Dennis Joseph

Dennis Joseph

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, lecturing to thousands on a range of causes. He had the enormous gift of capturing in words the meaning of what truth was all about and the unique ability to work the crowd. Douglass was a one-time black slave who escaped to freedom and learned to read. In one of his speeches, he is known to have said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Years later in 1957, Martin Luther King Jnr fresh from leading the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, then just 28 years old, spoke to a capacity crowd of students at the Washington University about the nation’s journey toward the “promised land of integration and said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  History has shown that the peacemakers and non-political politicians are for the stuff of legacy and legends to be spoken about on a day set aside each year for remembrance. Even Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mat.10:34) which Christians will hasten to spin. If anything can be said it is that the Dominica Labour Party is not interested in sanctimonious murmurings and understand the local election campaign a whole lot more than the UWP. They go for the winning tape relentlessly, ruthlessly, mercilessly and deliberately make the field as messy as possible in word and deed and to bleep with peace and morality. While the PM is highly charismatic, he understands that materialism is a major encouraging factor in getting the votes out in his favour. He also knows that we the people for the most part are single-issue people, “what are you giving me personally”. Then after they extend a hand of friendship in a take it or leave it style caring not a jot one way or other. Of course, I do not know what was in the thinking of the UWP campaign council but it did its best to avoid materialism and tough ground politics and failed in its effort to win the elections. The question to the UWP remains, “How are you going to win next time?”

It is difficult to win elections with just a few months campaigning except if the ruling party implodes and collapses. It needs consistent effort and persistent exposure of issues over all the 60 months between elections, in other words it is not an office job but a journeyman’s occupation. As Douglass has said those, who wish to lead cannot compromise but must be prepared to stand in the breach for and on behalf of all locals and our Caricom brothers and sisters, which includes Haiti. It must never be forgotten that there are countless Dominicans who make their living in other lands.

The latest Haitian visa scandal coming right on the heels of a DLP 15-6 win in the recent December elections is however nothing new to we the people. There have been a number of them-scandals I mean-  from land tax evasion to who owns the multi-million dollar villas to Bin Bobol when the price of garbage bins bought by the government  was  grossly inflated and more yet nothing sticks. Over the years, the official opposition has always taken an attitude of keeping clear so that they would not bring politics into the scandals and that obviously has not worked as the administration cockily trudges on. This latest government scandal is one about the sale of visas to Haitians and the bunch of fraudsters that seem to have benefited illegally from the transactions. The boss of the Labour Division unwilling to take the fall opened up the can of worms and all may now be running from the slimy smell. The PM may as well now be thinking he should have left the stink alone. There should be a public inquiry but the President may be placed in an embarrassing position as himself once headed the relevant ministry so where do we go from here. However talking on radio is not nearly enough as all efforts must now be made to force a public inquiry including street protests. Yet the rulers know the people and expect that in a few weeks, this will all go away and die and the opposition will just talk more so it will all soon be drowned by the sound of the drums of carnival revelry if not given a political thrust. Our history and the election statistics of the last three elections show that those who vote for the government just do not want to know. For example the Paix Bouche constituency results from elections 2000  of 1179 to 297 in the favour of the DLP has mostly remained unchanged despite all the corruption allegations and it is the same with the Cottage, Grandbay, Portsmouth, Colihaut, Vielle Case constituencies. World history has also shown that people in political power do not fear protest talk as much as they fear political protest street action.

In the Guyana Chronicle, I read this piece by Shaun Samaroo and here is a part of it

‘Under the Guyana State of the dictatorship People’s National Congress (PNC) Government we saw Dr. Rodney( at age 38) assassinated (in June1980) in cold blood on the streets of Georgetown. ….Today, (his brother) Donald Rodney sees a Guyana thriving with the social and economic progress that Dr. Rodney dreamed of and fought for and sacrificed his life for and for which he became our most noted and worthy martyr….. Dr. Rodney wanted, a peaceful, progressive, powerful Guyana, where the average citizen, with hard work and discipline and that Guyanese resolve, achieves economic and social goals, and where free and fair elections remain entrenched as our national value. All that mattered to Dr. Rodney, to Dr. Jagan, was that we achieve free and fair elections. From there, everything else is possible.’

We need free and fair elections without which one party wins all the time and does not feel it has to account to the people. It is a sometimes boring, sometimes fearful, most times an unappreciated task to get there and even strong supporters and parliamentarians may turn away disillusioned or frightened. There is beauty in resistance but that beauty is riddled with bumps and precipices yet this struggle is one worth living for and since all life is a journey of risk it is a goal worth risking for now and in the future. The first step in moving Waitukubuli forward is not just well-manicured political campaigns but in heavy even raw ground  mobilizing to achieve free and fair elections and yes ‘from there everything else is possible.’