Ab­sen­tee gov­er­nor­ship at lo­cal level re­mains an is­sue

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - McPherse Thomp­son is As­sis­tant Busi­ness Edi­tor at The Gleaner and holds a PhD in Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence.Email feed­back to columns@glean­erjm.com and mcpherse.thomp­son@glean­erjm.com McPherse Thomp­son

AS­SUR­ANCES ARE again be­ing made for im­prove­ments in street light­ing, neigh­bour­hood watch pro­grammes, drainage sys­tems and col­lec­tion of garbage, as­sumedly af­ter the up­com­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

But there are a host of other ills fac­ing com­mu­ni­ties across Ja­maica, like the highly dis­or­derly ar­range­ments for vend­ing and pub­lic trans­porta­tion in the mar­ket dis­trict and other ar­eas of Kingston, as well as most town­ships across the is­land, a sit­u­a­tion which pro­vides easy pick­ings for crim­i­nals, but which has not been listed among the ar­eas to be tar­geted for im­prove­ment.

In this as in other elec­tions, vot­ers will make sum­mary judg­ments in ei­ther re­tain­ing, re­ject­ing or ac­cept­ing their in­cum­bent lo­cal gov­ern­ment or po­ten­tial rep­re­sen­ta­tives, most likely in re­ac­tion to par­tic­u­lar ac­tions or omis­sions, for be­ing ab­sen­tee gov­er­nors or not rep­re­sent­ing their in­ter­ests at the par­ish coun­cil or lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­istry’s lev­els.

A dilemm, set out in cor­re­spon­dence re­ceived last week is that peo­ple of­ten­times have no idea how to reach their lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Said the writer: “Af­ter elec­tions there is not, (to the best of my knowl­edge), any pub­lished in­for­ma­tion as to how we may con­tact elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. No phone num­ber, no email ad­dress. It is al­most as if they do not wish to be found ... ex­cept by the party faith­ful. Politi­cians are elected to serve, and they should do that.”

The lack of vis­i­bil­ity of coun­cil­lors is not new and is a con­cern shared in di­verse con­stituen­cies across the length and breadth of Ja­maica, and has man­i­fested it­self in is­sues rang­ing from the lack of re­pairs to road­ways for which they are re­spon­si­ble, to main­te­nance of gul­lies which in many cases are only at­tended to, if at all, af­ter peo­ple’s homes have been flooded and/or dam­aged.

That not many per­sons even know the names of their coun­cil­lors as dis­tinct from their mem­bers of par­lia­ment is an in­dict­ment on those po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, given that the very na­ture of lo­cal gov­er­nance sug­gests that they are ex­pected to be more fa­mil­iar with the peo­ple and more aware of what is hap­pen­ing on the ground.

A clear man­i­fes­ta­tion of the ab­sen­tee gov­er­nor­ship was ev­i­dent this week when groups of peo­ple, a few days af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the elec­tions, con­verged at the May Pen Ceme­tery in West Kingston clear­ing over­grown shrubs and rak­ing garbage that has been strewn about, ap­par­ently with the ob­jec­tive of bring­ing some sem­blance of or­der­li­ness to the peren­ni­ally ne­glected area.

Was this meant to pull out all the stops to get sup­port at the polls?

Af­ter all, main­te­nance of ceme­ter­ies is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the par­ish coun­cil or mu­nic­i­pal­ity in which they are lo­cated.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, in its demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal as­pect, de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion has two prin­ci­pal com­po­nents: par­tic­i­pa­tion and ac­count­abil­ity. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is chiefly con­cerned with in­creas­ing the role of cit­i­zens in choos­ing their lo­cal lead­ers and in telling those lead­ers what to do - in other words, pro­vid­ing in­puts into lo­cal gov­er­nance. Ac­count­abil­ity, on the other hand, is the de­gree to which lo­cal govern­ments have to ex­plain or jus­tify what they have done or failed to do.

Hence, every­one needs to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of their lo­cal gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive go­ing into the elec­tions and vote for the per­son they be­lieve will de­liver.

Yes, po­lit­i­cal par­ties have a vested in­ter­est in the out­come, but so should in­di­vid­u­als, not just the poor and vul­ner­a­ble, but every­one whose lives re­volve around the eco­nomic and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment where they have shared at­ti­tudes and in­ter­ests, and who will be af­fected by the de­ci­sions, in­de­ci­sions or other judg­ment of those rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Peo­ple, es­pe­cially the relatively young and im­pres­sion­able, like to pro­claim that they don’t care and are not both­ered about pol­i­tics. That is a fal­lacy be­cause, whether they so de­clare or not, a ma­jor­ity un­doubt­edly care about, cer­tainly if not all, many of the is­sues un­der­taken in the con­text of the po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion and con­trol ex­er­cised over the ac­tions of cit­i­zens. If you are a so­cialdemo­cratic and don’t want a con­ser­va­tive coun­cil or vice versa hav­ing the fi­nal say on po­lit­i­cal is­sues run­ning the gamut of so­cial and eco­nomic de­ci­sions in your par­ish and in­di­vid­ual com­mu­ni­ties, you should vote for the can­di­date of your choice. For your com­mu­nity, your vote mat­ters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.