EDITORIAL: Protect our democracy
THE ONGOING AMERICAN presidential election and the important British High Court judgment on Brexit are important external events that contain important pointers of interest to us as we celebrate our own independence and look to fine-tune our ancient and honourable institutions and continue to develop our parliamentary democracy.
When Barbados became independent and joined the community of nations, our father of Independence declared that this country would be friends of all and satellites of none.
This powerful declaration has guided this country ever since but it has not stopped us as one of the oldest examples of parliamentary government in the Commonwealth from observing developments elsewhere; drawing lessons from better practices and avoiding mistakes.
What has been described as one of the nastiest elections in American history is taking place on our electronic doorsteps with the issues taking a back seat while negative advertisements and speeches with each side lambasting the other are getting front seat coverage. Some of the darkest aspects of human prejudices have resurfaced in a country whose constitution speaks of equality under the law.
Clearly, more than lip service has to be paid to the high-sounding and well-meaning declarations in a country’s founding document and we have a responsibility to ourselves to maintain our high standard of elections and not to allow our local campaigns to descend into the pits into which others have fallen.
Economic success is but a part only of the fabric of a cohesive nation, and it is singularly unfortunate that the world’s wealthiest nation and oldest democracy in this hemisphere still finds it possibleto experience a presidential campaign in which discussion about health care insurance and targeted attempts at oppression of the votes of blacks are as much a feature, as spurious attempts to denigrate the incumbent president on the basis of false allegations about the place of his birth. This American campaign is not an example to follow, and we urge our own politicians to maintain a high level of issue-oriented campaigns.
Another event to consider concerns the Brexit saga in the United Kingdom, where the challenge of two voters to the Government’s proposal to trigger the exit from the European Union without a parliamentary vote has been upheld by the High Court.
This example reminds us that in a democracy citizens can still appeal to the courts for its opinion whenever they feel that government is stepping on their rights.
In the British case a Guyanese-born woman led the fight based on her view that the Government was not following the law and so far she has won the backing of three of the top judges. The government will now appeal to the Supreme Court
This is a good example of activecitizenry to follow and indeed some local activists such as Mr David Comissiong have taken that route on local matters. If Independence must have real meaning then each one of us must take an active part in our democracy.
We must insist on our leaders discussing the issues for our enlightenment before, during and after election time, and we must not allow the bad example of character assassination at election time to culturally penetrate our airspace and become part of our culture. And if it is catching root we must seek to eradicate it. It is a fractured democracy when an electorate finds itself having to choose between the lesser flawed of “two evils”.
A politically alert and active citizenry is the surest weapon to nip harmful political practices in the bud.