By Kenrick Quashie
Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws.
The true strength of our morality is tested when we are placed in situations where to abdicate our principles is much easier.
In 1998, when the ULP won the majority of the votes, many of us agreed that the NDP had no moral authority to govern. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the late Sir Vincent Beache, the ULP and many progressives made it a rallying cry. Fresh elections in six months were demanded by the ULP.
In 2020, we are now faced with the same situation. Please dispense with the fallacies about how this situation is “different”. After all, the principle can’t be acceptable in a certain “close call” constituency and not be acceptable on a larger scale. You can’t tout majority there and say it is wafer thin here! The number of seats won by the NDP this round does not matter. The fact remains that the party called upon to form the government does not have the majority/popular vote nor a mandate from the majority of Vincentians.
This minority government is now governing in a political system where the winner takes all. If we had a shared or inclusive political system, then this may have been a different story. However, our political system is one based on a “winner takes all” archaic rhetoric.
The historical record of this ULP administration is not one of inclusiveness. If it were, the Governor-General, Dame Susan Dougan would have had no need to implore the prime minister at his swearing in ceremony after 19 years to embrace the NDP. If it were, the Ministry of National Reconciliation would have had some relevance.
For 19 years, the NDP, a party that has always enjoyed more than 40% of the votes has been unable to have the one bill/motion debated that the constitution affords it once per parliamentary year. Instead, the Gonsalves-led ULP has used everything possible to amend and change the NDP’s one bill/motion regardless of the benefits such a bill would have brought to the people of SVG.
Then, there are those who spew the argument that the NDP rejected the 2009 proposed reform constitution. For the record, I voted for the proposed constitution and I also voted for the NDP in our recently held general elections.
The reality is that even though the people rejected the wholesale package of the proposed constitution, it doesn’t mean every principle in the proposed constitution was rejected. It is disingenuous to argue such.
It is simply wrong for the minority party to govern the majority. That is the situation we are faced with in 2020. The simple fact is that the ULP lost!
The majority of voters rejected the ULP’s manifesto (plans) and party. The fact that at the constituency level it won more seats does not mean it is legitimate of it to govern. The principle of good governance suggests that while more seats have been won, the party with the majority of votes overall must mean something. What is the ‘WILL’ of the people? The nation? ALL Vincentians?
Accordingly, I firmly believe, like Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the late Sir Vincent Beache, the then ULP and all those who decried the then minority NDP government in 1998 that there must be fresh elections and that it must be done within the same parameters demanded then. It must be done within six months. A wise and morally principled leader will appreciate such a call especially given that this was a call that this leader made 22 years ago when the shoe was worn on the other foot. That is what morality is. That is what integrity is.
This is second time in history that SVG is faced with this constitutional crisis. And even though a change was part of the proposed constitution, the time has come for this particular section to be voted upon by the people.
I am, therefore, calling for a change to this section of the constitution which would address this crisis. It should be considered for a vote when the fresh elections are called.
The political parties should lead their respective battles for the seat of government and; the church, the almost dying civil society, trade unions, intellectuals and progressives should lead the charge to educate our people on the constitutional amendment.
Yes, I know elections are expensive. However, it will cost the country more to have a minority party governing the majority.
Now is the time to show some mores. Now is the time for the Christian Council, the so-called progressives and intellectuals to say something — to demand that we go back to the polls and that we make a constitutional amendment.
At stake also is the possibility that in this time of transition of this minority government a new PM can be imposed upon us — a father hands leadership of our country to his son as if we are a private enterprise.
The soul of the nation is a stake. We have seen over the years how things have decayed. Let’s not continue to renege on all those principles we once stood for.
It was morally wrong in 1998 and it is morally wrong in 2020
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