Volume No. 2 Issue No. 12 - Monday September 10, 2007|
Character Assassination, the Election Campaign that Never Stops
and Hurricane Dean
By Gabriel Christian
Dominica has, for several years now, been burdened by a negative media barrage which has done nothing to advance national development. The latest "Land Scandal" involving Prime Minister Skerrit has been elevated to that of national priority despite the need to focus on post Hurricane Dean reconstruction. Before that was the issue of his absence during the storm; for which he has since apologized, graciously.
Prime minister Skeritt
All parties must consider that what is being bred now is culture which ill serves the country. There can be no development where partisan fissures remain after elections are over and little is done to solidify common development effort.
That tendency to avoid any duty to involvement in national development projects which bring all Dominicans together is seen in a media which in its irresponsibility has adopted the worst features of the scandal seeking US tabloids. Talk is indeed cheap; and the quality of talk mostly heard even more cheapening.
A few points:
1. Transparency: We require adoption of the Integrity legislation and a Civic Code to inform every political leader, civil servant and citizen that good governance is required - in or out of office. That Code should not simply focus on anti-corruption and conflict of interest principles, but commit all political parties and citizens to pledge involvement in nation building. Simply put it is proper that all sides agree that the rules need to be established and complied with to prevent any appearance - or existence - of impropriety.
Let the law courts handle any matter where PM Skerrit is deemed to have stolen money or used his political office for personal gain. However, let us not character assassinate the Prime Minister - or anyone for that matter - based on conjecture, speculation, or innuendo. It is dishonest and counter-intuitive to have someone prove a negative. Nonetheless, this episode is a salutary lesson that all public figures must be cognizant that our culture is one which abhors corruption and our most beloved leaders were selfless and not self serving.
2. Media Reform: We need our talk radio and TV to adopt a focus on education re science, financial affairs, health care, agriculture, and environmental protection so that listeners are wiser after listening to programs. when do hear from teachers, farmers or fishermen as opposed to party-political actors? The focus is lopsided in favor of constant drama and a paucity of deliberative/informative effort. The collaborative media collective seen on DBS during Hurricane Dean by Matt Peltier, Ferdinand Frampton and the other DBS regulars such as Charmaine Green etc. was an excellent start. But do we need a Hurricane Dean to force such unified effort?
Much of what is heard on Dominican radio today is negative, vituperative, and scandalous. Who is doing the work of development? The US promoted talk radio, but it is a productive society where most people are not hostage to talk radio. Most people work and the country produces. What do we produce now? How many shows focus on business development or what we can do to help each other? In Dominica, everyone seems hostage to the incessant din of negativity. That unproductive practice and anger that we partake of, or foment, will devour any sense of civility in the land. We need civility where we are to build the country.
3. Koudmen: In the post-slavery era the mass of Dominicans assisted each other through cooperative effort. The Credit Union movement found fertile ground in that culture of cooperative effort and was able to thrive. It is not the case that the "crab" mentality and personal jealousy won out. It is true that such backbiting and "crabism" existed but our cooperative spirit triumphed over it.
Now is the time to again harness that Koudmen cooperative spirit for development. If we do not we will simply become another failed state, many of which litter the globe, where their people were unable to find healthy methods to mediate conflict and work together. We need to embrace a more meditative and collaborative culture where all feel they can play a part.
It would be good to see our political leaders, from all sides, building a clinic or repairing a damaged road. Such united productive endeavor would do well for the soul of the country.
4. Those Who Sow the Wind will Reap the Whirlwind: Allegations of Chinese passport sales and other unethical behavior was leveled against the UWP. No case, to my mind, was ever called. It is fair to say that resentment over those charges now fuel a sentiment that "what is good for the goose is good for the gander." So be it. However, we should all know where we constantly engage in such infighting we will never succeed in building or uniting the county.
The next election is in 2010. All Dominican parties and partisans should await the poll, unless the government has shown an inability to rule justly. There is no cogent, actionable evidence, that the current government is ruling unjustly. Where such evidence exists, then let us have due process of law handle such matters through the courts. We are nation of laws and due process and not mob rule. In the meantime, let us work together, productively. The tasks completed would speak louder than a thousand talk shows.
I call on Dominicans to reflect at this time, and focus on the rebuilding of our country after the ravages of Dean. We will all be better off for it.