Thursday, October 06, 2005

Voting Is Just The First Step

In small Caribbean islands like ours many citizens are frustrated at the lack of ability to effect any meaningful change in the way they are governed. Voting does not seem to help because once politicians actually get in government; it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. I posit that this is so because people don't see their vote as the first step in the process of demanding accountability and good governance but instead as the end.

Between elections the real power remains unused in the PTAs, village councils, professional associations, unions, churches and the like. Politicians always want to be present for photo-ops and they like to hear themselves speak, at graduations and for ground breaking of this and that. There are many times when the politicians need our audience more than we need to hear them. People must start booing Ministers who come to their area or groups without having made good on the promises of the elections sans explanation. They must get up and walk out of functions when the non-performing politician starts talking and not inviting the Minister of Education who does not serve them well to functions like graduations which often times occur without any support whatsoever from Central Government.

In countries like ours, leaders do not go to jail for outright theft or misappropriation of public funds and rules and regulation which should assure some level of check and balance are often flouted. The people must decide within their organizations to take action for their communities and stick with it. The people who really want to make governments answerable to them must join these bodies and take active part.


We, like all humans, tend to forget the whole community when we get an opportunity for ourselves and so the politicians know how to use crumbs from their table to divide and conquer. There are those who take the crumbs thinking it is really something they are getting. What the crumb receivers don't realize is that the real beneficiaries of their actions are the Ministers etc who get to put a million dollars in their offshore accounts, while the enablers, such as the Chief Medical Officer, get maximum EC$10,000 inclusive of allowances etc. with 40% going to income tax. They, the crumb receivers, can't live above the growing crime and eroding safety with that salary; the Minister can with all the State affords him. They the crumb receivers can't go anywhere else but to the rundown hospital where there is no medicine; the Minister gets flown out as soon as the plane can touch down and all at the country's expense.

What is clear is that unless we have access to real money and or power we can not insulate ourselves from what goes on in our tiny islands. We can't hide because when the government sneezes, we all have to deal with the cold. Nobody can become an island within our already small islands. Unless we can go somewhere else, to face different issues but issues nonetheless, the approach of being indifferent, buying into the bullshit or throwing up our hands in defeat will get us nowhere. If we are to make any sort of impact “we the people” must form power blocks among ourselves in our local communities and work from there. Caribbean people need to act, take action instead of just sitting and complaining. It is at times like these that we need to remember our Christian ideal of being our brother’s keeper.

5 comments:

Abeni said...

i hear you on the accountability thing.Maybe we should press for some local government because in my island there isn't any.But really the choices sometimes don't feel like any

ThandieLand said...

I know it is hard yes..especially for the pioneers.. b/c your work is against the status quo and against the grain. But it has to be done.

No local government in SVG? Well ours have no real autonomy but they are there and can influence local governance so much so that the gov't inpower tries to control as many village and town councils as they can.

Ri said...

I think an approach to breaking the mould of political non-change is by introducing younger activists to the mix. No more old heads for more of the same. New candidate who want transparency, accountability, and the rule of law to prevail.

Another way to deal with it is to harness the power of the web. Blog them up!

ThandieLand said...

Good ideas Ri, but Dominica has the youngest PM in the world; he was 32 when he became PM and he probably is the worse PM when it comes to accountability and answering to the ppl, that Dominica has experienced in its history.

Blogging is good too but it only reaches a certain section of the population and it is often not the section that makes a difference in people power.

But we must all do a something in some way that is the central point of what we are saying here.

The Humanity Critic said...

Great post, activism is a neccesity.