Whether you believe that the political manifesto of a political party is its intent to rollout certain policies if elected or that it is a social contract becomes an exercise in semantics. It is currently the preferred option which political parties have to outline a set of promises which they hope – if elected – to implement. In a growing democracy the electorate should have a reasonable expectation that a political party’s record over time should demonstrate the level of credence given to manifesto promises.
What is reprehensible is that with 10 days left to the 21 February 2013 both political parties continue to withhold manifestos (proposals) from the electorate as if it were a big secret. This is happening at a time when our tiny island continues to face unprecedented challenges posed by the global state of affairs. Both major political parties obviously see political tactics and gamesmanship being more relevant. What does it say about us?
Until we achieve a higher level of maturity how we conduct political campaigns in Barbados the current reality which see political parties entertaining the party faithful and others looking for a good laugh will continue. Why would an intelligent electorate, and society, not demand from the candidates that they communicate their proposals to inform debate in the country well in advance of the election date? If ever there was a time in our history when we needed our politicians to depart from the same old same old the time is now surely. What does it say about us?
One is therefore left to ask, what has been the objective of the political campaigning so far? If both political parties and the handful of Independents have the national interest at heart, why not rush to deposit well articulated ideas and suggestions in the public space? The corn beef style of campaigning described which served a purpose in the 60s and 70s cannot be relevant now. The irony is that more people, especially the youth, are becoming so cynical about politics and giving up their right to participate in our democracy? We have sunk billions into educating our people yet a significant chunk of our citizenry do not feel compelled to fully participate in our system of democracy. What does it say about us?
One manifesto item that will be of high interest to BU is how will both parties outline a media policy. This is a subject which is dear to the BU household. BU was conceptualized and given birth at a time when we detected deep hostility by Arthur and cohorts directed at the media in the 2006 to 2007. In an information age it is evident significant institutional strengthening is required in the area of journalism and a supporting framework. Both parties should explore how resources can be strategically targeted at this segment which does not compromise its independence. It is 2013 and there is no vibrant body to represent media practitioners. What does it say about us?
Instead of discussing issues we have to witness politicians on both sides hurling abuse and otherwise vacuous statements at each other. However, in less than two weeks they will dress up in their finest Italian suits and enter the august chamber of parliament to assume the mantle of lawmakers. What does it say about us?