Is Montserrat Burdened By A Crisis Of Leadership Or A Lack Of Nationalism?

 Montserrat Culture

Jeevan Robinson

Release Date

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Montserrat is a land ripe with opportunity. For the creative mind and the budding entrepreneur, Montserrat can be a mecca for private enterprise to thrive. But alas, the island is not there yet and surveying the national landscape, one would not be amiss in postulating that a damning breeze moves within, holding back her progress.

In February, I shared some thoughts via a feature article on what I perceived to be innovative and transformational leadership. These thoughts were composed as I reflected on the raft of opportunity, and the leadership that I envision is required to ensure that Montserrat flourishes with opportunity.

In light of the No Confidence motion currently on the table to be debated on Tuesday, I was recently asked, What ails politics in Montserrat? Shock will no doubt take root for many if this motion of no confidence against the Premier gains any type of traction, but the debate will provide for good theatre nonetheless.

But what truly ails politics in Montserrat? Is it the much discussed one-man leadership style of the Premier in spite of the nine-member Legislative Council? Is it the desire of the island's leadership to unnecessarily influence the flow and perception of information? Is it as a result of chronic public disinterest due to their frustration with the political process? Is it fear of victimisation and loss of opportunity if one becomes too vocal? Or are Montserratians not nationalistic enough to fight for the greater good of the country rather than self-gratification and self-fulfilment?

I recall a Montserratian legislator making his views known to me with regard to Montserratians abroad not getting involved in the politics of the country. Astounded as I was to hear this, it did not offer a lasting shock to my system. I knew that if Montserratians, wherever they are currently residing, wanted to be heard on things Montserratian, his short-sighted view could not prevent it. It did, however, leave me wondering if it is a lack of nationalism that keeps more Montserratians, both local and abroad, from being more vocal on the issues that affect the future of our country. There appears to be a deep-seated political disconnect and I am enthralled to discover what is at the root of it.

I have read widely about the value of the works of great Montserratians such as W. H. Bramble, Bob Griffith, Austin Bramble, John Alfred Osborne, Dr. George Irish, Sir Howard Fergus, and other such notable characters who have contributed to the political landscape of Montserrat. Against the backdrop of their contributions, I have wondered why is it that greater numbers of Montserratians of vigour, great intelligence and social awareness have not presented themselves to the electorate for office?

Why is it that some people whom we know nationally to be citizens of value have not entered the fray of public office? What has kept them back? Is it that politics is not their cup of tea? Is it that they have skeletons in the closet that the process to election to public office would reveal? Is it that they feared the rebuke of the electorate? Or is it that they surveyed the landscape and saw that politics in Montserrat is a theatre of laughter and hubristic personalities?

We keep changing governments but the progress for Montserrat is still not truly representative of the much-touted potential and vision of those whom we elect and champion as being the right men for the job.' We give them time and, either through no fault of their own, through circumstances that are outside of their control such as our ever-present colonial controls, these persons perform below expectation.

Supporters of the current government will pour scorn on the previous statement but, even for a moment, let us take an honest look at the governance of our country as it stands. Let's briefly consider each member of the current parliament and ask ourselves: are expectations being fulfilled?

Is the Premier meeting expectations and delivering for our island in accordance with his much-heralded vast potential? Is the current state of Montserrat a reflection of his experience and vision?

Is Minister Kirnon's potential being demonstrated during his Legislative Assembly speeches, most known for rebuking Montserratians for wanting better for their island? We seem to hear more excuses from this Minister as to why we shouldn't and can't, more so than why we should and could.

Minister Taylor is a good fellow at heart I truly believe, but perhaps not suited at this juncture in our history, for the type of politician we require. Is he in a situation where his good intentions and hard work can't be noticed amidst the prevailing crises?

Minister Riley excited many with his modern and engaging outlook on governance, but the absence of tangible results has many commentators wondering if he has been silenced, or has his mojo deserted him?

Parliamentary Secretary Wade, I am still at a loss as to what his political philosophy is, frankly, and what exactly his role is. Maybe stepping away from under the Premier's shadow may help define him a bit more.

Parliamentary Secretary Osborne, has he purposefully been marginalised or is he silent for a purpose?

Honourable James is a good man but lacking in dynamism and fortitude to stand up and tell the government when they have erred.

Honourable Lewis is perhaps the most misunderstood politician in the history of Montserrat. He was dealt a rough hand, by his own doing some say. Whatever the cause, his absence from the day-to-day politics on island works to his disadvantage.

Honourable Romeo is man the Premier seems more favoured towards seeking to embarrass at every opportunity. Yet, his lone voice shines a mere glare on the ineffective opposition that exists in our Legislative process, but he must be commended for at least trying.

But our examination of the problem, Montserrat's true burden, does not end with looking at the personalities currently elected and holding political office. We must look inward to discover if the root of the issue is not a lack of nationalism, flourishing within us.

Many persons grumble behind closed quarters about the governing style of this current administration. The grumbling is largely anonymous and curtained. There are several rational and personal reasons for this. What really amazes me is that the general consensus seems to be that a politically-vocal Montserratian is in opposition of the government of the day or, even more astounding, is interested in pursuing political office. In some people's mind, an examination of policy and a tough questioning of rhetoric is an indication of dislike of the personality in question.

In my humble view, it is the nationalistic right of every citizen to call into question the actions, decisions and policies of those who have been elected to serve in political office. In the new Montserrat has our level of political debate and involvement degenerated to the point that you are labelled as being against those who hold political office if you speak contrary to the official policy line?

Those who are passionate about Montserrat's future ought to be vocal on the political, social and economic direction the island takes. Our democracy is relatively young (born in 1952) and those in political leadership must remember that one function of a democracy is that their actions will be scrutinised, their rhetoric will be thoroughly processed and examined and, where it is found wanting, there is a basic right to demand answers.

But do Montserratians, in large numbers, care enough to ask the tough questions or are we more inclined to bestow absolute power on those whom we elect?

What do you then say to the politicians who rule with impunity, when we allowed them to demonstrate contempt towards accountability and public scrutiny? What do we then say to young politicians who use the power and high office divested to them for personal gain, more inclined to enrich themselves and their friends whilst the national good suffers? Where is the nationalism when citizens do not stand up, speak up and demand a course correction?

There is no Shangri-la in politics. Politics can be brutal as well as it can be fulfilling. I would prefer to believe that people put themselves forward for political office because of an overwhelming desire to serve and contribute towards the national good. For what is political involvement, if not to make a change for the better? If the persons who are elected to govern are not improving the lives of all the people, or worst yet, if they are not seen to be overly concerned with the hardships the common man faces daily, then they are the wrong individuals for the jobs they hold. 

So, again I ask: What ails politics in Montserrat? Is it a leadership issue or we simply do not care enough to be bothered?

Image Credit To MNI Alive

Jeevan Robinson is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive, the Caribbean's global online marketing, news and information (MNI) media house.


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