Saturday, 19 May 2012 02:30
By G.A.Dwyer Astaphan
Great anguish has overtaken Europe in the past 2-3 years. Fiscal mismanagement, indiscipline and corruption have led to a massive debt crisis, which in turn has led to stiff austerity measures in an effort to survive the crisis, and the measures are causing the anguish.
Understandably, therefore, whenever, during this period, voters have gotten their hands on a piece of ballot paper, they’ve kicked out the incumbents. However, the people haven’t been waiting for elections to do that. They’ve also been marching, rallying, picketing and protesting.
And with great success, because in the past 18 months, a number of European leaders have fallen from grace, either by the ballot or by people pressure. Some of them will now face commissions of inquiry, and even corruption charges. Nicolas Sarkozy of France is the latest to join that group.
The people of Europe aren’t afraid to use their power to get their message across and to keep their leaders in check. They understand that the real power in a democracy is, and must be, vested in the people. They understand that if there’s to be any fear in the relationship between leaders and the people, it’s the leaders, not the people, who must bear that fear. Throughout their history, they’ve had more than enough demagogues, dictators, and despots. And they won’t tolerate any more.
The only thing they’re afraid of is the consequence of not exercising their collective power to keep leaders and things in check, as that would not only open the door to more demagogues, dictators and despots.
Europeans generally tolerate and support leaders who make sense to them, not leaders who seek to make fools of them, because they know there’s no greater shame than that which falls upon a people who’ve conspired, or at least acquiesced, in their own deception, degradation and suffering.So they stand up in their own cause, and do what they have to do. And they earn respect for that.
Are those countries better democracies because their citizens realize their collective power and don’t hesitate to show it in a peaceful but firm manner whenever they believe they need to? Or because their citizens don’t put up with too much nonsense from their leaders?I think so.
Fundamental rights and freedoms, good governance and democracy are safeguarded and promoted more by the people than by governments.
And often the people have to protect themselves even against their own governments.So the very cornerstone of democracy is the daily involvement of the people in their own affairs. That’s what “ government of the people, by the people and for the people” means.And public marches, processions, picketing, protests and rallies are crucial tools in the hands of the people in a democracy. These tools of democracy are used between elections, and that other tool, the vote, is used at elections.
Of course, a proactive, responsible and independent media helps to keep the tools sharp.
Only six days ago, there was a huge march in London, England. Over 30,000 police officers (yes, police officers) took to the streets to protest against the Government’s decision to lay off 16,000 officers over the next two years, and also against the Government’s plan to introduce some degree of privatization in the Police Service.
It’s important to note that a fair number, maybe as many as half, of those 30,000 marching, protesting, picketing police officers are supporters of the incumbent Conservative Party Administration. But they didn’t allow that to stop them from gathering and marching in their own cause, robustly, resolutely and peacefully.
And that’s what it’s all about: standing up and marching for what you think is right, making sure that, in a proper manner, you articulate your positions on the important issues, that you’re not opening the door for demagogues, dictators and despots to step in, and that you’re not conspiring or acquiescing in your own degradation, humiliation and suffering.
I must admit that I become a bit disappointed when, out of despair, people say:”Leave everything to God”. Maybe they’ve forgotten that just as God doesn’t like ‘ugly’, He also doesn’t like ‘lazy’. He expects us to do what’s right, and to do it in His name. And if we don’t carry out His work, then we’ll either be carrying out that other fellow’s work, or we’ll be sitting back and allowing someone else to do so, in which case we’ll be just as guilty.
In the last two years or so, the people of Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia, the BVI, and the Bahamas, like their counterparts in Europe, have also grown tired of their leaders, and have kicked them out. And it seems that Grenadians could soon join them.
In Jamaica, people pressure got rid of their Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, before the elections, while just last week, after his Party’s election defeat, outgoing Bahamas PM, Hubert Ingraham, graciously and honestly declared that Bahamians had grown tired of him as their leader. And he announced his retirement from politics, there and then.
It’s claimed that the people of St. Kitts also grew tired of their leader in January,2010, as did the people of Nevis in July, 2011, but that Kittitians were denied their wish by “a cat in de bag down Old Road” in 2010, and Nevisians by “a fowl in de box up Cox” in 2011.
But prior to, and since, January,2010, certain regional political pundits, all of them sympathetic to the present Administration in Basseterre, had, and have, been recommending a change in leadership in St. Kitts. Indeed, one of them said just last month that the present leader should stand down before the end of this year.
And I’m hearing that polling conducted very recently shows empirically and definitively that a significant majority of Kittitians and Nevisians, across party lines, are tired of our leader.
