I think it was Lenin who once said ‘there can be no politics without education.’ Whether the quote is Lenin’s or not, experiences teaches that few statements on politics are more profound. Did Lenin mean that education leads one to a better practice of the art of politics, or, was he saying that education allows for a wiser use of politics for national development? Whatever the answer the fact that a country needs an educated citizenry to promote and sustain social and economic advancement is undeniable. In fact, human development and happiness is the ultimate aim of politics.
Too often mediocrity and crass ignorance passes for politics in our Caribbean. It was to distinguish such ignorance and backwardness from politics that the St. Lucia Forum in the early nineteen seventies first popularized the phrase ‘pappy show politics.’ It was meant to call attention to the abuse of politics by certain sycophants and assorted comedians who had immersed themselves in the noble art, whilst groping for answers to the myriad social and economic problems of their time. Today, the modern politician arrives with university degrees in his resume and greed at the forefront of his/her mind. Thankfully, these new aspirants are being quickly unmasked as people discover that the rough stone, refined by education, can be put to improper and selfish use.
Last week, my interest was piqued by two events which made the rounds in the media. The first concerned the appearance of two young persons, male and female, on Timothy Poleon’s “Hot Button Issue”, on television. My first reaction was that Timothy had scored a coup. The man lives for the journalist’s breaking news! It never entered my mind that rules of the civil service still constrain a young Saint Lucian from participating in politics. I was elected Secretary of the CSA in the early nineteen seventies and we were determined to amend the staff to allow young Saint Lucians returning home from University, an opportunity to assist in lifting the veil of ignorance and backwardness from the minds of the people through public forums, seminars, debates and politics.
I am aware that certain amendments to the CSA rules of employment were introduced. The idea was to allow less senior members of the CSA to participate in politics, once they did not challenge government policy and were doing the job for which they were being paid.
It therefore came as some surprise to hear persons who know better and who themselves are known supporters of a political party; question Ms. Corneille’s appearance (and announcement) on the electronic media of an interest in politics. Two days prior to the television show I was approached by the young couple seeking an opinion.
My advice was three-fold. First, there was nothing in the constitution of the UWP (or, of Saint Lucia) to stop her or Dr. Matthew joining and expressing an interest to contest elections for a political party. Second, that “Spider” Montoute has been both an MP and a candidate of the UWP and was unchallenged by any other UWP candidate, for Gros Islet. Third, the government seemed determined to cut the Gros-Islet seat in three so the more candidates, the merrier. I also suggested to both Ms. Corneille and Dr. Matthew that they should first ensure that they have the full backing of family and friends as they would need such sure support in their new journey.
On watching “Hot Button Issue” that night I recall a sense of deep pride in the two young Saint Lucians. Ms. Corneille seemed particularly passionate. In this island women are more reluctant to enter politics than men. Had I been asked I would have advised her to wear the national head gear on the show and on the campaign trail, using it as her marker, as George Odlum had done with his dark green cloth cap. From her TV appearance Ms. Corneille seems to have the fire in her guts. Dr. Matthew seemed more sedated, calm and deliberate. Ms. Corneille’s decision should encourage more young women into politics. Her announcement must have given her parents a great sense of pride and joy.
The show was hardly over when certain SLP hacks began to cast aspersions and innuendoes at Ms. Corneille’s job in the civil service. Were we back in the bad old colonial days? I wondered what might have been the reaction had the dynamic duo plus Mary Isaac (former CSA President and now Senator), announced an interest in joining the SLP, instead of the UWP.
To hear some SLP hacks speak, one would have thought that Ms. Corneille had signed a secret document giving a foreign company sole right to search for petroleum and other minerals in and around Saint Lucia sea bed. Frankly, Saint Lucia needs more active young people like Ms. Corneille in politics, in business and in research and development. It’s time for those tired legs in the political arena to pass the baton to new and younger blood. Let the tired legs take a back seat and share their experiences with the younger generation, if they wish.
The other matter of interest was the announcement that the UWP had carried out a poll and that the results show a convincing win for the SLP – fourteen seats to three – in the next election. From the above, two obvious questions demand answers: Based on the poll, why doesn’t the government call a snap general election since their only desire is to stay in power… better days be damned! Question two: Why does the government wish to carve out 21 constituencies from the existing 17? Why not simply abandon the 21 seat project, declare them too expensive at this time, and proceed to elections with the boundaries as presently defined?
Whilst in the ‘pappy show’ politics mode can someone explain why the constant attacks on the political leader of the UWP? Is this a sort of diversion from the economic woes and mounting poverty and frustration in fair Helen? Is the SLP hiding behind Allen Chastanet and his family while refusing to speak on IMPACS, on Lambirds, on Greynberg and on the cup of bitter economic woes it has visited upon Saint Lucia? Does this economic hardship amount to abuse? If yes, what should the people do or say to the abuser(s) now and in the next election?
His opponents first said Allen Chastanet is ‘white.’ They then questioned his academic qualifications but kept quiet about his high ranking managerial jobs experience. They laugh at his Creole (Kwéyòl) but they do not want Creole to spoil their children’s chances of passing Common Entrance English. They criticize his U.S. citizenship but they line-up to have their babies in the U.S., in England and even in Martinique – a department of France. What kind of hypocrites are these?
This assault on our sense of right and wrong can only be resolved by ‘real’ politics, not by ‘pappy show politics. Only real politics – and education – can help the people define and mould the state into something of beauty and value.