by Lorna Callendar,
“GOING INTO OPPOSITION gives the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party the opportunity to be a better Party,” says Penepole Beckles-Robinson, guest speaker at the recently held Labour Party conference. We must ask, “Will being a better Party mean being a better Opposition as well?”
The duality of our democratic political two-party system has more often than not given rise to divisiveness. It has led unnecessarily to hatred and venomous attacks and destruction of families. So often, this outlook on life, where the Opposition becomes the enemy, has been fuelled by the leaders of this dual system. It now appears to be the norm to hate and bitch at your political opponent. Every negative thought and action of the opposer must be magnified as though he/she were composed of only negative characteristics.
Sadly, this type of behaviour has become the norm. Sadly it inhibits the positive talents and skills of every national from being garnered and used for true nation building. It also causes party stalwarts of the Opposition Party to happily proceed in making it their priority to bring down the Government even if it means destroying the country as well.
Just as we have led the way in Unity of Parties prior to an election; just as we have led the way in labour struggles with the Buckley’s riot; as ‘mother colony’ of the West Indies, can we show the world what a responsible ‘country above self’ Opposition should look like? Should we not strive to change a Democracy into a Meritocracy, thereby allowing our unleashed potential to take us to greater heights?
Let’s face it, the Caribbean and especially St. Kitts Nevis has gone through a history of Opposition Hypocrisy where the Opposition has felt duty bound to oppose just for the sake of opposing or to limit the success of any new project without analysing possible benefits that might accrue to the country.
One has only to search the archives of the Labour Spokesman newspaper to find a litany of objections to every one of the projects PAM introduced which have now become the bedrock of our economy. Serious objections were made to creating the Peninsular Road, to the Town Expansion Project (Port Zante), to having a Taiwanese embassy here, to the hosting of Ross University and even to making infrastructure upgrading a policy priority. Surprisingly, even for this, the government was ridiculed and nicknamed the “the infrastructure government”.
In the same way, some other Caribbean Opposition Parties, on becoming ‘the government’ have dragged their feet on worthy projects which they objected to while in opposition. The country suffers as a result of this lag as the politicians nurse their egos.
What exactly is a responsible Opposition? Firstly, a responsible Opposition is one which must retain its role in nation building even while it is not the ruling Party. Since we are past the days of Communism vs Socialism vs Capitalism, it is unfortunate the “Opposition” is still the term used to describe the ALTERNATIVE Party. Both parties have common philosophies hence ‘an opposition’ can put forward alternative strategies or support credible ones thus buttressing the country’s thrust in any endeavour.
A viable Opposition in a Democracy must be seen to be putting people first and with words and actions set about to uplift the electorate. It must not be seen to be wallowing in the vulgarity of the lowest common denominator just to win votes.
Exploring the do’s and don’ts of a responsible Opposition would take a great deal more space than we have here so must conclude with this quote:
“There is no qualification for a government (or Opposition) but virtue and wisdom.” Edmund Burke 1729-1797.