Gordon Robinson | Election circus for clowns
My sincere attempt at a deep breath quickly turned into a sigh as I contemplated the next four weeks.
It's too depressing for words. For the next four weeks (give or take), Jamaica will be manipulated by greedy politicians into participating in a farce of enormous proportions disrespectfully named local government elections. This farce will cost the nation gazillions of dollars it doesn't have and which could have purchased and installed CCTVs islandwide and monitoring cameras inside every single bus operating in Jamaica.
Why do I maintain the 'local government election' will be a farce? Elementary, my dear Watson. There's absolutely nothing at stake for us. What's at stake in this monumental trick perpetrated upon taxpayers is control of a massive political slush fund used to fuel political corruption in every nook and cranny of Jamaica. Don't take my word for it. Ask Desmond McKenzie. He went so far as to threaten to audit all parish councils.
"RJR NEWS, Friday, June 24, 2016, 3:03 p.m.: The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) launched a probe into an alleged multimillion-dollar fraud at the Manchester Parish Council.
"Days after Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie warned that his ministry would be auditing the operations of parish councils, MOCA investigators raided the Manchester Parish Council and other properties in Manchester and Clarendon.
COUNCIL LOCK DOWN
"The team, assisted by representatives of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and the Financial Investigation Division (FID), locked down the council and seized documents and more than $6 million in the operation in the two parishes.
"Two persons, including the deputy superintendent in charge of roads and works in Manchester, were taken into custody.
"Senior Superintendent Cleon Marsh, head of investigations at MOCA, told RJR News that several persons connected to the council are under investigation and other arrests are pending.
"He said arrangements are being made to interview the two detainees in the presence of their attorneys.
"During the operation, which began at 6 a.m., the cops also raided the homes of senior officials of the parish council - one in Clarendon and three in Manchester.
The team seized US$35,000 along with J$1.6 million at one of the properties.
The cops also seized electronic devices and documents relating to contracts awarded by the parish council."
DESMOND MCKENZIE, May 20, 2016:
Speaking of corruption allegations at Hanover Parish Council, Minister McKenzie said they "severely undermine the integrity of the council and local government reform efforts ... ." Making the point that the local government reform programme is underpinned by the principles and tenets of accountability, transparency, "subsidiarity", capacity building, and institutional strengthening in a fair and equitable manner, he went on:
"When these very principles are violated, it then sends a signal of blatant disregard for the very citizens for whom we, the elected representatives at the local level, pledge to serve ... ."
Announcing that the permanent secretary would lead a high-level team from the ministry to conduct an in-depth probe into the administrative and financial operations of the Hanover Parish Council, McKenzie, never one to shirk from making bold statements, said:.
"The glaring untoward variations in the business model, or lack thereof, for how councils conduct the contract award process must be cauterised and a formal method be put in place to address this and other management deficiencies ... ."
SIX MONTHS LATER, what has been done to "cauterise the untoward variations"? What has been done to alter the "conduct of councils of the contract award process ... and a formal method put in place"? What has been done to prevent the further undermining of the integrity of the parish councils? NOTHING! NADA! ZIP! ZERO!
Recently, McKenzie, in raising concerns about the state of parish councils' buildings and accommodations, accused councils of abusing their SGR funding (Special Grant for Repairs). Since NOTHING has been done to stem any of the alleged corruption, it seems that Government simply wants to once again use and abuse us, under the guise of our "constitutional right to vote", to wrest control of these corrupt cesspools from the already financially embarrassed PNP. That would be a political coup of devastating effect as it would consign the PNP to political irrelevance for a decade.
But, for what are WE voting? Why would WE prostitute ourselves, despite having been told by Government that these councils are incorrigibly corrupt, for the obvious objective of handing over the benefits of this corruption to our favourite political profiler?
FULL OF TALK
Because it's what we do. We're superb as callers to call-in programmes and panellists on panel discussions. We can analyse and discuss anything for nine days. When neither the prosecution nor the police in the X6 trial did ANYTHING for five years to improve what either KNEW was a shaky case and a reluctant eyewitness, and then, when the eyewitness recanted (what a shock!), the case was closed without presenting SIXTEEN more witnesses with persuasive circumstantial evidence so that the most obvious suspect walked free without having to answer any case at all, what did we do? We argued for nine days on every call-in programme and panel discussion available as to who was to blame.
Some idiots even went so far as to blame defence counsel. Did one single 'analyst' seek to identify and resolve the systemic problem of an underfunded police force and a DPP with too much power concentrated in that office? Nah, too boring. No ratings in that.
When a child, one of very many over the years, but this time from JC, is stabbed to death on a bus, we can line up in protest, and leading politicians take all the photo ops they need. We can return to the call-in shows and panel discussions we LOVE and cry real tears and blame the other passengers in the bus.
NOBODY wonders how we got to this and how we can stem the tide. Nah, too boring to discuss systems or to insist on building a disciplined society. Let's terrorise innocent passengers who may not have even known what was happening or may've been afraid to challenge a knife-wielding murderer. Yep, it's THEIR FAULT.
BUT NOT ONE OF US is prepared to spend ONE MINUTE of our high-falutin' analysis or protest to tell the truth, which is that Jamaica is FUNDAMENTALLY broken, and if we don't address the broken fundamentals, which can only be addressed in constitutional change, we're a nation doomed to cry every day over some new murder or analyse some avoidable public service error ad nauseam. NO CHANGE guarantees more of the same.
Let's take local government, for example. How did we get here? Like 95 per cent of our social and political structures, local government was copied from England when we were duped into believing we achieved 'Independence'. Our parish councils are transparent copies from England's county councils. But, as I keep trying to burn into Jamaica's collective consciousness:
1. England has a population of 53 million; Jamaica - three million.
2. Westminster (British Parliament) is divided into 650 constituencies, hence it's far more effective as a check and balance on executive power than our 63-member Parliament could ever be.
3. England's smallest county has a population of more than 800,000.
WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET THAT WE ARE NOT ENGLAND?
Currently, each of Jamaica's constituencies contains an average of about 50,000 people (30,000 voters), which our MPs have proven they can't handle, especially as almost every government MP is also a minister of some sort or the other.
Here's what we have to do NOW. Abolish local government. Convert the more than 200 local government divisions to constituencies and create a brand new Parliament with over 200 members. In one act of true cerebral 'Independence', we'll motivate back-benchers to monitor and regulate Government; save zillions by eliminating the ridiculous overlaps and turf wars (is it a 'main' road or a 'parochial' road?) between central and local government (Desmond would be looking for a new job); force MPs to spend time in manageable constituencies; and "cauterise" the massive corruption now taking place.
Or we can be content with business as usual. Let's drink rum, eat curry goat, get a free new T-shirt, and vote for (fill in the blank) on November 28. Let me know how that works for you in four years' time.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.