One of the core tenets of a free press is to remain independent of the political system in the interest of the public who we serve. For many, media in all its different forms is considered the fourth pillar of democracy—it helps to frame the issues for debate acting on one hand as an information bridge between those in position of power (Legislature, Executive and Judiciary) and the general public. So too, often we are called upon to defend the excesses and overreach, the abuses and injustices that are meted out to the governed, the voiceless and disadvantaged. In exercising these functions, we remember that we too must act in good faith, as Malcom X once posited, “we can make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.”
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, our smallness as a nation with just over 110,000 inhabitants has limited the breadth and scope of this role for varied reasons. Dependent on the dollar vote of advertisers, some media houses laxly exercise the inherent power to play a more effective role in shaping a healthy democracy that shows the bare truth and harsh realities.
At BreadFruit News, we embrace our mission to explicitly advocate, as we see it, for the advancement of the political, social and economic development of all Vincentians, recognising too, that our peoples are both local and scattered across diasporas.
Tomorrow, every adult over the age of 18 years who is entitled to vote will be given an opportunity to exercise this right. Our generation has taken sometimes a casual approach to voting as we were not part of that revolutionary struggle to be the authors of our own faith. Unfortunately, too many people are either despondent and/or feel disenfranchised from the political system or remain stoic and palpably unconcerned with who wins or who loses; “they are all the same” it is claimed.
The truth is that each and every vote counts and as the two major political entities have drummed home recently, this 10th electoral cycle since Independence is as important and defining, if not more, as each before.
For over three (3) months, the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has carried their messages to the electorate—you. You have listened to the platform speeches and hopefully read the manifestos and plans presented. You must weigh these proposals, programmes and policies against the backdrop of changes in the international political economy. Particulars necessary for consideration must include: The state of the global economy, the current coronavirus pandemic, the disruption of global trade, continued tensions in Asia and the Middle East, Brexit, the U.S. elections, Climate Change and institutional hegemony.
However, we are also acutely aware that all politics is local. Vincentians go to the polls concerned about jobs, health care, public infrastructure, education, crime and violence and generally to see an improvement in their material being. Each voter will prioritise from this unexhaustive list what matters to them most from the bundle of choices presented to them by the political parties.
For the NDP, claims are made that the four term Unity Labour Party is tired with no new ideas. Opposition Leader Dr Hon Godwin Friday has called for a change to create more job opportunities and to make health care a priority. The party promises to construct a new hospital. Several other projects have been earmarked though these lack some level of clarity. These are to be funded by a controversial Citizenship By Investment program which the party intends to introduce on taking office. On matters of foreign policy, the party has remained reticent on its plans to switch allegiance from Taiwan to mainland China.
The governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) is seeking an unprecedent fifth term in office led by the indefatigable Prime Minister Dr Hon Ralph Gonsalves. The party espouses a narrative that in the uncertain times, its leadership including Camillo Gonsalves and Saboto Caesar are tried and tested. Their mantra is that they have “handled the Covid-19 pandemic well”. The party points to the past and to the future. Celebrated achievements include the education revolution, the Rabacca bridge, the Modern Medical Health Complex at Georgetown and the Argyle International Airport. In reference to the future, the ULP claims to be the party of choice to construct several hotels, an Acute Referral Hospital, to deepen the education revolution particularly for pre-school aged children and to take care of the elderly. As a government, financing is at hand for the construction of a modern port at Rose Place as a twin to the airport development.
The aforementioned are but a short synopsis of two competing narratives. Vincentians will have to choose one.
We turned to Jamaican born cultural theorist Staurt Hall for guidance. Stuart spoke about the ‘history of the present’ noting that infused in that phrase are two contradictory ideas. The present he said is concerned about the right now, what is in front of us. However, he challenges us to understand that we must also commit to understand the conditions that shape the present.
“The present of course is a force that we have to now transform but nevertheless we must understand the conditions under which it came into existence,” he said.
In applying our minds to this concept of viewing our choice in terms of the ‘history of the present’, we are left with no choice but to support and recommend to Vincentians to return the Unity Labour Party to lead this country in the difficult and uncertain times ahead.
There is so much to say but space would not allow. In short, the country has been blessed with a once in a generational leader in Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves. He has inspired this nation to become a better version of itself particularly our young people who he filled with hope.
His evocative call to action that “we are not better than anyone else, but so too, no one is better than us” illuminates his often optimistic, and dream-daring posture seen for example in our successful bid to sit on the UN Security Council. His feats are reminiscent of the famous lines:
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”
Beyond the many unrivalled infrastructural projects that belies the shocking claims that the party has done nothing in the past 19 years, it is Dr Gonsalves understanding of the times that we are most impressed with.
Much like Stuart Hall advises, our country’s progress is inextricably linked to the historical structural inadequacies in our society. Gonsalves understood and understands that there could be no development without a transformation of our education system to match the requirements of a post-colonial economy.
And while we often compare ourselves to our neighbours—the reality is that the transformation that we see taking place were taken for granted 20 years ago. We offer the critical shortage of nurses we had in 2001 as an example. Today, surplus nurses take up employment in many countries.
Every party can do infrastructure projects. Every politician can pave roads. Every constituency representative can execute a playing field project. We do not point to these things to elect the ULP government. Like no other time in our history, we must vote for leadership of which there is a clear choice; Dr Gonsalves is by far a most visionary and excellent leader.
Dr Gonsalves is not perfect. The Unity Labour Party has been less than perfect. However, as a collective, it is still by far the better organised political vehicle for the socio-economic development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Above all, we reject as a notion that our development should be hinged on an unsustainable and undesirable plan to sell passports to fuel growth. It is by the sweat of our brow we will eat bread, through the dint of hard, smart and creative work that we are indeed capable of producing.
Breadfruit News commits to keeping the government and the party honest but we will not let our own editorial voice be hijacked by fear or act as an umpire who is afraid to call a ‘wide’.
We asked ourselves: In the uncertain times ahead, who do we trust most to lead the nation through the challenges? Who has the correct posture and competent team to confidently deliver on their manifesto promises?
The answer to these and other questions must resoundingly favour the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP).
Editor in Chief