Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Editorial: Reining in the gangs: Extend recall motion to MPs

Published:Monday | October 12, 2015 | 10:00 AM

Every so often, the 'Gangs of Gordon House' do something that raises hope for their redemption. Unfortunately, they mostly either reverse course or fail to pursue their actions to the point of substantial and transformative benefit to the society.

Hopefully, the latest germ of enhanced accountability for elected officials is not merely a flutter before deception. If it is not, the Government should move quickly to widen its proposed application.

We refer to Section 18 of the new Local Government Act tabled in Parliament last week, aimed at modernising the law governing the management and operations of local government authorities. Our particular attention is on what is proposed regarding the directly elected mayors of city municipalities, which would include Portmore.

The bill makes provisions for the start of impeachment proceedings where a petition, alleging gross misconduct or dereliction of duty by the mayor, is signed by 15 per cent of the registered voters in their jurisdiction, or is passed by two-thirds of the members of the municipal council, is forwarded to the appropriate minister. In the event, the minister starts a process to determine whether the allegations are founded, and, if he is so satisfied, takes an impeachment motion to Parliament.

We are not, at this point, convinced by the rigour of the process and its adherence to democratic norms, especially with regard to an official who has been directly elected. A recall vote among electors within the municipality would, on the face of it, seem to be a better option. The options should be debated.

Our views notwithstanding, the proposal represents a move in the right direction, but should be broadened to encompass members of the national legislature. Indeed, this issue has, for a long time, been on Jamaica's agenda and used to be vigorously championed by Bruce Golding, the former prime minister, especially in the mid-1990s, during his stint as leader of the National Democratic Movement preaching new approaches to politics.

 

possibility of recall

 

Clearly, subjecting themselves to the possibility of recall ahead of the completion of five-year parliamentary terms didn't appeal much to any of the members of the Gordon House syndicates, no matter how badly they had underserved their constituencies, or whatever accusation of misbehaviour may have been levelled against them.

But having this most appropriate step, the members of the national legislature could not expect to have a higher bar for municipalities, where less power will be exercised than in the Parliament, than they do for themselves. And the response would not be to lower the bar for the municipal mayors, but to raise it for everyone one else, including MPs, and local government councillors.

Establishing arrangements for the impeachment of MPs shouldn't be particularly difficult. Section 41 of the Jamaican Constitution covering the tenure of members of parliament is not an entrenched clause and can, therefore, be amended without substantial trauma. Such a move by the 'Gangs of Gordon House' would provide a smidgen of trust by people beyond their claques.