Friday, April 25, 2008

Dominica's Political Problem

From the time when Dominica was given self-rule and entered into Associated Statehood with Britain, the political management of the country has been tottering. The British colonial masters, weary that our new found leaders may not have been ready to take over the reins, kept judicial control in London through the Privy Council and administrative control through Governors appointed by Her Majesty!

Associated Statehood soon came to be seen as token independence and it was not long before all former British Island colonies clamoured for the real thing - total independence. Having been weened into the British parliamentary system on which our Constitution is based, Dominica entered full force into party politics which the British practised successfully for centuries. Who could doubt that the 'party system' was the be-all and end-all of all political systems?

History will record, however, that the practice of party politics in Dominica has left much to be desired! The division of the electorate into parties has served to truly divide the country into bitter camps. Such bitterness is not the result of opposing political philosophies, nor is it because of conflicting manifestos, but of an insipid, personal animosity by party members for those of opposing parties. Questions of colour, occupation, family background, level of education, lifestyle and even place of residence take priority over the real issues of the economy.

Canvassing has become a spectacle in character assissination, referred to as mépuis in the local vernacular. This style of debate is carried into the House of Representatives where members invoke 'parliamentary' freedom of speech! One only has to research Hansard during the Patrick John regime to appreciate the sordid depths to which party politics have sunk our nation.

So, what is the nature of our political problem? Simply put, our problem in Dominica, which is similar throughout the Caribbean islands, particularly the small, unsophisticated economies like Dominica, is the party system. It was inherited (or more accurately, imposed on us) from our colonial past. It is a system which works well in large developed countries and which the British assumed would do the same in small developing, former colonial territories. The record proves that assumption totally wrong.

We all agree on the following two (2) major shortcomings - there are others - that limit or define our political system:

  1. Dominica's population of 75,000 is too small to support a sophisticated British parliamentary system
  2. Dominica's resources, both economic and human, are too scarce to be embroiled in divisive partisanship.

Under the circumstances, I have proposed what has been called a "Non-Party" system of government.

  • That means the absence of partisanship in our political management.

  • This does NOT mean a one-party system but the total exclusion of parties altogether!

  • This means Representatives will be voted in, as presently, by the people they represent and no longer through a party.

  • This means Parliament will be governed by the Representatives of the people and no longer by the party in power. There will be no official Opposition.

  • This means Representatives will owe allegiance to the people they represent and no longer to their party.

  • This means the House of Representatives will be a House united by the will of the people and no longer divided along party lines.

  • This means each Representative will be guided by conscience and the interests of the nation and no longer by the dictates of his/her party.

These are only some of the advantages to be derived from a Non-party system. There is no sophistication in such a system.

Imagine, if you can, the present Members of Parliament becoming one body by shedding their 'party' yokes. Would there be room to "cross the floor"? Would there be room for 'party' bribery and corruption? Would there be room for rancour and mépuis? Would there be room for nepotism and self-interest?


© Raglan E. Riviere, B.Sc.(Soc), M.H.A.

1 comment:

shirley allan said...

This is a great piece Rags, ensure that it has a wider circulation. I had never seen it before! Great I tend to agree. However,it would be a daunting task to get this implemented in Dominica.