A small matter reminded me last week why I am not a member of any of the political parties in St. Kitts. It was the four-letter word RANT which the writer of the women’s page of the Democrat used to describe those who raised their voices in amazement at the nomination as Senator of Mr. Vincent Byron. People who rant are people who do not know what they are saying but who speak inconsistently and incoherently on matters in which they lack both authority and credibility. The voice of surprise at and criticism of the appointment was no rant. The thing caught everybody By surprise, except those who managed to pull that magical rabbit from beneath the hat. Even the writer who described the critics as ranters tied up herself in defense of the undefendable move to – By pass one of the vocal and active women who deserved the chance to give the women of the alternative party and voice in the national affairs of our island. I referred to the writer as a woman and it might very well be a single woman, waiting without testing the mind of her party’s fellow women, trying to do some damage control to a very stupid mistake. But someone ventured the opinion that the water of the women’s page might be a man I think I could argue endlessly why it was just right and proper for a woman to be the nominee. Women form the back bone of the party. They are just as intelligent as the men, can fashion an argument just as effectively as the men. As an outsider I was totally impressed at the last elections By the women and their show of fierce loyalty as they took left their homes and followed the party around to the many corners of our island. These women need a voice in the Representative chambers and the opportunity was allowed to pass for one woman’s voice to be heard. The rationale given for selecting Mr. Byron is, to say the least questionable. Now let me hasten to explain that I have nothing against Mr. Byron. Mr. Byron has not done me anything. I am not bitter against Mr. Byron. I have known Mr. Byron’s family ever since one of his older siblings was a ba By pushed around By his mother to and from the family home at the corner of Central and Market Streets. In 1957 his Dad, Vincent Sr, held the senior post of Community Development Officer and one of his major headaches was to find people in the various communities willing to lead. His biggest challenge was at Mansion where he could not even find a leader in that Small Village willing to organize a tree-planting Ceremony. One living person who would remember those far off days is Mr. Ronald Buchanan who worked in the department soon after he had retired from cricket. I was from Basseterre but lived in Molineux, taught at the Estridge branch of the Estridge Molineux School but Mr. Byron became so desperate to find some one to organize the tree-planting ceremony at Mansions that he virtually turned me into the village leader, and on the day of the ceremony, he his wife as well as two of his sisters- in law and a couple of friends from Basseterre were a conspicuous part of the audience. Since that time until late in his life, Vincent Byron Sr and I were mutually respectful of each other. All this is to say that I have no personal reason to contest the nomination of Vincent Byron (Sr) and on the contrary have every reason, based on my friendship with his father and later with his older brother Terrence, to applaud and support his nomination. The problem with me however, is that’s not the way my mind works. The basic reason as I see it why Mr. Byron was selected to the opposition seat in the Senate is that he served them brilliantly during the season of litigation between Denzil Douglas and the peoples Action Movement. His appointment was a reward for good work. To explain it any other way is to be down right disingenuous and like the writer of the women’s page in the Democrat do damage to the cause. The argument that Mr. Byron’s legal acumen will be useful in straightening the wrongs of the nation at the level of the National Assembly does not fly. There’s no way that an out numbered and fractured opposition could right wrongs By route of the National Assembly and there is no way legal brilliance on the part of the Opposition could make our crooked paths straight. Other wise mark Brantley with all his legal brilliace would have made a difference and Denzil Douglas would not have got away with all his shenanigans. The level of learning required to address a judge is far different from the requirements to address Speaker of the House. The way to break the Douglas monopoly on political leadership, is to change the structure of the legislative body, that is for the opposition to turn things around and unseat Douglas. The best way to ensure this is to groom new people to take over the leadership if the Party and eventually the transition from Douglas to a new dispensation. That’s the reason why it would have made sense to appoint somebody younger and to reconcile with destiny By challenging a woman to take on the mantle of leadership. Notwithstanding the arguments back and forth however I take umbrage at the use of the worse RANT to describe the conduct of those who dissent from the decision. The word RANT smacks of disrespect and scorn for an opposite point of view. This is the same the issue I have had with the Party into which I was born. It was the same trouble my father had with the pioneering leadership of the Labour movement. Although political parties in our neck of the woods present a profile of democracy and pleasant comradeship, the truth is that they are led By a few who make the decisions. Often they make bad decisions because they do not appeal outside of the tight cabal for a second opinion. Even when it is obvious that a certain move was bad, the high hand of discipline is raised against the helpless supporters to always keep them in line. A Classic illustration of this enslavement of followers By an ostensibly democratic movement can be drawn from the after math of the long strike in 1948. The idea of cutting cane By the line instead of By the ton was the demand of the Trade Union then led By Robert Bradshaw. Many workers did not agree and refused to participate in the strike. When the strike ended after three full months, economic devastation followed and many people had to hurry and migrate to seek salvation. The strike had failed and the workers had to cut the rest of the crop By the ton. Now the strike proved to be a wrong decision and those who refused to participate were therefore right. Yet they were tried at Masses House andfaced with the alternative of Suspension from the Union. This broke the spirit of many But those who felt that they had the right to follow the dictates of their consciences left the Union. The union could not tolerate dissenting voices. In 1973 Robert Bradshaw made a speech to a youth organization to which he remarked on the recurring situation in the sugar Industry when the people of St. Kitts registered their first sustained rebellion against the culture of the sugar cane field. He noted the reluctance of Kittitians to cut cane and declared that By the hook or the crook the cane will be cut. Looking back over the years I have learnt that Mr. Bradshaw’s utterances always had a double meaning. What he may have meant then was that if Kittitians and Nevisians won’t cut the cane, he would bring in Bajans, Lucians, and Guyanese to cut them. I launched a sustained and relentless attack on the Sugar Industry, predicting, based on my knowledge of Economics and Accounting, that it would collapse in a matter of years. This made me a pariah of the Labour Party which could not tolerate my dissent. This sounds bad for the 1970’s but St. Kitts has not moved one step since then. To fall out with a political leader all you have to do is express a different opinion and hold your point, as my father used to tell me. It is sad that in neither of the two parties can one hold an unpopular opinion without being scorned or derided and eventually demonized if he/she persists in his/her different opinion.
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