Abstention a convenient political tool


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 livelihoods or even saving lives? Do we simply ignore other people’s desperate survival needs and stay focused in our own comfort zone?

In an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly on a vote for a resolution that condemned Russia’s annexation to various Ukrainian regions, the motion was reportedly backed by 141 nations, voted against by Russia and six of its economic and/or military allies, and 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, the ones 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 also actually approving of the ongoing bloodshed?

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

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

In Trinidad and Tobago’s customary two-party Parliament, abstinence has been a convenient approach for decades in parliamentary voting matters. What is amazing is after their abstinence, 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 are concerned, shouldn’t abstinence 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.

Lloyd Ragoo Chaguanas