Sat | Nov 25, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | MP ought not be 'missing person'

Published:Saturday | November 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Residents gather at a collapsed roadway in Dykes Hill, Clarendon in July. Many constituents across Jamaica complain that their political representatives don't attend to their on-the-ground problems until election season.

It's a bloody shame that politicians continue to ignore the people who elected them to represent them and be champions for their welfare and development.

Jamaicans should not have to wait for an election to get the Government's attention and resources for some kind of improvement. The development and improvement of our communities is an imperative that can't be ignored and most certainly cannot be done out of convenience. This has been a feature of governance in this country for far too long.

If politicians can spend so much time with and listening to the people during an election campaign, why can't they do so more routinely? If one follows the work (I use this loosely) of Jamaican parliamentarians, one can conclude that many of them seem to forget that they have to be advocates for the people they were elected represent. Sadly, even those with Cabinet positions and in the hierarchy of their political party do not seem to be able to leverage these positions to improve their constituencies.

I am quite bothered by the way in which successive governments have treated the Jamaican people. A Television Jamaica news report last week that featured residents in South East Clarendon protesting the deplorable condition of the roads in their community highlights the quandary people face. One resident remarked, "When dem waan vote, dem come for it ... . We waan road."

The residents were obviously distressed about the situation in their constituency. Based on their query, it appears they were unable to reach or see their member of parliament. "Everybody gone a St Mary. Mi waan know a wah gwan a St Mary why everybady gone a St Mary," they asked.

 

QUESTINABLE SPENDING

 

The PNP caused quite a bit of a stir around the by-election in South East St Mary around the planned roadwork that was slated to begin in the constituency. This incited much banter among their political sycophants, who, seemingly without (genuine?) care for the needs of the constituents, opposed the project in 'principle'. I won't be party to any accusations in this regard and I am not interested in querying same.

Notwithstanding, the comments I saw made me wonder if there are established protocols about how state resources can be used in and around an election. Many of us grew up knowing that elections are an opportunity to finally get attention and resources to meet the needs of constituents after many months of neglect. It was as if the Government would starve you until the time is convenient to fix your roads, ensure street lights are working, undertake debushing, etc. And like an old, scratched record, the Opposition would cry foul every time.

It is sad that elections in Jamaica, rather than functioning as an important pillar of democracy that should give people an opportunity to select the individual they believe is best suited to represent them, have been reduced to nothing (read: a ploy). I admit that my youthfulness (and naivety?) might have led be to believe that there was a time when elections meant more to the people of this country and those seeking to be elected to office.

 

SCANT REGARD FOR DEMOCRACY

 

A comment by Charles Barrett, the marketing manager at Jamaican Teas, about the state of affairs in our country and elections sums up quite eloquently the views of many young professionals I know. "Elections in Jamaica tend to reveal how destitute our people are and the scant regard we have for our 'democracy'.

Our public bodies are also powerless in stopping or even punishing public officials who use state resources each election cycle to their advantage.

"Until we have robust and fearless institutions that act in the public interest, then we are doomed to the whims and fancies of the political parties. It is, therefore, little wonder that within this context, candidates with integrity and who champion conversations around integrity have no merit or bearing on the outcome. The result is a bellyful and the trading of our voice for spoils and scarce benefits. Having bartered our rights and voice, we are left powerless to even demand accountability and good representation. After all, exchange is no robbery and the 'goods' have already been bought."

Finally, I ask: Is it at all possible that our politicians can dig deep in themselves to espouse a bit of transformational leadership? Will there come a time when they will endeavour to do more and better for their constituents? What do we need to do to convince them to be responsible and appreciate the importance of good governance in facilitating our development?

- Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, economic and social justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com, or tweet @jaevionn.