Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Stiffed by local government erections

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2016 | 11:00 AM
Constable P. Harrison watches as his ballot is placed into a box in a voting centre at the Mobile Reserve headquarters in Kingston last Friday. Police personnel, some essential-service workers and election workers cast votes as part of Jamaica's local government elections.

My November 6 column proposing the abolition of local government attracted plenty of feedback, but none more interesting than from one concerned citizen, Twitter handle @RealDuttyMan.

It began innocently enough between myself and another Twitterite (@justmebrand) when @RealDuttyMan entered the fray:

"Brandon Mcneil @justmebrand:

If we do [abolish] then what? Why not just reform it?

Gordon Robinson @The-TerribleTout:

Something misconceived can't be reformed. Local government a middleman to facilitate corruption. Cut out middleman & deliver representation instead

@RealDuttyMan jumped in:

Griot @RealDuttyMan:

Parliamentarians aren't supposed to be fixing roads and running light & water. Their job is to make laws ... .

Gordon Robinson @TheTerribleTout:

Not Councilors' jobs either. Contractors fix roads. The corruption is in the contracting; should be NWA not C'llors or MPs

Griot @RealDuttyMan:

The point is, local issues are the remit of councilors, not MP's. NWA et al, are implementing agencies.

Gordon Robinson @TheTerribleTout:

Why ? Bcuz its always been so? What are 'local' issues? Point is 'local gov" simply an unnecessary cover for corruption

Griot @RealDuttyMan:

The roles have always been defined, the thing is, MP's have been appropriating PC responsibilities for years..For populist reasons, but 'road, water and light' is really not their concern. Make policy and write laws..

Gordon Robinson @The-TerribleTout:

Policy not MPs work ....

Griot @RealDuttyMan:

Many parish councilors win in PD's that MP's lose. Parochial elections are much more intimate. That's a fact

Gordon Robinson @The-TerribleTout:

We're afraid to change anything. Why can't MP's represent smaller areas & eliminate Councllors?

Griot@RealDuttyMan:

1. I think we have too many MP's. We don't need more than 2 per parish. 28 max. 2. Councilors are elected separately with their own mandate. The issues that elect MP's are not the same as those for councilors ... .

Gordon Robinson @The-TerribleTout:

Oh yes they are. No "special" issues in any constituency not MP's concern. C'llors help MP bcuz of constituency size.

Griot@RealDuttyMan:

Actually, if you spent any time within the system, you'd know they are different. MP's get elected based on which party we want to lead, councilors on their interaction with the ppl.

Gordon Robinson @The-TerribleTout:

You've just exposed what's so anti-democratic about our politics. MPs should be elected based on representing people, not party.

Griot@RealDuttyMan:

Until we directly elect a PM, it is what it is ... work with it or change it. Simple. So then, we need to change it. There exists a process...When it was govt roller and backhoe, there was no 'food' to be eaten...No crumbs to have..... Dismantling PWD and using contractors helped too... Councilors used to be an unpaid position, like a JP. When salaries got introduced is when corruption started

I posit that there is NO constituency too large for ONE MP to handle. How many mayors does NYC have?

I suppose I should've let @RealDuttyMan in on the secret that New York City has only one mayor but also 51 council members ('councillors' in Jamaica); 27 representatives ("MPs" in Jamaica), each representing a congressional district ('constituency' in Jamaica), and two senators. Not to worry: The good news is, citizens are thinking and discussing with the word 'change' featuring in every discussion. Political leaders might want to take note.

Regarding the allegedly 'separate' roles of MPs and councillors, maybe it's time to revisit the PNP's appraisal of its general election defeat. Under the heading 'MP and Councillor Relationships', the committee found as follows:

"(1) This was found to be a major cause of internal disputes within constituencies and some electoral losses could be partly attributed to it.

(2) This particularly affects new MPs, especially those who may not be grounded in the party's traditions or who are parachuted into a constituency at 'the last minute'.

(3) In many instances, there was very little collaboration and transparency between MPs and councillors in carrying out activities and spending resources ... ."

Regarding (1) above, obviously, the PNP doesn't consider the roles of MPs and councillors separate. If MP-councillor relationships can cause general election losses despite no councillor running for election, the roles must overlap. So, @RealDuttyMan's ideal that "The issues that elect MP's are not the same as those for councilors ...", although admirable in theory (if Jamaica was large enough to produce such a multiplicity of 'issues'), isn't the reality.

