"Terrorists?" "Al-qaida?" What next?
Just as I was about to quit the kitchen, seeking refuge from the consuming heat, and leave the cooking of a new Dominica to Mr. Anthony Astaphan and his disciples, something else broke out in the Media that forced me to reconsider. Should I continue to endure stove and oven at full blast or withdraw now from the fray and face a blazing furnace next year? The violent outburst of Mr. Lennox Lawrence, in celebration of the judgments handed down from the Court of Appeal, his naming of the terrorists that are Dominicans and his open threat of reprisals have whispered to me "Don't go yet" for, worse than the inflammatory utterances, have been the attempts to excuse them on the grounds "they did it too", by citing occasions when the words "terrorism" and "terrorists" had been used innocuously by the leadership of the United Workers Party. All this, for me, was too much, and shook me out of a self-imposed silence that had not even properly begun.
I have had occasion before to caution against the tendency in political discussion to justify wrongdoing on the pretext that "they did it too", an argument which, to all right-thinking people, must be rejected as both specious and puerile, and as insulting to them as it is contemptuous of the rest. It plays havoc with our moral compass and opens the door to exonerating all kinds of enormities on the excuse that they do not matter because "it has happened before". But two wrongs (or two and twenty) have never made one right.
To denounce one's fellow-citizens publicly as a "terrorists" because they dared to investigate, oppose, harass or even torment the leadership of the political party you happen to support is both irresponsible and dangerous. Not all in your audience, visible and invisible, were so blessed with your sophistication as to recognize that it was only your rhetoric and it was not intended to be taken literally or seriously. On the contrary, your over-blown, over-heated oratory was a demand on your audience to take you seriously; and it is precisely that kind of inflammatory language, repeated often enough, that invariably ushers in the wave of atrocities that you probably never intended or anticipated while you happily excited yourself with your rabble-rousing.
Furthermore, when that kind of irresponsible utterance finds hospitality and endorsement in the dominant religious group, it is no longer political showmanship that confronts us, but the classic combination of Church and State that paves the way to persecution and repression, in the confidence that, to engage in acts of violence and intimidation against the other side is to do God a service. I therefore view these developments in Dominica with the utmost seriousness. Today they are called "terrorists". Yesterday, when I was a little boy in the town of Portsmouth, I used to hear the names that were called "lougaroos", one of whom was Mr. N.E.B. Watty, my father, the other (if Tony Astaphan has not heard yet) was Mr. A.A. Baron. The day before yesterday in the fervent heat of the Counter-Reformation, they were called "heretics", and it was that same kind of violent language, name-calling and demonizing that sanctified the massacre of the Huguenots (French Protestants) at La Rochelle on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1572 and condemned a venerable Archbishop of Canterbury, other bishops, eminent divines and lay people in England to burning at the stake when they would not return to Rome. You demonized them first, and when they would not repent or relent, you exterminated the demons. The context, the trappings and the dates may have changed but, apparently, the uncouth language, the animal instincts and the inhuman spirit are still alive and well. Indeed, I am now not sure who is the terrorist and who is doing the terrorizing. I am therefore asking to Mr. Lawrence and all his kind to desist from this nonsense now before it spreads any further, and everyone has to say, in the aftermath of the mayhem, how sorry they are. "Tua, culpa, tua culpa, tua maxima culpa".
Whatever might be your private views of a political opposition, it happens to be an important and integral component of our Parliamentary democracy and a Party in the ascendancy is not at liberty to demonize members of the Opposition Party, openly and with impunity, with the stated intention of eliminating them. Mr. Lawrence should be made to realize that he crossed the line, and should now do the proper thing - withdraw his statements with a public apology. To equate the Political Opposition with Al-Qaida is not merely unacceptable. It is dangerous nonsense. Our system of Government has recognized the need for, and the legitimacy of, an official opposition. It is a provision that is firmly entrenched in our Constitution. The Opposition, therefore, does not exist or function at the pleasure or behest, or for the comfort, of the Party that, for the time being, happens to hold the reins of Government, and the Government has no power of itself to dictate the scope, the limits or the level of the opposition with which they must contend. Mr. Lawrence is therefore well advised to take greater precaution, and make the effort, to keep his tantrums under control whenever, in the future, he lifts up his voice in public.
For, whether he likes it or not, there will always be an opposition in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Take all of the 21 seats in 2014, and the opposition will continue in the Media. Shut down all the Media Houses and the opposition will erupt in the streets. Then what are you going to do? Despatch the National Guard? Hose down the opposition? Tear Gas them down? Baton them down? Gun them down?
Mr. Prime Minister, let me appeal to you. Please put a full stop to this madness that is overtaking your Party spokesmen who have become so trapped in their fanaticism that they now seem quite incapable of controlling themselves. Apparently, they can no longer engage in political discussion without descending to intemperate speech and personal abuse. Clearly, it is an infection that has caught, has spread and is spreading and, unless it is contained, there is no telling where it will reach by the time the date for the next General Election is announced or the results are declared. Happily, I can vouch for you, Sir, from my few and brief personal encounters, that I have not discerned in your demeanor any trace of, or inclination to, arrogance or intolerance. If there is an attribute that has impressed me, it has been your humanity, your affability, your courtesy and your engaging friendliness. When I tell people of the spontaneous act of kindness, helpfulness and courtesy, which you recently extended to me when we landed at Melville Hall by the same LIAT flight, eyes bulge and jaws drop in astonishment. That, if I may be so bold to observe is, for me, your distinctive and incomparable asset, which is now so rare in high places that people have long ago ceased expecting to find it there. I therefore cannot believe that you approved Mr. Lawrence's inflammatory outburst or that you congratulated the genius that instigated it. And therein, I suggest, lies your major problem. It is not Lennox Linton who is your headache, still less is it Lennox Honeychurch. It is the other Lennox. It is not Ron Green, Hector John and Edison James who are your worst nightmares, it those who are much closer to you, who are around and about you, but who have for so long remained uncritical of themselves, that they have now become inextricably trapped in the fanaticism of their delusions. They are no longer capable of advising you intelligently or representing you responsibly. So I advise you, Sir, for what it is worth, to tread carefully. Remember Rehoboam!!