Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Lest we forget, politicians aren’t blameless

Published:Saturday | July 1, 2017 | 12:02 AMJaevion Nelson

Politicians have an uncanny tendency to forget things. What accounts for their frequent memory loss is to be questioned. They forget what they have and have not done. They forget their sworn oath to the people of Jamaica. They forget their responsibilities as elected representatives of the people who should champion policies, laws and programmes that would uplift the people in their constituencies. Consequently, they end up competing with entities like the Social Development Commission (SDC) because they invest, largely, in doing other people’s jobs rather than their own. 

Listen to the banter from either side of the House. You would think that since we have been independent, we have been under one government, living in some sort of dictatorship. Every parliamentarian’s posture is the best thing since sliced bread.

The People’s National Party (PNP) bemoans the devastated economy they inherited from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which it claims was on the brink of collapse. Thankfully, they rescued the country with their stellar performance at passing the IMF tests as we (they?) white-knuckled our way supposedly to development.

However, to the best of my knowledge, economic growth and development, especially resulting in increased benefits for the masses, do not come about because of a subservient implementation of the Washington Consensus principles. The JLP is no different.

Admittedly, I have not heard as much finger-pointing and blaming since they took office last year (at least not in the Budget Debate). Notwithstanding, they want us to believe it’s solely the PNP’s fault for the poor state of our economy, education system, etc. You would think that they are a new political party and have never been in the House at any point – not as Opposition, not as Government. The truth is, both political parties have collectively wrecked the country, even while pretending to be the best at fixing it.

One of the most amusing, yet frustrating and equally disheartening things our politicians do is to chastise people in low-income communities – inner-city Kingston, especially - for the depravity they have lived in for generations. They spew nice talk that appeases their middle-class interests and friends and pretend they and/or their colleagues had no part in the state of many communities across the country. 

If we follow them and the ‘elite consensus’ they have subscribed to, the warring factions in low-income communities, for example, are simply a matter of the poor people’s covetousness for the rich and their lacking ambition that lead them to be bad-minded and grudgeful instead of emulating the rich.

There is absolutely no history of politicians' role as facilitators of said violence that we decry and express our delight that they're killing off each other. Politicians have done more than enough to make low-income communities better. It’s really the people’s fault why there is so much depravity all around. The laws, policies and programmes are there to prove how great they have all been.

When they forget, we must remind them that we know, that we the people have not forgotten. We must hold them accountable and the nation should be open to doing so as well. Sadly, we are yet to be at that place of maturity and responsibility. Everything is still too much out of convenience. Too many of us are opposed to fulfilling this duty. Instead, we are eager to shield politicians from the principles of good governance that might somehow harm them.  

Strangely, we complain about the state of our country but get so upset when people hold politicians accountable. Good governance and development do not work that way. People in office must be held accountable to the job they're sworn to do.

We have to be more open to the important role transparency and accountability play in development. We can't get better any other way. We have to realise that criticising someone does not mean you do not respect and appreciate whatever they've done. We have to rid ourselves of the warped idea that loyalty and respect mean silence and subservience. What this kind of behaviour does is make us culpable.

Let us, at this crucial time in our history, as we prepare to celebrate being independent for fifty-five years, commit to doing much more for the advancement of our people. Let us truly play our part by using our influence responsibly, including to hold our leaders accountable.