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AS I SEE THINGS: Governments for the people

Brian Francis, [email protected]

AS I SEE THINGS: Governments for the people

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IN 2008, THEN SENATOR BARACK OBAMA in the United States of America created history by becoming the first African American to win the presidency with a captivating slogan: “yes, we can”.

Even though that catchphrase was not as popular in Trinidad and Tobago five years ago or more, recently in Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis, the plain truth is that in all three cases the people of those countries have demonstrated quite clearly that, yes, united opposition forces can topple incumbent governments under the right conditions.

To date, we all have been able to witness the performance of the coalition government of Trinidad and Tobago and can easily come to the conclusion that such political arrangements are extremely challenging to manage, but with hard work and dedication from those involved it is still possible to address the peoples’ business within our democratic systems. The success or failure of that “unity” government in Trinidad and Tobago will be put to the test when the citizens go to the polls shortly.

In the contemporary era, Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis present two rather fascinating scenarios. In both countries, the united opposition forces have been able to remove from office political parties that have had strangleholds on governments for two decades. The outcomes of those two elections excite me because the underlying circumstances in both countries were similar in many respects.

In St Kitts and Nevis, the former government controlled a majority in the Parliament and was able to govern with little opposition. Subsequently, two senior members of the ruling party broke ranks and later joined forces with the opposition. That action changed the political landscape completely, leaving the incumbent with little space to manoeuvre, so much so that a much talked about no-confidence motion had to be hidden from debate for many years. The result was the calling of a general election and a victory for the combined opposition forces.

With respect to Guyana, the outcome of the general election three years ago created a scenario where the PPP/Civic was handed the mandate to govern the country while the opposition parties controlled the Parliament. That outcome created, to say the least, real governance problems for the incumbent, forcing early elections which saw the combined opposition parties winning control of the state apparatus and the Parliament.

What is clear in both Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis is that the people have spoken and have made the decisions to hand control of their governments to united opposition parties with clear mandates to govern. Those choices are interesting because from all the reports emerging from regional as well as international organisations, Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis have been two of the better performing economies in the Caribbean in the recent past.

But, the electorate in both countries saw opportunities to put an end to the political crises that clearly had the potential to reverse the massive economic progress underway and they grabbed those opportunities with both hands.

Now, it is the new governments’ turn to practice what they preached during the election campaigns and deliver on the many promises made in their parties’ manifestos.

Going forward, therefore, a simple question remains for the citizens of both Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis: are we going to see governments for the people? I sincerely do hope so.

Email: [email protected]