Gordon Robinson | The essence of efficiency
Across the galaxies, in fantasyland, Apocrypha, where all politicians are friends and Oma D’unn solved political problems by parable, Legal Affairs Minister Maline Malaprop was disturbed.
The Apocryphan Opposition had threatened to frustrate her constitutional reform process by insisting the issue of Apocrypha’s final appeal court be urgently included in any proposed changes. Maline complained to Oma that she felt she was being bulldozed.
Oma told her to get a wife. She was visibly offended as that sort of legal affair was against her religion and outside her portfolio. Oma told her the story of an efficiency expert whose seminar once ended with a warning:
“You don’t want to try these techniques at home.”
“Why not?” asked an audience member.
“I watched my wife’s routine at breakfast for years,” the expert explained. “She would make numerous trips from refrigerator to stove, table and cabinets often carrying one item at a time. One day I said ‘Honey, why don’t you try carrying several things at once?’
“Did it save time?” the audience member asked.
“Actually, yes” replied the expert. “It used to take her twenty minutes to make breakfast. Now I do it in seven’”.
Oma explained to a confused looking Maline that she needed to complain less and distract more. He suggested Maline could avoid personally adverse consequences with deflection. He advised she propose alternative reforms using non-contentious labels like “efficiency”.
As always, Oma’s arcane solution has universal application. Labels like “Separation of Powers” confuse many, including members of the political directorate, mainly because Civics has been absent from secondary schools’ curricula for sixty years. Worse, the concept has been presented to We the People as legal mysticism that ordinary folk can’t understand.
But somebody recently insisted there’s only one sense and that’s “common sense.” Like Oma, he has a point. Common sense summarises and explains the meaning of “Separation of Powers” with one word. Efficiency!
For decades Jamaica has endured parliamentary stagnation featuring massive backlogs of legislation; motions; reviews of reports from statutory authorities; and general performance malaise which only disappears when some politically sexy Bill or constitutional amendment needs urgent passage. Yet Parliament only meets once per week except when politically sexy speeches, filled with politically sexy promises, are to be made. Examples of this are Budget, Sectoral and Constituency debates.
Why only once per week? Elementary my dear Watson! On the (“ruling”) Government side too many are also engaged as Ministers, Ministers of State; Ministers Without Portfolio (ugh) and constituency Godfathers to have time for what they perceive to be a minuscule, politically useless part of their duty namely legislative and oversight obligations.
In USA, where parliamentarians have no cabinet responsibilities, the House of Representatives met 16; 16; 8 and 13 times in June, July, August (officially summer recess month) and September 2023 (up to September 25) respectively. At the home of Westminster, UK Parliament meets Monday to Thursday EVERY WEEK plus 13 Fridays per session.
I keep reminding pro-colonialists in our midst who insist on pretending we are British that UK Parliament contains 650 members of which 22 are in Cabinet. We cannot continue to copy a 650 member parliamentary system in a nation of three million people with 63 parliamentarians of which 30 are ministers, ministers without portfolio; or ministers of state. It’s institutionalised inefficiency as the main ingredient in a recipe for chaos.
But both parties relish the current system so long as we play along with their game of musical trough control that has as its mantra “today for me; tomorrow for you”. So, expect jitters among political powerbrokers after the latest Panderson Poll results. Obviously We the People smell the corruption facilitation ingrained in Westminster’s system of Prime Ministerial Dictatorship. More of us are crying out for an Executive Presidential system with accompanying parliamentary checks and balances.
As we’ve done for six decades, we can continue to
• play tribal games won by who shouts wild allegations loudest;
• accept a vote only for MP (including in garrisons) as Democracy; and
• embrace Cabinet/Senate majority chosen by one unelected Prime Minister with de facto veto power over secretly appointed Government agency Boards;
or we can demand more power for the people in a real Republic beginning with more democracy. We can insist on at least fixed election dates (can only be postponed by two-thirds of both houses); term limits; impeachment for Executive Government members; recall elections for MPs; direct election for PM/President; and no MPs in cabinet. Our choice!
Peace and Love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org