Now that you have elected your member of parliament, what next? Do you intend to wait for the next five years or whenever the prime minister calls the next general election to exercise your power again?
The Gleaner Council believes the time is right for the people of Jamaica to stand up and make their voices heard to ensure that our political representatives know what we are demanding of them.
The Gleaner Council is also urging Jamaicans to place people participation in decision-making and community management on the first 100 days agenda of the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration.
People Power was the slogan of the People’s National Party (PNP) in the recent general election which it won convincingly.
Now that the PNP has been elected to form the Government, the country waits to see what will be done. What will be the Government’s ‘big idea’ for people participation in decision-making and community management?
Jamaica must hear what the plan is for creating an effective partnership between the Government and the people.
Yes, there are major resource constraints and Jamaicans will not get everything they want immediately. The resource constraints are as much for the Government as they are for the people.
Consultation with the citizens will help the Simpson Miller administration define priorities even as Jamaicans hold the Government responsible for defining macroeconomic parameters, possibilities and the source of the resources.
But the Government has to engage the people regarding the prioritisation of public expenditure, and how and to what extent our aspirations can be met.
Effective engagement of the people can help to define priorities, engage otherwise idle resources at a community level, identify and scale up creative and enterprising initiatives which are currently struggling to make it, create a sense of community ownership and empowerment, and cement effective partnership between the Government and the governed.
Recognise our power
We, the people, must make sure our power is recognised, organised and used to build our communities and country. We must empower ourselves.
Many of us are already very active in our communities and making a real difference. Now more of us must take an interest and find a cause to support.
Let’s start with making sure that, this time, our political representatives work for and with us.
More than 50 per cent of the government members of parliament have been made ministers and junior ministers. Good for them, and hopefully, they will do good for the development of the country, but what about their constituencies and will their role as representatives be subordinated by ministerial responsibilities? Will this large executive mean its continued dominance over the representatives of the people in Parliament and will MPs serve only to rubber-stamp Cabinet decisions?
This time let us be different. It’s time to mobilise and use real people power.
1. Call your representative to a community meeting. We can do this through our churches or ministers’ fraternal, citizens associations, parish development committees and other civic groups. Invite the media to cover the meeting. At the meeting, find out from your MP what his or her plan is for keeping regular contact with the various communities. Also, find out how the money allocated under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) will be spent.
2. Get a date from the MP as to when he/she will be meeting with residents and councillors to identify the priorities and to create a work plan for the use of the CDF.
3. Set timelines, divide up the things to be done and be prepared to take on responsibilities. This is how business-like we must become. If we don’t, we will not have any better service from our representatives and we will not be exercising our power to participate, hold our leaders accountable and make a difference.
4. Work closely with your Social Development Commission (SDC) officer to identify the groups in your area and to contact them for the meeting. Set dates, at least every three months, for a community town hall meeting with your MP, councillor and relevant government ministries and agencies.
5. If we agree that the above approach should be made mandatory for elected representatives, then through your churches, community groups and other organisations write to the prime minister and leader of the opposition calling on them to make a statement in Parliament to this effect. Send your letters to the media. Media should publish a tally of such letters so the rest of us know.
6. Monitor your MP and councillors’ attendance at their respective places of work (Parliament and council) and their performance and progress in advocating for your needs and interests.
7. Organise with others to attend Parliament and meetings of your parish council. This will help to keep the leaders on their toes.
8. Don’t wait for Labour Day to organise clean-ups, adopt a school or class, mentor a child, adolescent youth or a small business person. Volunteer to teach at a struggling school. Work with others to make our community a model community. Start a good cause or find one you can support. You can find many inspiring, innovative, enterprising and worthy projects through the SDC, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, the Michael Manley Award for Excellence in Community Development, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, Violence Prevention Alliance, Peace Management Initiative, among others.
As Bob Marley said to us, “We’ve been taken for granted, much too long” … but our rebellion can be peaceful yet determined. When we decide we will not accept poor representation, corruption, neglect of our communities, and being left out of decision-making, that is when these things will end.
“We (the people) can make it work, come together and make it work!” – Bob Marley.
Social Development Commission (SDC head office)
22 Camp Road, Kingston 4
Fax: 1 (876) 938-2531
Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF)
2nd Floor, 1C-1F Pawsey Road, Kingston 5
Tel: 1 (876) 968-4545
Toll Free: 1-888-991-2356/7
Fax: 1 (876) 929-3784
Michael Manley Award for Excellence in Community Development (The Michael Manley Foundation)
1A Hope Boulevard, Kingston 6
Tel: 1 (876) 927-2288/702-3588
Fax: 1 (876) 702-3588
Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA head office)
Hope Gardens, Kingston 6
Tel: 1 (876) 977-1158-62
Fax: 1 (876) 970-4660
Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL)
47B South Camp Road, Kingston 4 (head office)
Tel: 1 (876) 928-5181-6
Fax: 1 (876) 928-4402
Corporate email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP)
8 Oxford Road, Kingston 5
Tel: 1 (876) 745-5524, 906-4714
In St James:
28 Church Street
Tel: 1 (876) 979-0197
Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA)
13 Gibraltar Camp Way,
Institute of Sustainable Development,
The University of the West Indies, Mona
Tel: 1 (876) 702-2079
Fax: 1 (876) 702-2079
Peace Management Initiative (PMI)
22 Melmac Avenue, Kingston 5
Tel: 1 (876) 754-5622/754-5808/929-0671
Police: Community Safety and Security
Tel: 1 (876) 929-1282
Fax: 1 (876) 929-0226
People’s National Party (PNP)
89 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6
Tel: 1 (876) 978-1337
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)
20 Belmont Road
Kingston 5, Jamaica
Tel: 1 (876) 929-1183
Corner of Duke and Beeston streets
Tel: 1 (876) 922-0200
Fax: 1 (876) 967-0064