|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 28 - Friday, August 13, 2002
||Castlebruce Ground Zero in the Next General Election
Just Where is Politics in Dominica Headed?
by: Dr. Emanuel Finn
The politics of the eastern agricultural and fishing constituency of Castle Bruce can be described as a mixed bag of surprises. This writer has always studied the politics, history, economics and social dynamics of this rural constituency very closely due to the fact that my dad left the red dirt of the Jalousie section of the village some fifty (50) years ago for a better life elsewhere. In addition, most of the political candidates during the last four elections have been closely related cousins.
In the 1995 general elections, Banana farmer Rome Bannis defeated his two opponents convincingly. What was interesting and hilarious were that the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) candidates were holders of doctorate degrees.
This illustrates the fact that in Dominica, and especially in the rural constituencies, the voters overwhelmingly vote for candidates who have been visible in the community and not necessarily the candidates that are far more qualified. Three (3) elections ago, the parliamentary representative for the constituency, the late Eden Durant, crossed over from the opposition DLP to the DFP government.
Today, with the crossing over of the UWP parliamentary representative, Hon. Lorraine Bannis-Roberts, to the government side, this writer believes that Castle Bruce has now becomes 'ground zero' in the political war and is a key battle constituency in the next elections.
This writer is also of the opinion that the party or coalition that forms the next government will have to capture Castle Bruce. While many applaud the courage, strengths of Ms. Bannis- Roberts, others are asking, did she betray her constituents, 'sold out' and ran when she decided to cross over from the UWP to the Coalition government?
In a telephone conversation with my cousin who hails from Castle Bruce, Dr. John Finn from his home just outside of Nashville, he said that "the decision by Ms. Bannis to join the government shows that she has admirable and highly respected levels of independent thinking and strength. Finn was unsuccessful as the DFP candidate in the Castle Bruce Constituency in the 1995 elections.
Finn who is a Tennessee State University professor and holds doctorate degrees in Theology and Education, also said, "Hon. Bannis decision could also mean political suicide".
He explained that "one important reason is due to the fact that the current political system in Dominica is based on entrenched party politics; it does not give representatives the room to do what is best for their constituencies and country".
He continued by saying that "if the government 'jump starts' the economy Bannis' chances of being reelected are good if she decides to defend her seat".
The fact is politicians and elected officials change political parties often all over the world in democratic societies.
One of Democratic President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense, Mr. William Cohen, served in the U.S House of Representatives for six years and in the Senate for eighteen years was a Republican from the state Maine.
The United States senator from the state of Colorado, a Cheyenne Indian, Ben NightHorse Campbell, left the Democratic Party and became a Republican shortly after arriving in Washington. A year ago Senator Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party and became an Independent.
His actions enabled the Democratic Party to gain control of the U.S. Senate. Understandably, some may have deep reservations about Hon. Bannis' decision to cross the aisle. Others may be asking, are these actions ethical and should they deserve to be called democratic?
These reservations and questions are both political as well as analytical. Not to admit this fact is to deny that that there is a crisis in our democratic institutions and system. This has an immense impact on the organization and structure of the social and political order.
Maybe the decline in popular party attachment, loyalty and disenchantment with the ever-consuming politics are an inevitable trend in Dominica today. It further more speaks to the loss of power and influence by the party leadership.
In the coalition government, DFP Member of Parliament, Hon. Baron openly challenges the DFP leader in the media. It was rumoured recently that a junior DLP MP was flirting with the crossing the aisle and joining the opposition.
These dynamics may be part of an irresistible development inherent in the nature of our younger politicians and it is shaking up our political system.
Does this landmark decision by Ms. Bannis mean that we will witness a decline in voter party identification or are we more likely to witness more undecided voters or abstainers in future elections?
Does it also mean that the political fights will become more intensive and the politics will become more polarized? Also, does it mean that contesting a constituency with a certain political party may be nothing more than a calculation of the odds of winning instead of party loyalty, beliefs or philosophy?
This speaks louder to the disturbing issue that our people should not let party politics continue to divide and use them and the country. During her media appearance shortly after her decision was made official, Hon. Bannis' implied that her decision to cross the aisle was based not on politics, but on listening to her constituents and trying to best address the needs and concerns of her constituency.
The message is to design the multiple economic and social forces and changes within our society at the beginning of a new century. Consequently, she has started the process of dismantling the partisan political machinery and explore a long overdue alternative vision.
The studious and serious arguments, discussions and debates that surround her courageous move should center on opposing political views, and ultimately an opposing view about traditional non-progressive politics and consequently, democracy.
One would hope that Ms. Bannis based her final decision on the convergence of excellent policy, good politics, and statesmanship and on the altruistic interests of her constituency and Dominica, rather than on political opportunism.
If this is the case, then she needs to be applauded as a pioneer who is helping to shake up an antiquated and unprogressive party system in Dominica. The question is: will other MPs on either side of the aisle follow Hon. Bannis actions in the future?
These dynamics that are occurring in Dominican politics speaks to the larger and fundamental question of "where do we go from here?". These dynamics have profound and sobering implications.
Twenty years ago no one would have thought that there would be a DFP/DLP coalition ( Freelab) government. Maybe in the next elections we could witness a Dominican Freedom Party and United Workers Party coalition (United we are free).
Or maybe there could be a Dominica Labour Party and United Labour Party coalition ( Labour United). Who knows? Politicians make strange bedfellows.
When all these mentioned coalition experiments have failed or succeeded, then maybe we will have a Dominica Freedom party, Dominica Labour Party and United Workers Party Coalition government (Dominica United Party -DUP).
It may take two decades or more and after several political skirmishes, agreements, disagreements and defections for this effort to be realized. It will also take younger, committed, passionate and highly professional and educated Dominicans to change that paradigm.
This far fetch idea reminds this writer of the late John Lennon hit song; "You can say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one". This endless and senseless finger pointing today among our politicians and elected officials cannot be allowed to continue. It impedes real development.
These politicians (leaders) need to talk to each other instead of at each other. We need to raise the bar of behavior, standards and professionalism among these public servants.
There desperately needs to be a political cease-fire in Roseau, and though out the country. There is a choice and chance to do so. The question that remains is whether there is the will. No, should not be an acceptable answer.