Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Bhms: Antigua's election reform lessons

It's a lengthy piece, a two-parter of which this is the first part. Makes for interesting reading.

Then there's this brief article which argues that because the U.S. is so big and important, and because Caricom nations can't afford to break with the U.S., Caricom countries should just roll over and play dead. In fact, those same two reasons are precisely why the Bahamas is showing the U.S. its soft belly.

I disagree with this editorialist's point of view because it is essentially the same cowardly, appeasing position as Michael Burke, of the Jamaica Observer. Personally, I find it quite distressing that this lack of testicular fortitude is spreading through the Caribbean. May such softness never go south towards T&T.

Caricom heads should assert themselves against the U.S., when there is just and principled cause for disagreement, and without fear of repercussions. However, and this is essentially where I differ from Caricom heads on the Aristide matter, there is not much point in Caricom going up against the U.S. out of pique, or out of distaste for a Republican president, or over an individual whose re-election Caricom itself found questionable. I fail to see how an election that Caricom found constitutionally questionable has suddenly been transformed into the impeachable.

Furthermore, Caricom has focused on only one aspect of the principle of democracy -- constitutional process -- while disregarding two other vital parts, rule of law and civil society. Elections are not a magic formula; they will bring an individual into power, but are insufficient to ensure that the two other legs of the democratic tripod remain intact. Instead of maintaining equilibrium between the three parts of the tripod, Caricom elevated one over the others and so demonstrated a lack of concern for the average Haitian. Moreover, Caricom's dissent, in spite of its mouse vs lion quality, is not admirable because it is based on a lie -- Aristide's that he was 'kidnapped' -- to which Caricom clings with an unbecoming tenacity.

Dissent? Most definitely. After all, a cat may look at a king, but the disagreement should be founded in that which is truly defensible.

Roll over and play dead, as this editorialist suggests? Never.

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