The necessity of debates
Dominica, and I dare say the entire world, is always tuned and even fascinated at the intrigue, speeches, endorsements, victory and rejections during USA Presidential debates.
I remain glued to my TV set when such activities are brought live on FOX, CNN or BBC; the exploits of the Trump, the Clintons', Bush's, Nixon, Reagan, and Obama were always gripping night after night.
I also fondly remember my school days when debates at school was a normal diet in the curriculum. We admired an eloquent speaker. I remembered having a debate with now Registrar Ossie Walsh and was not surprised when he became a politician and a leader of people in his sphere of the world. Vincent Philbert, Doreen Paul and others at the DGS and our seniors such as Gabriel Christian were all convincing and fantastic orators.
My elders speak fondly of the debating exploits of the Dawbiney Literary Society and the frequency of national debates on pertinent issues out of which was born some of the most scholastic achievers and orators this country has produced.
Whether you supported Mike Douglas, Elkin Henry, Pat Stevens, Eustace Francis, Rosie Douglas or Edison James or not politically, you had to admire their dexterity and fluency of use of the Queen's English. Today we cannot boast of such eloquence in our House of Assembly. On both sides of the fence, I will objectively say Hon Vince Henderson and Hon Lennox Linton do possess the blessing of eloquence more than most in the present scheme of things. If I were to balance things with two women, I would say Hon Francine Baron and Senator Monelle Williams may just fit the billing. However, it is a rarity whether in the House or on radio stations as I mentioned in a previous article.
Well, to my mind, debating is a skill we need to instill in our youth as one of the major tenants of any democracy. In fact, I will go as far as to state that a lot of the disharmony and bad blood, which result in fights by the youth and in marriages, is because of poor communication. Not necessarily failure to do the same but the inability to make an informed and meaningful point and the acceptance by the other party to concede even while countering with a point of their own. Why? Debating calls for not just hearing but also listening.
One can listen today to one's point of view then the other people's viewpoint is digested days or weeks after allowing the respondent to doctor a response or get the privilege of talk show programme to obtain points. The good and prepared debater is one who apart from a level of eloquence, can speak 'off the cuff' no Teleprompters, and respond to questions and situations as they may arise. It speaks to one's ability to think on his feet, negotiate and intellect.
Many young people can't sit and exchange ideas before they resort to expletives in casual conversation or play sports- "boy pass the f…ball!" Surely, this is not the ball we want to hand over to the next generation. There must be another way. There is another way- the debate.
I am full of admiration for the young people who for number years now have represented this part of our democracy, which we are reminded of during the observances of Commonwealth Day. It is obvious that the Speaker of the House is passionate at such an event as the premier organizer and she must also be congratulated for her untiring efforts.
Having said that it is obvious that in a democracy such as ours we believe all ideas should contend and albeit the "I's" say nay or yea at the end of the day. Therefore, when both Opposition leader-Delbert Defoe as Prime Minister- Sky George who won the overall best speaker prize, graced the parliamentary debate by the nation's secondary schools it is more than a debate on Dominica and resilience. It is all about democracy at work and its ultimate preservation for future generations.
This is why parliamentarians should take every opportunity to meet to discuss issues pertinent to the country's development. It only spreads division, hate when the radio stations are used separately to woo party supporters as to which way or reasoning carries the most merit. I therefore call one the Kiwanis Club, Lions and other such organization to organize such actives not just among schools; when the school children become adults they shy away from that which holds our democracy together.
The view and approach to climate resistance, electoral reform can no longer be done on Q95 or Kairi FM where the "Mammies" and the "Blessings" are given free reign. The public deserves one face-to-face setting, one place, one moderator, the required rules & regulation in place, the accepted decorum and show the young people that this debate is not just staged for Commonwealth Day. It must be given teeth, not only in parliament, but also at prescribed venues, on television, on radio where the issues, in the interest of democracy must be debated if we call ourselves a mature country. At the end, we should all be able to shake hands, and let the public decide.
- By Ian Jackson