Letter of the Day | Do our politicians have a conscience?
THE EDITOR, Madam:
We at the Advocates Network are concerned that despite our protests continuing at Heroes Circle daily, there has been no attempt by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to roll back the salaries of politicians.
Despite the seemingly limited support in numbers on the front line of the protests, here is the feedback and the signals we are picking up behind the scenes.
· We did have days when various civil servants joined our protests, but when they returned to their desks they were questioned by their superiors and even threatened with retaliatory action, even though their joining us was their right, as it was during their lunchtime.
· Last week we did have the leader of the Opposition and general secretary of the People’s National Party join us on the front line, and the leader did express his support for our position. But, to date, no politician has agreed to roll back their salary except the prime minister, and the legality of this move is being questioned, as apparently it was not done correctly.
· Several other protesters from the public service joined us from time to time, but were afraid to show their faces due to their fear of reprisals at their workplaces.
· Many protesters from the medical areas joined with placards pointing out that while the GOJ had funds to pay 200 per cent-plus increases to politicians, the hospitals had non-functional equipment for basic tests and lacked basic drugs for patients.
· Principals of prominent schools islandwide are also reporting that they are rapidly losing teachers, and the infrastructure of most schools are falling apart because of no investment in capital projects for years.
· Politicians’ salaries have been calculated at the top tier 13 of permanent secretaries’ (PS) salaries, while it is reported that the highest-paid PS is at level four on the scale.
· Further, it should be noted that civil servants have job descriptions and requirements for each job, and are evaluated for increases based on objective criteria. None of these exist for politicians.
These are the reasons why we are insisting on the rollback of the salaries to politicians, and though we have been receiving support from all quarters behind the scenes and constant honking of horns in support by those passing by, we are appalled that the GOJ has turned a blind eye to our protests in the hope that we will go away.
We call on all Jamaicans to voice your support for our demands, which are not unreasonable, and again call on the members of parliament, mayors and councillors to have a conscience and heed our calls to roll back their salaries until an impartial committee reviews their compensation and produces job descriptions, basic requirements for each job, and they are evaluated for increases based on objective criteria.
This matter of the process for deciding the salaries of politicians needs to be enshrined in our new Constitution, so we do not have a repeat of politicians deciding on the level of their own compensation.