Letter of the Day | Concerned about the quality of our politics
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Beyond the possible impending effect on our democracy that the destruction of the current Opposition, the People’s National Party, would have, we have another disaster in the form of a chronically low quality in our political representation and governance, both nationally and locally.
At our local level, the municipal corporation representation is seen as a glorified divisional organiser appointed by political parties to keep their election machinery active. These local representative functions continue to be overshadowed by central government, via members of parliament, to curry favour with constituents. The local reps are usually less educated but deeply passionate about their communities, often lacking any substantial knowledge about government and governance.
We should be additionally concerned that our local reps, with years of representational experience, are continuously overlooked by the political parties for promotion to the House of Representatives.
The Upper House, the Senate, is a prime example of decline, with the establishment political parties continuing to thwart the initial concept by their perplexing political appointments of defeated politicians, party activists and future candidates. The debates and exchanges on legislative matters seem almost pedestrian. The upper chamber was meant to be a legislative buffer of independent professionals or civic-minded folks, not a compost heap.
Last, the Lower House, having the better crop of representation with older professional, and tertiary-educated folks, seemingly lacks boldness to go against the party line and fails to mirror the changing sentiments of their younger, more modern constituents. There is an unwillingness to be creative with policy, as many laws get dragged from colonial times to be applied now and reforms being done piecemeal.
There is no need for us to implement any stringent requirements for entry into political representation, as any Jamaican citizen must have a right to run for public office and offer themselves for service. However, we must demand political parties to emphasise the need for candidates to be sufficiently groomed and empowered with the knowledge about our government systems, and governance is general.
As a developing State, we must support engagement at an early age with civics and government in schools, plus continued, wholesome youth participation from the community to the national levels. As we better the stock quality in the citizenry, surely, we will see a marked improvement over time as the selected few offers themselves to represent the masses.