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Politics and ‘We the People’!

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Perhaps one of the best things in recent years to have emerged to get our people involved in the political life of the country has been the growth of social media. Whereas in the past the peoples’ voices were silent by the limitations imposed by the print media and to a lesser extent radio before the era of talk shows, everyone is now able to express an opinion on the state of affairs at any time of day or night. This is a mixed blessing since we are still unable to look critically at things.  We become victims to propaganda and fake news, which without hesitation we pass on to others. This is the major drawback, but the positive is that a voice is given to the man/woman on the street, so called, and the conversation starts.

We blame politicians for most of the ills of our society; for their arrogance, lack of accountability, corruption, and failure to deliver on promises, but I repeat my position. it Is we who make them so, for they do what they think they can get away with. This year it manifests itself even more than ever, with a lot of confusion being created as projects, mundane things are being pushed through in a mad rush to win our favour before we dip our hands into the ink. This is done because it has worked in the past and the hope is that it will continue.  While we must plead guilty, we should be concerned about how we are seen, as thoughtless, willing to be bought and available to be sold like slaves in a slave market. At least those slaves had little control over things.

As we carry on our conversation about politics there is a great deal of ignorance about critical matters. One recent discussion involved persons calling for limits to the term of office of Prime Ministers; some even suggested that it should also apply to parties. Their point of reference is the United States of America. But their system is completely different. Our Westminster system cannot accommodate limitations without major changes to our constitution. Ideally, we should be able to change governments when they fail to live up to what we sent them to parliament to do, but there are a number of obstacles.  Any dissatisfaction with their performance should be displayed at the polls, but with the possibility of electoral rigging, and the reality of unemployed and people living on the margins of society, easily open to bribes, it is a non-starter. Countries like Barbados and to a lesser extent Jamaica, regularly rotate the parties they give the opportunity to govern their countries. Is there something different about our people? We should really have a serious discussion about this. Some structures will help, like an independent electoral commission, although this misfired in Guyana. Can we have checks and balances to facilitate accountability, transparency, and generally good governance? But even then, the people are what will eventually matter.  We have always admired the US for its system of checks and balances, but President Trump is fiercely challenging this as he eats away at those institutions with the complicity of people in key positions.

 We must let those holding the reins of power understand that we are the ones with the power to review their terms of office and to decide whether they should be replaced or allowed to continue for a next term. Having one party in power for a long time, especially with the same leader, leads to abuses of power where those holding the reins of power come to believe that they own the country and can do whatever they feel. All is however in the hands of the people. But how do you wake them up and get them to become more politically conscious? 

 Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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