The choices of a democratic state

THE EDITOR: What form of a polity can be considered the fairest of them all? Is it the Westminster system, a socialist-styled government, or a communist regime?

When the British Empire granted TT independence, it was not done out of some grandiose altruistic gesture. It had become increasingly apparent to Britain that maintaining colonies with people who did not want to be controlled by a foreign power was both impractical and costly.

Therefore, it began to divest itself of these weighty symbols of the empire that could no longer be morally justified. The kingdom needed to rid itself of its colonies as a form of self-preservation. Thus, many of its territories, like India, Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, were “granted” independence.

These soon to be nascent independent countries, as a condition of their freedom from British rule, were forced to adopt the Westminster system of government.

Most democracies today use some form of the Westminster system. Even Japan and the US, though not former colonies, use a Westminster derivative by having a democracy based on the three pinnacles that define the British system of government: the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches.

The Westminster system cannot be considered a perfect form of governance by any stretch of the imagination. Typically, as in the UK and here in TT, there is a two-party system with one or the other party winning the general election. While there are often third-party contenders, they are hardly ever in contention.

Why should the people of TT keep the Westminster system of government, a system that is even failing the originators – the UK? Today, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is calling for a snap general election but the MPs, in a show of defiance towards the newly appointed PM, voted against it. The last Prime Minister, Theresa May, stepped down because she did not have the support of the MPs.

Closer to home, the governing party of Guyana is being forced to go back to the polls because it lost its one-seat majority in Parliament when an MP suddenly, and without any prior warning, switched sides and voted with the opposition party.

The only other major systems of government in existence today are military/dictatorship, theocracy, or communist/socialist style.

What if the Black Power Movement had succeeded in overthrowing the TT government during the Black Power uprising in 1970? TT would be a very different society than we are today.

What if the Defence Force, under lieutenants Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, had succeeded in their mutinous attempt, would we now be a military state?

What if the Muslim attempted coup of 1990 had succeeded, would TT now be a theocracy?

Despite all of the imperfections of the current system, are we truly better of as a democratic state than any of the alternatives? Could a military dictatorship, a Muslim theocracy, or a communist/socialist state have prevented the corruption that democracies are perennially faced with, or would there still be corruption but by different suspects?

As we head into election season, we need to understand the challenges that face us. The choices that we make now will determine what type of society we bequeath to our children and grandchildren.


Diego Martin


"The choices of a democratic state"

More in this section