Having critically analysed Senate weaknesses and proposed reconstruction final week, it’s time to do an analogous train for the House of Representatives.
Reality is the House wants greater than easy reconstruction. Right now Jamaica doesn’t have a House of Representatives, or higher put, apart from in concept, the House doesn’t include members who represent the people.
In follow, members of Parliament (MPs) act as political social gathering representatives and toe social gathering strains no matter antagonistic results on constituents. This is an inevitable consequence of how the House is structured. After we elect its members, one is appointed prime minister then the PM appoints the bulk of majority MPs to the Cabinet, after which the House acts as a Cabinet rubber stamp. The results of this brainless perpetuation of English custom is that every one MPs aspire to be ministers (minority MPs’ aspirations extra long run than majority MPs’ however an identical).
As normal, on this upside-down world the place nothing is because it seems, we aspire to seem English however find yourself making a banana republic dominated by a totalitarian authorities. A governance organisational chart for our banana republic would resemble a precarious political pyramid scheme with a PM on high with the sole goal of retaining “energy” for the good thing about social gathering members, cronies, activists, and loyalists.
Once achieved, Government operates clandestinely. Hundreds of partisans are mysteriously appointed to statutory boards in absolute secrecy with out signal of job interviews or vetting of credentials by the people’s representatives earlier than these devotees begin spending our cash. It’s authorities by decree sustained by sycophants.
We the people’s sole second of inclusion comes twice per decade as we’re bused to polls to mark our “X” towards a political image. Many don’t even know the title of the candidate for whom they voted. Then the House treats us as Pontius Pilate did Jesus and proceeds on a frolic of its personal.
Some can present tangible private reward from this corrupt system of governance, however over 59 years, Jamaica has suffered slim or no development (slim has left city); shambolic public-health care, schooling, and safety; and insufficient youth employment. The sole nationwide index of significance that elevated since 1962 is revenue inequality.
So we’ve got a easy alternative. Do we flip sixty years previous with the standard standard content material. To be led by the nostril as soon as each 4 or 5 years to hand unchecked authority to raid the public purse to established failures at accountable governance? Or can we demand change (a.okay.a. accountability)? It’s clear as day hat the phantasm we name a House of Representatives is, in actuality, a chat store that does NOTHING for many Jamaicans.
I vote to demand change. Anything totally different must be an enchancment, however there are pressing basic adjustments impatient of debate. The corrupting affect of the conflation of Legislature and Executive is at the start. MPs vote on nationwide budgets created by majority MPs (sporting Executive hats), then authorised funds are spent by those self same MPs not solely by means of covertly appointed authorities companies, but in addition by means of an equally non-transparent and doubtless unconstitutional “Constituency Development Fund” (CDF) created by MPs basically for MPs to spend Consolidated Fund money as they like.
The CDF is an odious, clearly vote-buying establishment. It has no nationwide function nor does it produce a single financial or social profit for Jamaica. It additional entrenches MPs’ skill to parade as space dons or godfathers handing out scarce political advantages and spoils in trade for wide-eyed voter worship. It isn’t change. It isn’t reconstruction of a flawed society. It doesn’t produce a sliver of development. It’s extra of the similar cultish tribalism that helped us spend the final 59 years digging the deep, darkish financial and social grave into which Jamaica now lies.
So we’d like to be certain that MPs don’t get their grubby palms on our cash however are motivated, on our behalf, to be certain that authorised expenditure is spent in accordance with Jamaica’s improvement. It’s mindless for Parliament to oversee authorities spending when it’s the similar Parliament doing the spending in accordance with a price range proposed by Parliament and authorised by Parliament. That’s a recipe for widespread corruption.
No system is ideal, and corruption, like another human frailty, can’t be eradicated. But it may be considerably diminished, discouraged, rendered simpler to expose and punish. The present system promotes corruption.
The route to governance by accountability begins with a sensible separation of the Legislature and Executive in order that this totalitarian system (each side being successfully managed by a PM) can finish. My contribution to the dialog relating to what sort of House with which we are able to sincerely have a good time our sixtieth birthday consists of:
• Fixed election dates (each 4 years for the House; each three years for the Senate) and time period limits for all elected Executive and House members. Previously serving senators must be ineligible to be MPs, however former MPs will be senators.
• Direct election of a PM and Deputy PM each 4 years (all residents outdoors or leaving Parliament eligible). A constitutional system of succession ought to specify who takes over if each ought to demit workplace earlier than the subsequent election. Any MP who falls in that line of succession should resign as MP if taking government workplace and a by-election referred to as.
• Cabinet members will be nominated from any supply exterior to Parliament however should be vetted and confirmed by the House. Cabinet must be constitutionally restricted to 12 and ministries named. All portfolio obligations must be assigned by the PM to a named ministry. Abolish the oxymoronic “Minister with out Portfolio”.
• Abolish the workplace of governor normal. Replace it with nothing. We should NOT do something to perpetuate a colonial mindset. We can’t afford an costly authorities workplace for profiling. Jamaica wants no extra monarchs, monarchical establishments, knights, or QCs.
• An intense assessment and rationalisation of statutory boards must be undertaken with a view to eliminating 50 per cent. All board chairmen must be vetted and authorised by the House earlier than appointment. Remuneration and increments must be harmonised and stuck by legislation.
• Conditions for impeachment by House/trial by Senate or Supreme Court of members of the Executive must be specified. MPs must be topic to recall elections if a petition with verified signatures of 10 per cent of constituents is introduced.
• MPs’ function and duties must be constitutionally specified as to represent constituents’ pursuits in ALL parliamentary actions. MPs must be particularly barred from immediately or not directly spending public funds. MPs ought to NOT be allowed to exempt themselves from any taxation imposed on residents by legislation. No new tax or elevated tax fee must be authorized until handed by Parliament. In that regard, optimistic or damaging decision of ministerial orders is just not sufficient.
The situation turns into advanced when the maze of English-inspired municipal firms/parish councils is taken into account. The unholy alliance between MPs/councillors is the origin of parish councils changing into cesspools of corruption. There are alternate methods of bettering this governance blot. My choice is to abolish “native authorities” (didn’t a sure “seven-star normal” assert that ALL politics is native?) and convert electoral divisions to constituencies. This would eradicate the multilayered corruption-facilitation system and create a House of over 200, encouraging constructive dissent.
The various possibility (not my favorite as a result of it retains alternative for corruption conspiracies) is to give parish councils independence to levy, accumulate, and authorise expenditure of native taxes so as to fund local-government obligations like gullies, avenue lights, and improvement planning. Also, restrict phrases to two years.
Either possibility includes the demise of the redundant Local Government Ministry. Do we HAVE native authorities? If sure, why does central authorities want that ministry?
Time’s up on this incestuous House of Representatives with zero illustration for us and 100 per cent with blinkered Cabinet aspirations that disregard constituents’ pursuits. There’s no higher instance of that than what’s taking place proper now in the People’s National Party (PNP), the place 4 vice-presidents (two are MPs) dramatically resigned as VPs, citing management disingenuousness. They wrote of their management “… there have been covert makes an attempt to sabotage the objective of peace and concord with a plan to horde (sic) the out there positions”.
SABOTAGE? Yet these principled quitters solely resigned as PNP VPs. They remained in senior PNP posts, together with as shadow spokespersons. Since PNP/Opposition management is an identical, this highlights how parliamentary dysfunction rewards self-absorbed, paradoxical behaviour over illustration.
We should discover a system that encourages real illustration of the people or proceed to wallow in an unsightly concoction of narcissism and sycophancy.
Peace and love!
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email suggestions to [email protected].