One of the things that make me feel embarrassed, sad and depressed about the October 27th referendum is the fact that once again Grenadians will be using symbols to vote.
Since Grenada was granted universal adult suffrage in 1951, voting using symbols has remained a virtual necessity. Symbols are usually necessary for voting in countries where there is a high degree of illiterate people, because then, a high proportion of voters are incapable of identifying the candidates’ names on the ballot paper.
In the so-called developed countries, such as Britain and Germany, people do not vote using symbols. However, here in the Caribbean, as far as I know, the only country where at present, party symbols are not included on the ballot paper is Barbados.
Political parties in the Caribbean have what should be regarded as some very unworthy symbols. In Jamaica, The People’s National Party (PNP) symbol is the clenched fist, and the symbol of the Jamaica Labour (JLP), the other main political party, is the bell (often referred to as the Liberty bell).
In Trinidad, the symbol of the People’s National Movement (PNM) is the balisier, a red flower, while the symbol of the United National Congress (UNC), the party of Kamla Bisessar is the rising sun.
Here in Grenada, I think it is high time we stop using symbols when we vote. It is high time we establish a timeframe within which we do what is necessary to make these symbols obselete. In doing so, we will be beginning a new era of development in Grenada’s history.
Literacy, to a great extent, always enhances a people’s mental and spiritual capacity, in areas such as creativity; inventiveness;economic, social and cultural achievements; self-appreciation and self-confidence.
If we are serious about capacity building as far as our human resource is concerned, we need urgently to expend more time and energy, to ensure that all of our people are at least functionally literate. Grenadians cannot continue to live in a pastime paradise. A more functionally literate and reading public will make this country a better paradise, a place in the sun where there will be much more hope for everyone.
Some time ago, when the late Barbadian Prime Minister, Mr. Errol Barrow, who is one of his country’s national heroes, journeyed to Britain to negotiate Barbados’ independence from that colonising country, to the People in the British Colonial office, he made this bold and courageous statement.
He told them that it was not his intention to continue to loiter on colonial premises. Today though, most Caribbean countries, even to some extent, Barbados, in one way or another continue to linger on colonial premises.
One very significant way in which this is seen is when twice a year – on the birthday of the Queen of Britain and at the beginning of each year – a few more of us gladly celebrate a “rise in status” by being included in the Queen’s honours list, for Knighthoods, OBE”s, MBE’s etc., from an “Empire” on which it seems ” the sun will never set”.
In 2009,the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines had a referendum to reform their independence constitution. At that event, they were presented with three laudable amendments to vote for. One of these was to lessen the powers of the Prime Minister, which would have seen some enhancement of the powers of the Opposition in Parliament. Another was to transform St. Vincent into a republic, by no longer having the British Queen as its head of state.
A third proposal was to have the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final Court of Appeal, in place of the British Privy Council.
But on one of the saddest days in Caribbean history, these history laudable evolutionary intentions got buried in the shifting sand of the present version of the party politics we subscribe to in the Caribbean.
Apparently, it seems almost impossible for our political parties to sink their differences to achieve laudable goals for the common good.
At present, here in Grenada we seem to be following the trend of the Vicentians as far as our referendum is concerned. Indeed, it appears that Barbados is the only country in the Caribbean where rivalry between political parties does not blind people from seeing the larger picture, of what is best for the nation’s good. This too I find very sad and depressing.