A convenient tool called abstention

THE EDITOR: What does it mean to abstain? According to one English dictionary, it means to refrain from, or not take sides in a given matter.

But what if it’s an urgent matter that involves restoring people’s livelihood or even saving lives? Do we simply ignore their desperate survival needs and stay focused on our own comfort zone?

In an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution to condemn Russia’s annexation of various Ukrainian regions, the motion was backed by 141 nations, voted against by Russia and six of its economic and/or military allies, with 32 members abstaining.

While some of the abstainers are saying they want a peaceful end to the bloodshed, aren’t they aware of who started this mayhem and has been on the offensive since?

Are they aware that after many verbal efforts to end it, the initiators of this butchery have tossed aside all appeals and have continued their attacks for more than a year now?

Are the abstainers aware that since these attacks started, those on the defensive are primarily the losers of lives, limbs and property?

Are they not conscious that by their abstention in a crucial vote to put an end to this massacre they are not just effectively turning a blind eye, but are also actually approving of the ongoing bloodshed?

And this matter of abstention occurs not just at the UN level, but transpires abundantly at political levels in most democratic countries, leaving those already on the agonizing end, irrespective of their pain and suffering, just where they are.

In many cases of vital decision-making votes, the abstainers’ egocentric interest is almost impossible for him/her to hide, especially in political decisions.

In TT’s customary two-party Parliament, abstention has been a convenient approach for decades in voting matters. What is amazing is after abstaining, the abstainers go on to give voluminous, but realistically meaningless or even comical explanations, comical in the sense that the self-centred motive behind their abstention is like a low-flying passenger jumbo jet, so plain for all to see.

If there were need for forthright conclusive Parliament decisions in special cases, like where our economic management or the death penalty is concerned, shouldn’t abstaining be banned in such instances?

But then, according to the democratic process, for such a proposal to become legal it would require a vote among the very same abstainers to pass a bill banning abstaining, wouldn’t it?

Boy, citizens in democratic countries are surely caught in parliamentary paradoxes.




"A convenient tool called abstention"

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