By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Nov. 13, 2020)
“The thing I dread most is to be walking down the street and hear someone whisper ‘There goes Walter Rodney. He uses to be a revolutionary.” — Dr Walter Rodney
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” — 1 Corinthians 13:1
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” –Mark 8:36
History has minted Ralph Gonsalves in the pantheon of Caribbean political leaders following his party’s historic fifth consecutive victory on Nov. 5.
During the elections campaign, Gonsalves pulled out all the stops in what will go down in Vincentian history as the most perversely vulgar, repugnant, repulsive and reprehensible misuse of the Vincentian state by a political leader and his party, to achieve the narrowest of election victories since occupying the corridors of power in 2001.
Gonsalves, who won the elections, nine constituencies to six, proudly wears the crown “World Boss”, even as citizens mocked as his high-speed police caravan careened recklessly from one campaign stop to another. Voters knew the emperor had no clothes. Gonsalves and his minions joyously proclaimed that he was dressed in an impressive golden suit.
These elections, in which the ULP lost the popular vote for the first time since 1998, is clear proof that the “five star general” sacrificed his troops for his stripes. It was sickeningly sad to see the ULP, which stormed into power promising change reduced to intimidation and buying of support. It ran a dark, fear-mongering, anti-Chinese, subliminal anti-communist campaign, which compared unfavourably with the electioneering assaults launched at Gonsalves and the progressive UPM when they challenged the status quo in 1979.
It remains heart-rending and mind-boggling to watch as so-called progressives, either joined in or remained silent, in the face of this auction-sale-type, desperate dash for power. Those who mean well for SVG need to abandon their knee jerk real politick and get back to progressive politics, which encompasses a struggle for genuine independence, people’s ownership and control. All too often, careerism and close proximity to power obscure and trump our hitherto foresight and vision. A true commitment to our country and its people mourn the scarcity of recruits.
The ULP disrespect for citizens as well as disregard and abandonment of many of those who voted for the party made the most ordinary opposition candidate look impressive. As the numbers came in on elections night, Gonsalves appeared more like a general destined for a war crimes tribunal, as opposition candidates cheerily galloped through constituencies Gonsalves boastfully claimed as a virtual “cardon sanitaire”. Had the opposition mounted a few more young and attractive candidates, Gonsalves would have been a goner.
As it stands now he is the victorious general whose troops are humbled, miserable and vulnerable. Gonsalves’ heir apparent, son Camillo, who parachuted into the safe East St George seat in 2015, limped to a 181-vote victory. His rival, Laverne Gibson-Velox, who entered the race a mere two months before election day, landed dangerous body blows but failed to score a knockout.
Saboto Caesar, the “son” with whom Gonsalves claimed he was “well pleased”, did marginally better surviving by 229 votes against the crusading insurgency of the boisterous and confident challenger, lawyer Israel Bruce.
The dismal showing by Camillo and Saboto is ominous for the ULP transition. Either or both could suffer a humiliating defeat in the upcoming contest.
Montgomery Daniel, touted as the ironman, nervously watched in real-time as teacher Shevern Lewis-John scared him into a pretzel-shaped metal before faltering by 69 votes. Lewis-John may have counted her chickens before they hatched, thus becoming over confident.
Jimmy Prince, dubbed the “Prince of the Marriaqua Valley” because of his impressive 756-vote victory margin in 2015, suffered a severe bout of buyer’s remorse. Voters chopped him down to size forcing him to settle for a 353-vote success margin.
Gustaus Stephenson, the three-time victor in South Windward and celebrated as the “humble African” in ULP circles, must have displayed his true colours to constituents. The voters roughed him and reduced the size of his victory from 759 five years ago to 217 votes.
Carlos James, our new Tourism and Culture Minister, in what can only be described as the constituents wholesale rejection of his candidacy, crawled from minus 12 in 2015 to a plus 1 victory. James’s triumph was aided by massive giveaways by the ULP up to and including election day. As ole people say, it does not hurt to be born fart frightened, cocky and lucky.
Curtis King, a former head teacher and current Education Minister, won by 443 votes. Even with his strong links to the constituency, he underperformed and was pulled down by his opponent, Attorney Kay Bacchus Baptiste’s aggressive campaigning and the albatross of the ULP staleness and sense of entitlement.
The only bright, endearing and possibly enduring futuristic spot on the ULP slate was Orondo Brewster’s sound whipping of Ben Exeter by 521 votes. Having underestimated Exeter in 2015, the ULP left nothing to chances. It recruited the vibrant and energetic Brewster who was ably assisted by the retiring Sir Louis Straker and bales of ULP largesse.
Among the truths revealed in the elections are the following: Gonsalves’ gravitas has irretrievably evaporated while his control over the minds of the population has loosened. Also in doubt is his grip on political reality. He damaged his party’s 2015 chances in South Leeward by conspiring against his own candidate. He put in place an unconnected and touchy candidate who was roundly humiliated by South Leeward voters. The party failed to muster the 2,620 vote count of 2015 and has guaranteed the sub-par parliamentarian, Nigel Stephenson, who won a third term by 505 votes, into a surety for at least five victories.
Most importantly, Gonsalves narcissism goaded him to stick around long enough to preside over what appears to be the terminal decline of his Unity Labour Party. Having entered the political fray as a progressive policy, programme initiating, agenda-setting leader directing a forward-looking political vehicle, the electorate relegated him to a political buffoon in a general’s uniform while his party was fed humble pie.
Gonsalves gloating is nothing more than a pyrrhic victory. All that remains is the colourful afterglow of an imploding star. Meanwhile, the people, who harbour contempt and pity for the degenerate, unprogressive, win-at-all-cost electioneering tactics, laugh louder than ever as the emperor appears stark naked.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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