Why continue the farce of these separate institutions or elections?

What is (2) above telling us? Rookie MPs have trouble controlling experienced councillors, especially those who may've expected to become MPs but instead find themselves having to play nanny to last-minute insertions ('parachuted') of political infants.

This is EXACTLY what's been taking place in South East St Ann since the retirement of political legend Seymour 'Foggy' Mullings and the "parachuting" of Aloun Assamba, a decent, honourable, intelligent candidate (and a committed Comrade) who was repeatedly vilified and undermined until she surrendered. Since then, certain ambitions, encouraged by "success" banishing Aloun, were again crushed by a second "parachuted" candidate, Lisa Hanna. Unfortunately for the bitterly disappointed, Lisa has proven herself no cream puff. She not only withstood the vitriol, but cemented PNP's hold of a 'safe' seat.

When a party leader reaches the insanely incongruous stage of: publicly campaigning for dissident councillors in a constituency where the MP is solidly entrenched; appearing to threaten hecklers exercising their constitutional freedom of expression; shrieking "ah soon come back & ah know who ah going bring!", sounding like intimidation promising strong-arm tactics to menace hecklers, SOMETHING is surely rotten in the state of Denmark AND the town of Claremont.

Remember: "... If you want to disturb, you can disturb, BUT this woman come here with the blood of Nanny of the Maroon, the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and this woman is not afraid of no man, nowhere, anywhere ... "? (March 26, 2015; St George's Episcopal Church, New York City, in response to 'gay-rights' hecklers).

Remember: "Don't draw my tongue! And don't trouble this girl, because I don't 'fraid a no man, no girl nowhere!"? (September 15, 2002, in response to Audley Shaw's queries regarding alleged irregularities at the JTB)

THIS is at least the third occasion THIS woman has exhibited THIS tendency towards public 'tracing' in response to being asked to account for public stewardship. She seems obsessed with proving that she's not afraid of anybody, but it's beginning to sound like the lady doth protest too much. Methinks. THIS woman appears to have misplaced her self-control. THIS woman, twice rejected as PM, is dangerously close to painting herself as unfit to lead.

In this context, the seemingly a-nuh-nutten approach of the political ombudsman, contrasting starkly with her strong language against those threatening a CVM cameraman who filmed the incident, was extremely revealing. Somehow, she arranged her mind to miss the connection between those threatening the cameraman and the opposition leader's behaviour, which catalysed the cameraman's endangerment. Why'd you threaten the cameraman unless you felt that he somehow at least embarrassed your leader?

Contrast Portia's recidivist behaviour with Mike Pence's reaction to a scathing critique (read by Brandon Dixon) from the cast of popular Broadway play Hamilton immediately following a performance that Pence attended with his children. Pence was reportedly on his way to the lobby by the time Dixon began delivering the statement, but paused to hear it through before leaving the theatre. Pence himself told Fox News: "I did hear what was said from the stage. I can tell you, I wasn't offended ... ." He also said: "My daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed the show. Hamilton is just an incredible production; incredibly talented people. It was a real joy to be there. When we arrived, we heard a few boos, and we heard some cheers. I nudged my kids and reminded them that that's what freedom sounds like."

Portia, pay attention. The hecklers at your Claremont meeting were the sound of freedom. You sounded like repression, fascism, and narcissism. If you don't like the sound of freedom, Portia, it's time to pack your bags and go.

Regarding (3) above: Once again, we have an express acknowledgement that there's no distinction among issues that elect councillors and MPs. In fact, the PNP is saying here that in "carrying out activities and spending resources", there should be "collaboration and transparency".

So why are we wasting more than $2 billion ($1.3b by EOJ alone) of limited resources running this desperate distraction called local government elections? Already, we've pissed away $600 million on crash-programme work. WHY? Why not have one election with separate voting on the ballot for PM and MP? Thereafter, allow PM to pick a Cabinet from Jamaica's best available talent, regardless of political affiliation. MPs could focus on representation of smaller constituencies, monitoring Government, and passing laws for Jamaica's good governance.

Why the stubborn resistance to change? Is there a reason not spelt 'C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N'?

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.