Saturday, October 19, 2002

As always, Lloyd Best's column in today's Express, analysing the results of the general elections, is required reading. Best hails, for the first time, the emergence of what may be a politically significant group of swing voters among the electorate, willing to cast their ballots independent of traditional tribal considerations:

"The truly subversive implication here is two-fold, both instances involving a speeding up of the national process of learning and self-awareness.

"First, more and more, our electorate is enhancing its capacity to discriminate, to elect and to decide. People have begun to ask themselves what option they will exercise rather than hold slavishly to the same old choice. Secondly, those paying close attention to government and politics are also improving the framework as well as the tools of interpretation. It is to these two related fields of self-education that T&T owes the upheaval which has been ongoing—exceptionally without violence—since the second half of 1999."

He also incisively explains what was truly at stake in Fitzgerald Hinds's refusal to accept anything but a senior Cabinet post in the new PNM government:

"The latest example is our failure to grasp the significance of the current demand by almost every MP for elevation to the highest possible Cabinet rank. At issue is not simply personal ambition or individual cussedness but the universal recognition that merely being in the Legislature confers no status and amounts at best to a controlled participation and to no representation at all."

This is the fundamental problem that needs to be addressed by the constitutional reform we're all talking about these days: the T&T Parliament as constituted at present is a powerless & fearful body by which no one feels represented & which offers no meaningful check on the actions of the government. This arrangement is deeply mistrustful of the citizenry it ostensibly serves—&, frankly, over forty years of independence the citizenry has not done much to earn that crucial trust. True democracy is something we have to prove ourselves deserving of—it droppeth not from heaven. It is a responsibility we must demand, within & without our current political parties & in the wider nation. Best seems optimistic that this latest election demonstrates we're finally facing up to that responsibility. I wish I were so hopeful. I fear we're still a very long way off.

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