As the embers fade on yesterday’s Independence Day celebrations we take a moment to reflect on our nation and the way forward as we embark on our 56th year as an independent nation state. Such a reflection should not be limited to Independence Day alone. Long after the parades and receptions and fireworks, we should be working diligently to devise constructive ways to build our unique society.
This year’s holiday was the first not to feature the annual revelation of National Awards and a distribution ceremony.
While there have been concerns over the degree of consultation involved in the decision of President Anthony Carmona to shift this aspect of our annual celebration to Republic Day, the move may have the intended effect of fostering a longer and, perhaps, deeper engagement with ideas of nationhood. Why should we limit this engagement to one day alone?
If we were tasked with setting out a wish-list for our nation as we enter yet another year, several items would quickly rise to the top. The first has to be the elimination of crime. It is true there are many forms of serious crime and murder. But we feel the State has a clear role to play given the fact that the vast majority of killings, whatever their motivation, involve firearms. We must take guns off the streets.
And though crimes of passion involving situations of abuse and dysfunctional relationships may seem like matters completely outside of the remit of the State, these events reflect something of the larger society within which they occur. The State may not be able to stop a man from murdering his partner; but it can bring that man to justice speedily. When the gravest offence of murder seems to have a detection rate on the lower end of the spectrum, it is clear the State is not doing enough to deter these types of crimes.
And attitudes, too, call for social intervention by both the State and civil society groups. We must continue to educate and to campaign against violence against women.
Corruption, too, is a matter of grave concern, as noted by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley this month. The perception is that corruption affects public procurement and also the workings of key institutions such as the Police Service which, though comprised of hard-working men and women, does not have an effective watchdog.
What cannot be countenanced, however, is a situation where members of the public feel they can attack police officers. We need the police to enforce law and order. Without them, the rule of law falters. We condemn any act of violence against the police in the strongest possible terms.
Our wish list would also have to set out goals for the economy. Not only would we like to see an increase in revenue and a shrinking of the deficit, but the very structure of the economy needs to change. There should be a greater diversity of income streams, a fairer allocation of wealth nationally and sounder systems to manage public spending and revenue collection from powerful corporate bodies.
Some of these powerful corporate bodies are also financiers of political parties, which leads to the next item: campaign finance reform. Will it ever see the light of day?
Our culture is also rich and is perhaps our most under-valued resource. How can we do a better job of highlighting its breath and also fostering its perpetuation? There is a direct link between the Carnival arts, music, film, literature and other forms of art and our well-being as a society.
Let us see what good can be achieved as we enter another year.