflection has to do with the re-emergence of Mia Mottley as Leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party. This could signal a significant moment in the political history of this country as we could be faced with the prospect of electing our first female Prime Minister within the next five years. That milestone is perhaps a long way off and will depend on the extent to which the party and Miss Mottley have learnt any lessons from her last foray as party leader.
She currently has a good blend of old and new parliamentarians with whose help she should be able to carve out her own leadership image. All eyes will be on her and the new opportunity that she has been given.  
Congratulations to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who led the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to victory. As close as it was under the first past the post system, a victory is a victory.
While I would not want to take anything away from their win, I suggest the DLP take time for some serious reflection after the champagne has been poured.
The slim mandate that has been given should not be taken as an endorsement for a business-as-usual approach; the country can ill afford it. Rather, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, unfettered by unplanned for circumstances, need to identify and lay out a plan for the country’s development which should display a strong vision and be highly innovative – characteristics, in my opinion, which were lacking in their previous term.  
I note with interest and a tad bit of disappointment the make-up of the recently announced Cabinet; it’s a little too familiar for me. While on the one hand it can demonstrate confidence in your team, on the other it shuts the door on new thinking and energy that is necessary to shore up a Cabinet which, while solid, is a bit unexciting.
But lest I judge too quickly, I wait in hope that Dems Again does not mean a return to business as usual.
• Shantal Munro Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.

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