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    September 22

  • 08:59 PM

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Let the people decide

Tennyson Joseph,

Added 19 October 2010


The efforts to unseat Mia Mottley as the Leader of the Opposition allow for furthering an argument developed here in the September 21 issue of the DAILY Nation, where my focus had been on the absence of succession planning in Caribbean political parties. There, I had suggested that to overcome the challenges of succession “the whole party must be called upon to decide on leadership at regular intervals”. To dispel the myth that the problem of succession was “one of governments alone”, I had noted the actions of Mia Mottley, who in response to an earlier challenge, had called “upon the elected members to resolve the issue”, as opposed to the full party membership. A telling indication of the underdevelopment of Caribbean democracy is our tendency to exclude the people at decisive moments. The one Caribbean exception is the People’s National Party of Jamaica which included its mass bases in the elections of Michael Manley, then P.J. Patterson over Portia Simpson-Millar, then Portia Simpson-Millar over Dr  Peter Phillips on two occasions. It is a lesson belatedly copied by the United National Congress of Trinidad and Tobago. In contrast, in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean normal democratic expressions are emotively likened to the “washing of dirty linen in public”, as if democracy has ever been anything but messy. In such a context, conservative, unpopular groupings such as “councils of elders” and private monied interests wield undue influence. Conversely, the power of the populace is blunted. In this regard, Trevor Prescod was bang on target when he expressed frustration that the leadership of a so-called mass party was being decided upon without the participation of the masses. However, any future prospect for the emergence of popular participation in leadership contests within Barbadian parties can only be described as dim. The overwhelming consensus across the political spectrum points to a hardening of the conservative view that “this is not the Barbadian tradition”.  The ruling Democratic Labour Party, as opposed to using the current leadership tussle to promote its own democratic credentials, has chosen instead to blow its trumpet in the opposite direction. It has promised that any future leadership changes will be done with as little public fallout as possible. Such an approach, however, will not contribute to a future advancement of democracy. Far from resolving the issue, the prospect is for continued internal tussles to persist. The very logic of democratic developments will result in a future test of wills between those whose “elder” or privileged statuses endow them with kingmaker status on one hand, and the mass of the population who are governed on the other.  Sooner or later, the old Lockean notion of “government by the consent of the governed” will force the opening up of our traditionally closed political parties to the democratic will of the people. We must let the people decide. • Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specialising in analysis of regional affairs.


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Instead of an announcement via the Throne Speech, should Barbadians decide via referendum whether the country becomes a republic?