Thu 17th Aug 2006

Effective democracy

I'm no Green Party supporter, but it seems to me that the Green Party is the official opposition to ULP government; it seems to me that only the Green Party are holding the government to task. The NDP has 3 seats in parliament, but at the moment they are not being an effective opposition. Given their resources and parliamentary seats, it is they who should be keeping the ULP government in check, not the Green Party.

It is vital to any democratic nation that there is an effective opposition to the government. Ideally, SVG would have a second chamber (as in Britain with the House of Lords and in the USA with the Congress) to make sure a government does not get out of hand. No prime minister, Gonsalves, O'Neal or Eustace, should be given a free reign to do as they please. A democracy is weakened if the opposition party is ineffective, and in my view, the NDP is at the moment, ineffective. It may only be the Green Party's dogged pursual of the ULP government that is keeping SVG's democracy alive.

So what is democracy? Democracy has complex demands, including voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and uncensored distribution of news and fair comment.

In a small nation like SVG with no second chamber, the opposition needs to be strong for the democracy to be effective. Whenever Gonsalves looks over his shoulder to see who is hounding him, he sees O'Neal, not Eustace. In my view, the NDP should be auditing the ULP government's activities and seriously scrutinizing public finance and public debt matters.

'Democracy and human rights are two of the most fundamental prerequisites for an endurable life and a sustainable development. A real democracy must be based on good governance and rule of law.' The NDP have 'taken their foot off the gas' with regards to their duties to be an official opposition. When the ULP government presents new policies or the budget, the responses from the NDP, if any, are lacklustre.

I believe that it is a thin line between a democratic and undemocratic nation, but when that line is crossed it may be hard to return. Given the social inequalities in SVG ' such as the income, housing quality and education gap between the rich and poor and the difference in earnings between men and women ' I wonder if many SVG citizens are experiencing a real democracy at all. For the sake of SVG's precious democracy, the NDP should be actively questioning the quality of governance of the ULP regime.

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