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Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
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By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” April 6, 2023)

There is a crisis of confidence in our country. You would not know it if you were a visitor to the ULP celebration of its 22nd consecutive year of power grab that commenced in March 2001. The celebration had glitz and glitter and everything. The only thing missing was substance.

Headlining the crisis of confidence is the insincere, devious hypocrisy of the Gonsalves government regarding the resounding victory of public employees in the vaccine mandate case. Disregarding the court’s decision that public employees always were and remain state workers, Gonsalves says that reinstating those deemed to have abandoned their jobs will create administrative chaos. Yet he uses every opportunity to implore the dismissed workers to reapply for the very same jobs. Gonsalves maintains that the court is wrong in declaring the mandate “unlawful, unconstitutional, ultra vires, disproportionate and tainted with procedural impropriety”.  “It’s not a trick; reapply.” “eaning, come back to work on my terms. You can’t be more disingenuous. 

My mind raced back to Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s classic poem, Half Measures, because it speaks to our reality with a pulsating urgency. Writing of Soviet Russia in 1991, Yushtoshenko said:

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Half measures can kill when, / on the brink of precipices, / because we can’t jump halfway across. / Blind is the one who only half sees / the chasm. 

Don’t half recoil lost in broad daylight,/ half rebel, half suppressor / of the half insurrection / you gave birth to!

With every half-effective /  half measure / half the people / remain half pleased. / The half sated / are half hungry / The half free / are half enslaved. / We are half afraid, / halfway on a rampage . . . 

Can there be / a half conscience? / Half freedom /  is perilous, / and saving the nation halfway / will fail.

You don’t have to be immersed in Vincentian society to know the nation is hurting. Yet, Gonsalves declared that he has over EC$3 billion to spend in the next three years. We know it’s a damn lie, but let’s assume for a moment it is true. In 2015, as election fever took hold, Gonsalves told listeners to stay with him because he had over EC$500 million to spend. In the run up to the 2020 elections, the coffers were filled with over EC$700 million. “Don’t let Friday and the NDP get to inherit my hard work.” 

The question we can all ask is, where did this money go? Who got it? Clearly, the poor, vulnerable and marginalised remain poor, vulnerable and marginalised. Money is spent, but most of it is sucked up by Gonsalves and his well-connected big-shot friends. Foreign investors get to fleece the country as they smile to new riches with tax-free concessions and other giveaways. Those in the political class hide their insider trading connection behind front companies that bid for and receive contracts to feather their nests. 

In other countries, this kind of wielding and dealing will hand them in a court of law with prospects of serious sanctions up to jail time. Here acts of misfeasance and malfeasance are winked at with an annoying frequency. Democratic best practices that ensure transparency and accountability are not this administration’s strong suit.

The sad consequence of this reality is we remain half pleased, half free, half sated and half hungry, half free and half enslaved, half afraid and half on a rampage.

The facts are damning. Last year, the nation tallied 42 homicides, a record high. Some sources say the actual number was more like 47, but there was an apparent attempt to suppress the exact figure to not set a new record. These killings of most young men brought pain and grief to primarily low-income families, but a cry went out as fear increasingly stalk the land. 

The chances for arresting this deteriorating situation appear dismal as neither the government nor the police high command possesses a workable crime-fighting plan. The brutal tactics of the police alienate large sections of the community with which the police should be building friendly relations. With the absence of sophisticated and scientific crime-fighting tools and the people’s growing fear of the police and criminals, crime will continue unabated. Meanwhile, the government’s glib mantra of being tough on crime and the causes of crime has proven to be empty rhetoric unworthy of repetition.

Driving this crisis of confidence is the depressing unemployment situation in the country. The World Bank’s disclosure of a youth unemployment figure of 45% offers a clue as to why there is so much anger, frustration, crime, violence and social dislocation. Young people are the most adventurous and least fearful sections of the population. They know and see how other people live in a world where information is at their fingertips. They know what constitutes the good life. Many have friends and associates who, without merit, get by and march ahead of them because of their connections. In growing numbers many of our young men resolve to get rich or die trying. Only the naive or heartless uncritically condemn these bad choices when nothing else is on offer.

Poverty is also a foundation post of the crisis of confidence. Few among us, including loyal ULP supporters, believe the government has answers to the many problems confronting the nation. When confronted with the high poverty statistics, which hover nearly 40%, they ask who you will put to govern, “Friday and NDP?” It is often said that a problem well stated is half solved. Who among the power elite is appropriately addressing the problem of poverty? One gets the distinct impression that they don’t have a clue. In fact, governing power elite thrives on the poverty of the people. They calculate that poor and vulnerable people are easily manipulated and controlled.

But there is more to this problem. If four out of 10 Vincentians live in poverty, there may be another two or three who eke out an existence just above the poverty level. They live by juggling payments on small loans. Proof of this sad reality is displayed at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court as banks, credit unions, quick cash outlets, and stores demand outstanding payments.

This crisis of confidence reflects a crisis in governance. We cannot go on in the old way. This team has outlived its usefulness. Only the people can save the people.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

One reply on “A crisis of confidence”

  1. Urlan Alexander says:

    As usual Jomo you’re on the ball. The Ralph gonsalves administration has outlived its usefulness. However, Ralph continues to fkol the masses unabated. Rhebpeooke will have to save the people as you stated. Our people are in a slumber that not even the roars of la soufrirre could have awaken them. It’s really sad. Continue the fight Jomo. Your writings are gaining an audience and I see some movements under the sheets.

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