THE process of debate offers profound and lasting benefits for individuals, for societies and for the global community as a whole. With its emphasis on critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork, debate teaches skills that serve individuals well in school, in the workplace, in political life and in fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens of democratic societies.
When the public is privy to debates then the electorate is better able to critically examine the pronouncements of their political representatives and other leaders, thereby meaningfully enhancing their ability to make informed judgments about crucial issues.Therefore Abetta Country believes in associating this column with the call by other commentators and the general populace who have demanded the same. Leaders of today must also appreciate that as higher learning has become more accessible, the interrogation of all the issues impacting on the society has firmly cemented its place. This is the information age technologically and literally.
Close scrutiny of the performance of government officials has become the order of the day in other countries and this trend will soon be fully adapted here. People want to know and to be kept in the know.
Therefore those who wish to represent them need to be willing to account. If they are not willing to be held accountable and to account to a national audience then they should not get into politics at the “vote for me” level. The consensus is that it is time candidates representing the major parties meet head to head in live televised debates in the presence of a watchful national audience. It is time debates become the hallmarks of political campaigns.
Granted, we have heard some positive inkling that debates will be embraced by Saint Lucian politicians – yet we wonder, will it ever truly happen? It definitely should happen ahead of the run up to the next general election so that the entire populace can be afforded an opportunity to engage in such a beneficial exercise. The benefits of debating as highlighted by Ghandie’s quotation sets the stage for honest disagreement. This is a sore and contentious area for Saint Lucians, who over the years have been enculturated to attack and disregard honest disagreement on its merits but on mainly the narrow basis of party affiliations and loyalties. This is an attitude that can probably be diffused when a national audience can consistently see their leaders and exemplars respectfully agreeing to disagree.
It is also time to make the process more educational. Students ought to be able to observe the proceedings to learn about leadership and deportment, debating skills, how viewpoints are expressed, how to argue constructively and what are the key policy positions that are being upheld by various candidates and parties.
For the candidates this is an invaluable opportunity to convince the general public that they are logical and informed thinkers, who are alert and open –minded, empathetic people well versed with the Saint Lucian reality. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that they can work under pressure. Immense pressure will likely confront candidates who successfully move to assume governmental positions in the future and incidentally many voters are on the lookout for the qualities of “backbone” and “gonads” as favoured traits in their political leaders. These indicators, once well sold well, may achieve a “quick sell” for the candidates who can sometimes speak their way right into the hearts of the people. The Saint Lucian public is aware that one who debates effectively is not necessarily one who can govern effectively. That being said the electorate wants to be privy to evaluating prospective candidates in more sophisticated, diverse and transparent ways than obtained before. They deserve the chance to see democracy grew. Who will be first?