Two weeks ago, in what may’ve been one of his more cynical and disrespectful moments to date, he stated publicly that he’d seen some electricity bills owed by poor people, and that they’d made him feel like crying; and he invited the people to march with him on Labour Day, inter alia, to bring down those bills.
He appreciates the value of marches. And, understandably, he was particularly desperate for a big one this time around.
But to the vast majority of citizens and residents, his invitation simply didn’t make sense. Further, they felt that he wanted them to grovel, and to march with him in the foolish hope that he’d have mercy on them and relieve them of their all-too-heavy load. Or that he once again was looking to manipulate them and puff up his chest from the success of a big march. In any case, they felt disrespected, insulted and disgusted by the invitation.
So the march failed. And even if he hadn’t issued his notorious invitation, it would’ve still failed.
The very next day, he went on radio and said that while an arrangement would be made to help consumers pay off their electricity arrears, the arrears would have be paid and consumers would have to stay current with their monthly payments. I’m told that he also said that only after the arrears are paid up can a reduction in rates be considered.
Let’s take a consumer who owes arrears of $1,200.00, and whose monthly bill is around $150.00. He (or she) might be given 12 months to pay off the arrears, at $100.00 per month, with or without interest, along with his regular monthly payments.Now when the bills were $150.00 per month, he couldn’t keep up. That’s why he went into arrears. So if he couldn’t pay $150.00 per month, how will he be able to pay $250.00 per month, especially in this economy?
The overall situation is very bad, and all( maybe with a few exceptions) - rich, poor and in between, businesses and individuals, employers and employees-are feeling it. People are without work, the cost of living is through the roof, and debt and debt delinquency are on the rise. And because of its massive debt, the Government is choking every penny out of people’s pockets.
Folks are being forced into choosing between paying their mortgages, their rents, their consumer loans, their electricity bills and paying for food. Decent men and women are under pressure to sell their integrity in order to pay their bills; and some are yielding to that pressure. The people are hurting. Their backs are against the wall. They’re being robbed of their livelihoods, of their businesses, and, finally, of their hope, of their dignity and of their integrity.
Our leader was correct in saying that the people should march for lower electricity rates. And there’s a host of other causes that are worth marching , for example: better leadership; Integrity in Public Life and Freedom of Information legislation; a full accounting of the Beacon Heights, Potato Bay, La Vallee and White Gate projects; a full accounting of SIDF and a turning over of all funds to an account of the Government of this country; opening up of ZIZ radio and TV, a full financial report on the operations of ZIZ ; a full and detailed report on the corporatization of electricity, and of SKELEC’s operations thus far; a list of all persons who carry, and, over the past 17 years(at least) have carried, diplomatic passports of this Federation; a full list of all persons who have been granted duty free concessions on motor vehicles and other things; a full and detailed report on the debt restructuring; proper Constitutional and electoral reform; and so on.
Can you for a moment imagine, in this day and age, all of this vital information being withheld from people in Germany, France, the U.K, Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados or Trinidad & Tobago, and the people sitting back and waiting for an election to sort things out, especially if they might be apprehensive about the integrity of the electoral process? So why are we allowing it to happen here?
Having declined our leader’s invitation to march with him on Labour Day for lower electricity rates, you, the citizens and residents of this Federation, rich, poor and in between, businesses and individuals, employers and employees, are now being invited to march on your own terms, in your own march, for lower electricity rates, for better leadership, and for anything else that’s important to you, your family and your country. Not against, but for! This isn’t a march against anybody or against anything. Instead, it’s a march for you, for the things that you need, and for the things that you need to say.
Operation Rescue has organized a short march for you on Friday, 18th May, 2012, at 4:30 pm. The start-up point is West Independence Square below Central Street, and the route is : south on West Independence Square to Bay Road, west to Fort Street, north on Fort Street, west on Cayon Street, south on Church Street, west on Central Street( the Police changed it yesterday, after having told us that the march could proceed right down Church Street, which is very interesting), south on Liverpool Row, south on College Street, east on Bay Road, and north on Fort Street to The Circus, where the march ends, to be followed by a rally on Bank Street.
This is your march, whether you’re a Labour or a PAM supporter, or none of the above. This is not about party politics. It’s about you. It’s your march if you’re hurting and if you understand the need for you to say so in a peaceful way. It’s your march in which you can show love and respect for yourselves and for your brothers and sisters, in unity of purpose, and in celebration, at last, of Kittitians and Nevisians coming together in your own collective cause and in the cause of democracy and real people power, relieved of the chains and the blinders of political partisanship and manipulation.
At the rally following after the march, recommendations will be made as to how you can get relief from these high electricity and other bills, and as to how fresh air and hope can be breathed into the economy, into the society and into the soul of St.Kitts & Nevis.
And if any of you wishes to say a few words on our platform, please contact Mr. Richard Caines or myself