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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lions in Loins


Dr. Lester CN Simon

So much. So much has happened over the past few days. It was as if we came face to face with who we really are and realized that we would and should never be the same again. The power outages were bad enough but the disinformation, and the disrespect for friends, foes and especially for holders of high office, drove many of us away from the media, electronic and print. We confined ourselves to the gloom of our lonely rooms and the darkness of our empty selves from which we quietly emerged with a solitary want: to know what is intrinsic to our way of life that forces us to become such rude and unruly cannibals.

Turning off and away and tuning in to BBC, I heard Mugabe suggesting that democracy might not be the best system for Zimbabwe. Say what you want about Mugabe (and there is much to be said against him), he is aware that the Mandela solution for South Africa was not really a solution but rather just the start of a journey with bigger and more dangerous battles ahead. Indeed, it can be argued that Mandela’s road to victory was relatively easy in light of the long march forward. To his eternal credit, Mandela realized this and walked away knowing that the next steps must be walked and championed by others. Mbeki is aware of his own limitations and that he is just one of the many links in the chain of leaders to come. He knows that Mugabe has his faults but he is also painfully aware of the limitations of both the path travelled by Mandela and by Mugabe.

It occurred to me that democracy, as currently attempted, might not be the best system for us either. It is not that we are intrinsically unable to govern ourselves along democratic lines. It is that our practicing of democracy has three requirements, which are reduced to one: Either we allow and engage the same long passage of time and turmoil that others endured in order to arrive at a workable, pragmatic constitution, or we learn very fast at warp speed, or we fashion democracy in light of the fact that we do not have the long passage of time to wait and that all of us cannot learn at warp speed and practice what we learn. Reformation is the way forward.

If we agree that “No man is an island”, can we agree on how many people it takes to run a country along democratic lines, as inherited from England? I do not think seventy or eighty thousand people qualify. Size and history matter. The link between business and government can lead to disastrous consequences in a small society because of the monopoly of big influence with little or no counterbalance. It means that a limit to political campaign finance contribution is of crucial and fundamental import in our small developing state. Reformation is the way forward.

There has been much talk about patriotism with reference to our national anthem, asking us to gird our loins and join the battle. We are prepared to join the battle only if the battle involves committing ourselves to really building a true nation, brave and free. In this regard, we have to take a long and hard look at how we govern ourselves. We must amend our constitution such that no one person can be prime minister for more than two consecutive terms. Any modern political party that cannot put up two different leaders or prime ministers for two consecutive terms is not concerned about succession planning and is not worthy of membership. Limitation on the terms of the prime minister would allow political parties to breathe and breed and help to abort the long term stranglehold big businesses have on some politicians. Reformation is the way forward.

We are verging on a state of inertia where people become disillusioned about the way we govern ourselves. The UPP is a single stepping stone away from darkness into light. We cannot go back to the blind past and we must not go along blindly with the UPP, as presently constituted, simply to avoid the past. We have to let politicians within and without the government know that when the anthem refers to all enduring to defend the liberty of Antigua and Barbuda, we must define firstly what is that liberty. The recent darkness has forced our imperfections into light and dictated that we gird our lions first, before we gird our loins, lest we chant the charge of the light brigade.


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