Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jamaican Parliamentarians Are Selfish

Political betrayal- how else could one describe the recent actions of our parliamentarians after they voted to amend the Representation of the Peoples Act? With the passage of this Bill the state will be asked through the already tax burdened and stressed Jamaican tax payers to fund political parties.  The thought of their actions has almost rendered me speechless. It is abundantly clear that our parliamentarians are out of touch with the economic reality of the times with the move to amend the Representation of the Peoples Act. It is quite possible that this will be viewed among the most self- serving, unconscionable and unacceptable acts of Parliament since the country’s political independence in 1962.
In a tough economic era such as like with the pending closure of Best Care Lodge children’s home due to a shortfall in budget this action is most improper. In a time of wage freeze why is it that the Jamaican tax payers are being asked to finance our political parties? What is to be gained by the state and tax payers by funding political parties?  Will we see a corresponding piece of legislation to have more accountability and transparency of our elected government officials? Instead of passing legislation to strengthen the democratic process in Jamaica which is woefully lacking our Parliamentarians continue to major in the minor with acts of political selfishness. The forcible extraction of money from the already downtrodden Jamaican tax payer gives the appearance that our legislators are uncaring and insensitive to the needs of the people whom they serve. The move by our Parliamentarians at this time to amend the Representation of the Peoples Act runs counter to good governance and is injudicious.
Let us look at some of social issues that need attention. The Jamaican education system is under-funded and bursting at the seam facilitating the majority of our students to fall through the cracks. Our roads are in a deplorable condition contributing too many road accidents. The public health care system needs urgent attention and funding. According to the 2012 Survey of Living Conditions by The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) more 500,000 Jamaicans or 1 out of every 5 Jamaicans are now living below the poverty line. Considering this survey is two years old one can conclude that the living conditions of Jamaicans, as well as poverty have gotten worst since then. The focus of the Parliamentarians should be to try and eradicate poverty instead of applying additional measures to increase poverty.
If Jamaicans are be called upon to finance political parties we should expect something in return. The time has come for Constitutional Reform in Jamaica. We need to impose term limits on those who serve in Parliament as this would be one measure to strengthen our democracy. Democracy is more than free and fair elections. Democracy goes much further by giving the electorate a voice after the elections and holding elected officials accountability. Gone are the days when any individual should be in Parliament for life. Is it any wonder that Jamaica has dropped to 85th out of the 175 countries listed on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index list. There is a close association between the perception of corruption and good governance. Sadly, the global perspective is that Jamaica is a corrupt place and not much is being done to change this view.   Having term limits is the way to go regarding good governance. In our society there is no need for us to have any parliamentarian serving more than two terms or ten years. We also need to enshrine in the Jamaican Constitution the power to recall poor performing Members of Parliament who use poor judgment to make decisions. It is truly shameful that our parliamentarians could have passed such a bill. Despite what some of our politicians think the inarticulate majority are not stupid.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com