It has always been said that politics is a very dirty game.
It has also been said that politics is a very dangerous game.
In the general definition we are told that politics is about decision-making. In any given society politics is about the way in which the resources are shared; who gets what.
Party politics is about particular groups competing for the right to govern the country. Party politics may well not have been intended to be the type of viciously dangerous game that we now know it to be. But we live in an unfortunate reality where the spoils that are up for grabs are such that the contesting groups adopt an approach that suggests no holds barred.
Promises are made and hardly ever kept except perhaps in the political prattling of the very ones who make them.
The electorate is called upon to judge the contesting political parties on issues. Unfortunately in the Caribbean we have allowed issues to take a back seat as we allow ourselves to be taken in by the charisma of an individual, the designated political leader, who then translates victory for the party into a personal achievement that often leads to a kind of authoritarianism that borders on dictatorship that threatens the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
The sport vote
Elections are due in St Vincent and the Grenadines any time soon. Some analysts claim that the current leader is shrewd enough to recognise that the political ground has shifted significantly in the opposite direction. The options left include among other things, major changes in the constituency boundaries and finding ways to recapture the youth vote akin to what transpired in 2001.
The youth vote is inextricably linked to the sport vote.
Political parties have long since come to the realisation that essentially the electorate is split in such a way that the two major ones each has a core of support that really does not change much, whichever way the elections go. Then there is what many perceive to be the floating vote. This latter relates to those who are not hard core committed to any political party but who are swayed by any of a number of factors in any given general elections. It is the floating votes that political parties spend much of their resources trying to attract.
Many analysts perceive the youth vote as the most critical component of the floating vote and within this grouping, the sport vote assumes major significance. This is the reason that contending political parties engage in so many activities aimed at convincing the youths that they are keenly interested in their well-being.
In the campaign for the youth vote in the 2001 general elections the ULP produced a youth manifesto. The nation’s youths were promised many things, several of which have really not impacted in any significant way the lives of the nation’s youths. The latter are still in a state of social flux. They are not being provided with the best of examples from the leadership they have around them.
In respect of sports, the youths were promised, before anything else, a national stadium that would service both track and field athletics and football. Of course this has long since been a dream of many of the nation’s successive generations of youths and all would have endorsed the project with their vote. This undertaking was enough to have attracted the growing number of youths who see football as their sport of choice – the nation’s most popular sport.
Of course other things were promised in sport but none of the order of importance of the national stadium.
The national stadium
The national stadium was one of the key elements of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) in the elections campaign of 2000/1. It was, as already mentioned, the main feature of the organisation’s campaign aimed at capturing the youth vote.
Immediately following the elections victory the ULP set about establishing a National Stadium Committee. This Columnist has repeatedly chronicled the events thereafter.
Some things have taken place with the work of the Stadium Committee that perhaps need explanation. Of course, the Vincentian public has not always been privy to all of the activities of the Committee and therefore they are not duly apprised of all that has taken place. This is one of the problems with some government projects. The work is not always made public so when things happen the public is not appropriately in the know.
It may well have been in the public’s interest to glean an understanding of precisely what caused the intervention of ARUP when a local company has already done the design for the stadium.
The public may well have wanted an explanation for one company being invited to evaluate the work of another and later be contracted to do the very work that the former had been contracted to do in the first place.
One got the distinct impression that the approach of the current government has been that it was not prepared to go it alone in respect of funding the national stadium. This is not at all understandable.
It is difficult to understand why, if the ULP thought the national stadium a priority for youths in this country, it would not literally do whatever it deemed necessary to ensure its realisation.
What we witnessed, was an almost total reliance on the Libyan government. The political leadership of this country apparently failed to understand international politics. They failed to appreciate that at the time that the Libyans were seemingly prepared to facilitate perceived politicians in the region and elsewhere; to assist seeming left-leaning political parties and governments across the globe, only and in so far as it remained outside the embrace of the advanced industrialised nations of the world, led by the USA and the United Kingdom. Once the Libyans capitulated to the pressure from the aforementioned and accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie affair, the leadership of that country seemingly had little time for minions like St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Not surprisingly therefore we lost the funding for the national stadium. The ULP administration left Libya as the funding source for the project for many years even though no money came beyond the initial $1.5m USD. One wonders whether this was by way of seeking to trick the youths who voted for the regime or to simply confuse the Vincentian masses.
The fact is that the national stadium project fell down the totem pole that was the political agenda of the ULP administration and this in rapid-fire time. The reason proffered several years later and in the second term of the ULP administration was the priority of the international airport and that following the latter’s completion the equipment used in the construction process would be available for the work on the sports facility.
World Cup Cricket infrastructure
But politics is a very dangerous game and the interests of the politicians are always subject to change as they perceive from their own vantage point what would prove attractive to the masses. It is in this light that one must see the inexplicable resources diverted to the development of cricket infrastructure for what we still argue were goat cook matches in the lead up to Cricket World Cup 2007.
Several Caribbean countries with better facilities and more resources apparently lacked the interest in hosting the same set of matches. They understood the worthlessness of the undertaking. For some as yet inexplicable reason this country expended millions on facilities for the events, which proved entirely useless. More than this, the facilities were essentially poorly done, for the most part and have only been adequately addressed in the recent past with the employment of Lauren Baptiste as the Operations Manager at the National Sports Council. Baptiste has been able to achieve significantly more in respect of the development of the playing fields around this country with much less resources than that which was made available to the Local Organising Committee for the Cricket World Cup 2007.
To this day, one remains uncertain of the real reason for the government’s excessive expenditures for CWC2007.
One can of course raise questions about the political affiliation of several of the individuals who constituted the Local Organising Committee. One may also wish to raise questions about the influential factor(s) that led to the change of the yellow in the seats intended to allow for the national colours to be displayed in the seating arrangements to red, the colour that has been associated with the ruling political party in the country.
One may also consider possible questions about the work done on the river defence near Arnos Vale #2 and behind the newly constructed double-decker stand at Arnos Vale #1 which collapsed and had to be repaired in time for the goat cook matches, and the costs involved. However, answers to such questions are not likely to come any time soon.
One is left wondering what may have motivated the government to find millions of dollars for CWC2007 when the national stadium as the priority project sold to the youths of this nation in the 2000 manifesto. At the time CWC2007 was not even being considered. The government may well not have known of such an undertaking.
The return of the national stadium
We are now into elections mode. The ULP administration is in dire need of a third term in office and it seems that any and every thing goes. After several years off the political radar, it now seems prudent for the ULP to revive the national stadium project. Letters have apparently been circulated to persons invited to serve on the Stadium Committee.
There now seems an urgent need for the national stadium to be placed on the political front burner of the ULP administration. Indeed political value of this project is such a priority today that it appears every effort is being made to actually start some construction work at Diamond to once more convince the youths and sportspeople of St Vincent and the Grenadines of the ULP’s love for and commitment to them.
Such is the nature of Vincentian party politics that the ruling regime seems intent on suddenly accessing resources that should have been accessed nearly a decade ago, to hastily begin work on the national stadium.
Of course, the action is once more essentially party political rather than national in nature. The concept of consultative democracy that facilitates the participation of those possessive of the sport-specific expertise remains an issue that the Vincentian electorate would evaluate in the fullness of time. Suffice it to say here that once more the politicians believe that youths and more particularly, sportspeople, are fickle and frivolous and that they can be tricked into political partisanship to deliver a vote at general elections by throwing something they long needed before their eyes after having set them up over the years.
It has always been said that politics is a very dirty game.