I remain hopeful that the politics of change can bring about the promised results so touted on the political platform when those who aspired towards honourable office bared their souls for the almighty vote. A person's vote is a powerful gift to any political aspirant, considering the power and influence it transfers to that individual.
In the same breath that we look towards politicians for change and leadership, we have also got to be introspective and ask ourselves this question; if the development we crave eludes us, or is executed inefficiently and suspect, then who must we blame - the ruling politicians or ourselves for inaction on the critical issues that concerns Montserrat's future?
The cyclical arguments that we have, I firmly believe, are doing Montserrat a massive disservice. It is not that we should not have these debates; I advocate robust discussion at every avenue. However, my ultimate question always is, what is the takeaway? What action will we as citizens enact to see the change we want happen?
In many ways, I remain wary of the overarching dependence on political leaders to bring us the development we desire. We talk profusely over the years about the leadership of the Hon Reuben T Meade. We stare in disbelief at the other Ministers of government for inaction. We question the Parliamentary Secretaries for absorbing a questionable modus operandi. In the final analysis though, it remains that they are all individuals elevated from our community on the basis of the promises they made to us.
Here is where, in my observations and analysis, we as nationals and citizens are failing Montserrat, and that is in holding those elected officials to account.
As a journalist, I am steeped in the doctrine of political accountability. My stance on such has found acute distaste with some politicians and operatives who assumed that because of friendship, critical analysis of policy positions should have been parked in favour of blind support. A disagreement on policy is not a dislike of personality. We must differentiate.
Montserratians globally have to seek a better day for Montserrat. Or is it that the interest is not there en masse? As I write, the thought strikes me that we have been here before. We have had this discussion prior. But what do we do? Hand over the future of our island to autocratic decision-making practices whilst we sit back and grumble at the state of affairs? It is for the people of Montserrat to make their voices heard in droves, that the future is not for politicians to cock up and carve for their friends and favour as they see fit.
It is for the people of Montserrat to ask the tough questions that after '300 million spent from the inception of the volcanic crisis, where is the massive development on the ground to correlate? Wastage we have often heard is inherent within the system. If this is indeed fact, then what measures are being enforced to curtail waste?
We have heard that the monies are being spent on highly paid consultants from abroad who see their time on Montserrat as an extended holiday in the sun with a nice villa, a rental to see the sights, and a sample of our goat water and bush rum. What I wish to know is, for those of us who moan at this wastage, how aggressively have we the people made our voices heard that we want Montserratians first to be sought for these consultancies? Or have we largely sat back and bemoaned the same thing over and again.
A Montserrat first policy is not hard to enact. Montserrat will only progress with the power of the people coming down in force on those that lead our land.
I often ask a question, of all the millions that the Department for International Development has spent on Montserrat, where are the new millionaires and successful young business success stories? Line them out and present them to us so we can see and celebrate the progress our people are making in elevating their positions. Instead, what appears when I speak to people on the ground are repetitive stories of rising food costs, added tariffs, suspect tendering processes, victimisation for daring to speak out, no salary increases, hardships for working class families, less and less disposable income for families. These are some of the real issues on the ground affecting the people, yet some wish for those to be ignored and not discussed.
Change does not have to be in running for political office. Civic groups affect more meaningful change outside of politics than from within is my belief, and this is done by actively analysing policy, asking the tough questions, holding our leaders to account and seeking new paradigms to contribute to the development process.
Premier Rueben T Meade is the best man for the job so goes popular thought and opinion. I additionally comment that The Honourable Premier does not, and neither will he have all the answers. He needs help and must be open towards receiving help. His leadership, if he seeks to run again for elected office, needs a radical shift in incorporating ideas outside of his circle. He must hold true, and will be thoroughly examined on his once often repeated ideal of allowing all ideas to contend. I believe he meant it but perhaps may have lost sight of it. We the people should seek to guide the leadership back towards it.
Montserrat will thrive by accepting that the people too have a say in how Montserrat grows - not only at election time, but also throughout the entire process of development. The level of our political discourse requires a shift to the upside of more inclusiveness.
We as Montserratians must ask, if Montserrat does not realise its true development potential who is really to blame? Surely, I would say not the politicians, or the Premier. We the people must take our patriotism from our lips into action.