Appreciating the value of political health versus the price of political disease

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, 1948.

Over the past month, so much has changed for me and this beloved Federation. I have become immersed on Facebook, SKNList and on this blog in bringing to light issues of national importance like the high prevalence of cancer, hemodialysis, healthy lifestyles, putting principles above party, detribalisation, and most important of all, the idea of a new people-centered bottom-up approach to governance as introduced to us by Dr. Sharon-ann GoPaul-McNichol. What I have not addressed thus far is the pressing issue of the vote or lack thereof of the Motion of No Confidence (MONC), and the effect it is having on the mental, social and physical wellbeing of our nation. We are at a crossroads right now, and I acutely sense that what happens next will have consequences for our nation for decades and generations to come. It is with this recent awareness, that I sense an immense responsibility to enter the debate now, and see if there is something I can contribute that may help both sides of the conflict navigate their deliberations so that we can bring about the least amount of harm, be it mental, social and physical, to the least number of people.

We have to ask ourselves several questions. What is the Motion of No Confidence, and why is it important? Why is it even in the Constitution? Was it put there for the benefit of the people in power, or was it put there to give power to the people, when they sense, via their representative parliamentarians, that the people in power are abusing or misusing that power? A most compelling answer is provided by p.4

“Rodney Brazier has effectively highlighted the fundamental constitutional importance of confidence motions:

The real significance of the general requirement that a government retain the confidence of the House of Commons is not in the rare loss of a vote of confidence or in the somewhat more frequent legislative defeat, but rather that it obliges every government to defend itself, explain its policies, and justify its actions, to its own back-benchers, to the opposition parties, and through them to the country as a whole.

In this light, the MONC is one of those checks and balances that ensures that when legislation is being passed that have major consequences for the people, and they perceive a miscarriage of justice in their midst, they have it within their powers to demand that the government “defend itself, explain its policies and justify its actions”. This is the ultimate transparency and accountability clause that serves as the bedrock to good parliamentary governance, and to make excuses to avoid the right of the people to understand the consequences of the decisions that are made on their behalf, is the ultimate miscarriage of justice any nation can suffer.

The MONC is not an attack on a person or a party, but an attempt to give the government a chance to explain for the record its policies and actions in the most civilised manner in an environment in which the whole nation’s eyes and ears can be focussed. It is here where both sides present the best arguments for and against those policies and actions, and at the end of the day, they let the cards fall where they may. No matter what the outcome, the country would be better off as the government would have succeeded or failed in making their case, and the reasons why would be transparent for all to see. That is a true democracy at work which all of us can be proud of, but what is happening now is putting all of us to shame.

In my profession, we learn about cancers that outgrow the checks and balances and consume the resources of the organs from which they arise. They then metastasize to other organs, impoverish the body, and eventually lead to death. Likewise, in our body politics, a cancer is in our midst. It is growing more powerful, has consumed and is consuming vast resources in the highest organ of that body, metastasizing to the other organs such as the civil services, our families and our communities, and we are all becoming impoverished for it. Although many in the diaspora and at home look around and see physical health and proclaim it as proof of accountability of policy, let us not forget the mental and social diseases we have accumulated in its stead.

It is not too late, and I do not think we have passed the point of no return. Let it be said by the next generation, that when the occasion arose, the leaderships of the country, be they the incumbents, the oppositions and the guardians of these leaderships, ALL arose to the occasion, to nurse us back to political health, as we recuperated from this political disease that has threatened and is threatening to tear us apart. We have paid a high price for this political disease. It is now time to appreciate the value of political health.

May God speed be with the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis!!