It is with some bemusement that we note that this great Cabinet of ours continues its love affair with power for its own sake. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no longer any need for a State of Emergency, and never mind the solid arguments presented for the revocation of the same, by leader of the Opposition, Harold Lovell, and Attorney Charlesworth Tabor, among a number of other leading lights, this government’s infatuation with it continues, “without let or hindrance.” So sad! All that this government is trying to achieve with respect to controlling the spread of the coronavirus, can be achieved under the Public Health Act. All the scholars and experts that we have consulted on this matter, are so persuaded. But not this wilfull and wanton government that is enamored with the notion that it literally has unfettered power that it can wield at its own whim and fancy.
In that regard, our State of Emergency has been extended well past a year until June 30th, 2021. For shame! A totally unnecessary and capricious retention of raw power unto itself. Just because!!! This reminds us of a poem written by this writer’s mother way back in 1968, when, in an attempt to control the rising forces of opposition to his rule here in Antigua and Barbuda, Papa Bird declared a State of Emergency. Of course, the people were outraged, and they made their discontent known. The poem reads, “State of emergency, my, what a thing / Do come quick and help us to sing / We all are saying: This cannot be / We don’t want no State of Emergency / State of Emergency; tell Missa Bird ‘no’ / De people say it’s time to go / This is a blow to freedom; some say heresy / We don’t want no State of Emergency.”She was articulating the annoyance and frustration of the people with the unpopular Papa Bird government at the time – a government that was desperately trying to hold on to power and extend its tenuous lease on life. Of course, less than three short years later, the people effectively “Spread the word and swept out Bird” in the historic election of 1971 that ushered in the Progressive Labour Movement administration of George Walter.
I cannot help but think of Short Shirt’s classic, NOT BY MIGHT, in which Short Shirt declares rather plaintively: “Give me liberty or give me death” / That’s the cry I hear ringing out across the land / Whether it’s in Uganda, or whether it’s in Iran, or whether it’s in Grenada or Dominica / For wherever a people are oppressed and downtrodden they shall rise with a vengeance /That will shake the world / (Chorus) And no power, not by might / No power, not by force of will / Can stay the wrath of a people’s vengeance / Only when justice overlays the land and men are free from fear and free as one / When the fundamental rights of the people are not abridged / When liberty reigns, when justice reigns / And the language of truth pours down like rain / When treachery cease, when corruption cease / There is nothing to fear / Tho tyranny will persist, dictate and oppress, harass and distress / No power, no power, no power in this world / Can halt the people’s quest for freedom, freedom, freedom, I say freedom / No power! No power! None at all!”
And so it goes– every verse is a full-throated repudiation of a government’s attempt to stymie the people and retain all power unto itself. We submit that this administration is in love with the pursuit and retention of power. This administration gets the heebie-jeebies when exercising power. This administration is delighted at the fact that it has an enormous amount of power over the lives of ordinary Antiguans and Barbudans. But as in so many countries around the world, the people will eventually rise up . . . “They’ll never say die, tho at times they sigh and cry / And the presence of a calm, does not mean there’ll never be a storm . . .” [NOT BY MIGHT, King Short Shirt] Hmmm! Food for thought!
So we continue under this unnecessary State of Emergency, ostensibly to give this administration all the tools that it needs to fight this pandemic, never mind that the people are saying, “We don’t want no State of Emergency!” Those in high places are happy that they can “Demolish the most formidable-seeming systems at one go and exchange them for others. They can also bring to ruin the most established ideas, place restrictions on long-held beliefs and, supported by mass-media, can represent right as wrong and vice versa. . . . We see that right is consistently sacrificed for the sake of might, selfish interests replace all other considerations, Power must have its due place in the scheme of things, but if we see it as the single or most effective means of solving problems, we will have to explain why we, as human beings, are endowed with such faculties as reason and compassion. When used to serve the cause of right and sound reasoning, power may do some good on the way to resolving problems. However, power has always been a means of destruction when subject to the rule of ambition and greed, of coarse feelings and coarse ideas. It is the madness of disposing and increasing power that drove Alexander to military ventures in Asia, which brought the genius of Napoleon to ruin, and most recently made Hitler the most accursed of the human race. Despite these lessons, right and intelligence remain under the dominion of power in the world. Behind the chaotic whirl of damnable ideas and events in the world, there lies the abuse of power, the over-rating of its usefulness, so that human values, reasonableness and respect for right have been replaced by the resort to force. . . .” [THE MADNESS OF POWER FOR ITS OWN SAKE, Fethullah Gullen]. Folks, let us be guided accordingly.
We certainly salute those who have consistently opposed the continuation of the State of Emergency. After all, we are acutely aware of the fact that this raw exercise of power has been used in the past by Papa Bird here in Antigua and Barbuda, and despots all around the world, convinced of their “divine right” and their determination to thwart the will of the people. As history has taught us, those potentates are given to self-righteous rhetoric about “The defense of the realm” and “Opposing the forces of subversion and destabilistaion, blah, blah, blah,” and “Resisting the Communist insurgents yada, yada, yada.”They parade under the banner of “Law and order,”and conjure up images of chaos and confusion. A State of Emergency is a pretext/cloak under which many governments hide in order to engage in all sorts of activities against the people.
Needless to say, history condemned them, and we believe that those who insist on wielding power for its own sake will be similarly condemned. We don’t want no State of Emergency!
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