Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Voice of the People (Part 1)

The Voice of the People (Part 1)
By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

A fundamental change has occurred in Antigua and Barbuda. That change began over twenty years ago with the incisive, elegant, powerful and thought provoking writings of Tim Hector. His “Fan the Flame” is arguably the best series of socio/political penmanship ever to grace the pages of a Caribbean newspaper.

It is clear that Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” stirred deep yearnings in the populace for higher levels of ethical behavior, responsiveness and accountability among our leaders. His clear portrayals of corruption, shady dealings, self-serving (and family-serving) decisions by government leaders gave ordinary Antiguans and Barbudans their first glimpse into how public officials used their public office for private and personal gain.

The "Outlet" opened a window and "let us in" to the dark workings of the government. And it continued to do so for decades.

In more recent times, however, for whatever reason, prior to his unfortunate passing, Mr. Hector seemed to have changed his outlook and his newspaper subsequently changed how it looked at the same government. While much of the reasoning for this flip flop is murky… one thing remains crystal clear: The Outlet and Mr. Hector in his “Fan the Flame” provided a monumental service to Antiguans and Barbudans… and provided the impetus for the rise of another monumental contributor to the ‘stirring of the deep yearnings’ of the people of our nation.

Where Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” started the yearnings, the Daily Observer and particularly the Observer Radio “Fanned the Bonfire”.

While the Daily Observer continued the Outlet’s tradition of revealing the hidden dealings of corruption in high places, it was the Observer Radio that allowed ordinary folk to respond and comment on the revelations.

That was new in Antigua and Barbuda.

Before, we had benefited from the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts and ideas of the university educated Tim Hector in his “Fan the Flame”. But now we were hearing en masse, for the first time - the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts, ideas and feelings of the common folk, many of whom had not even gone as far as the seventh standard classes in the old colonial educational system. Many of the callers had waited that long to have a voice and a say in the affairs of their country.

With the advent of talk radio initiated by the Observer Radio, Antigua has changed. Undeniably so.

Now, I am not a historian, and some persons might lay claim that there was this or that talk show radio in Antigua prior to the Observer Radio. And they may be right. But no prior talk show program or its host can lay claim to having been the “Voice of the People.”

The Voice of the People. And it was… and may still be. And yes… there are now other voices… of and from the people. And that is as it should be. And there should be many more programs and hosts… because we need to hear from all of the people – all of the time - no matter their perspectives, persuasions or positions.

So Antigua and Barbuda has changed. The Voice of the People can now be heard in its many forms throughout the land, across the sea, on the internet and from far, far away.

Yes, Antigua and Barbuda has changed. And it is a change for the good.