Saturday, 6 February 2016

#JaNoVote2016: Misleading "Pro-Voting" Preaching

Image result for VOTE as a rifle "A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user" - Theodore Roosevelt

During the election season "pro-voting" media content and conversations become almost unbearable trying to save "nonvoters" and "undecided" from everlasting torture in pit of Hell-ocracy, with everyone reading from the same bible. 

Vote evangelists wants you to put a X beside something, thinks that everybody has to identify with a political party, and they keep skipping the first commandment of a democracy; participation. I was compelled - possibly touched - to write this with hope of relieving many "non voters" and "undecided" of their 

I will declare that I have not voted and will not vote until I have seen a candidate or a political party or a candidate that best represents and voices the issues that concerns me the most; which includes making comprehensive constitutional and governance reform a top level priority, environmental protection, equality and closing the income gap, until that appointed time I will withhold exercising this sacred right. 

Many would immediately choose to castigate my choice, by automatically replying "If you don't use your right, you will lose it;" indeed this message intended to support citizen empowerment and participation cannot be used to justify irresponsible use or abuse of a your own rights. As I was I understand it, being a citizen in a democratic society, one has individual rights with mutually linked responsibilities. These rights ensure equality and justice for all regardless of what 'divides' us and the responsibilities are there to prevent us from infringing upon others and own rights.

Right to Vote & Its Responsibilities

If you do decide to cast your ballot then you've decided to engage in a single part of "the 
process" that is linked to generations of hardships, fights, bloodshed, activism and political 

willingness across the world. The right to have a say in who is allowed to govern locally or nationally is an awesome task and is constraint by 2 main responsibilities: become informed 
and vote according to ones certain belief.

Therefore a vote should be respected as it symbolises a conscious decision in which the chosen person or party is indeed the best representation of one's belief at that moment with all issues factored in. Hence, to defy ones conscience and express his beliefs wrongly on a ballot is to behave as a irresponsible citizen and soil the sacredness of the vote. It is then safe deduce that one should not be chastised for being an informed "non-voter" or an "undecided" who has weighed all options and come to a conclusion, those who are to be shamed are the irresponsible voters who are the legions of "die-hearts" and "party loyalist" who are uninformed and their only certain belief is that "mi is born PNP or JLP." 

A Dangerous Farce

Any political messaging that seeks to segregate or render a group of people as second class citizen must not be entertained and rebuked as dangerous to the social fabric of our nation. 

Many declared "nonvoters" and "undecided" receive flack; before, during and after election season because the prevailing belief is that "you have no say" and should not say anything because you don't vote. It is encouraged by our political leaders especially those who could benefit from higher turnouts, when they take to political platforms "looking votes" as disguised advocates of citizen involvement. The undue burden of being told how horrible not voting is, and how your allowing bad people to win.

It is a selfish practise to satisfy a politicians own shortcomings in their own inabilities to inspire 
or motivate. Which is often discussed as an aside to blaming "nonvoters" and "undecideds" for the state of nations governance and democracy. 

"The Process" and Participation

I, like so many other young, politically untethered Jamaicans are aware of the encryption and political warping since independence of what a democratic society truly represents in the 21st Century, then we can easily resist and counter the calls for "undecideds" and "non-voters" to "come off the fence" or "come into the yard," respectively. 

We know that voting is not "the process" but apart of the process that includes: 
  • dialogue between state and civil society, 
  • advocacy, activism, 
  • volunteering, 
  • affecting/writing policy, 
  • old media/social media interactions, 
  • civil action/protest, 
  • by keeping yourself informed and the list continues. 

Discussions must begin to focus on how we get people involved not just to lead towards a ballot box but create long-lasting positive changes in their society by speaking up and speaking out against bad governance.

Only voting every 5 years cannot and shouldn't be seen as participation. One doesn't affect govt policy or hold government accountable when its convenient for the government, you have to disrupt and intervene whenever there is need to tell the government: We want Fixed Election Dates! Leave the Goat Islands! or #FireFenton!

I don't vote and I don't feel any pressure to vote, because I know I've a well informed and certain decision to withdraw from voting, nothing separates me from someone voting PNP or JLP. I subscribe to my responsibility as a citizen of democratic state to participate otherwise until I decided or find necessary to vote.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Will North East St. Elizabeth Start a Political Revolution in Jamaica?

On February 25th the voters of North East St Elizabeth will be going to polls to choose from 4 candidates (1PNP, 1JLP, 1PNP-Independent and an Independent) that have declared their interest in being the Member of Parliament for the constituency well-known as a People National Party (PNP) stronghold or garrison. But should the word “revolution” will be tagged to the race that could possible see the first Independent Member of Parliament (MP) be elected to Gordon House?

One of the Independent candidates Joseph Patterson, President of the United Independent Congress (UIC) in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, believes his campaign; victory and following historic entry into Parliament would “bring forth arevolution like never before” being the first elected Independent MP.  The United Independent Congress’s platforms are based on strong constitution and governance reform, and Mr. Patterson is committed to bringing the Congress’s platforms to parliament; reforms that the current political establishment has been unwilling to touch for over 53years.

Why is it a Revolution?       

To understand why the outcome of the North East St Elizabeth electoral race may be framed as a revolution we must first know what revolution is; the Oxford     dictionary assigns two definitions to the word “revolution”, firstly “a forcible overthrowof a government or social order, in favour of a new system,” secondly “adramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitude or operation.”

Within the context of Jamaica, a two party system controlled by elected representations at both central and local government, a revolution would constitute any disruption to this system of government. We should not underestimate the ability of Jamaicans to recognize “change” as swing accordingly, hence there is no doubt in my mind that constituents in other areas of island will begin to question their own situation and stop settling for “the lesser evil.”

This change in attitude towards politics, governance and what we must begin expect and demand will no doubt only come when a single constituency decided to spark something much bigger than North East and give back Jamaica its Independence almost 54 years after it exchanged one master for another.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Jamaica's Political Establishment Implosion and The Independent Challenger in 2016

It was to the end of 2015 that I came across the term "political resocialization" while watching a forum on youth participation in democratic conducted by the youth group Respect Jamaica an UNICEF Jamaica initiative.
Indeed the speaker eluded to the fact that the Jamaica's political  culture after the bloody and divisive period of the mid 1970's to 1980 had serious skewered how the newly independent nation defined democracy and was the beginning of the acclimatization of pre & post independence Jamaicans to tribal, dependent, corrupt and unreliable politics that has persisted even to this day with robust national development left to suffer in its wake.

Within the same period of last year as Prime Minister Simpson-Miller hinted at a very possible early election, her own party[The People's National Party] candidate selection was turned into nothing less than a circus show of the undesirable elements of politicking including accusations of corruption and favoritism, mudslinging, conspiracies of all sorts left to fester as once favored, seemingly 'working' first term Members of Parliament were replaced in their respective runoffs.

With the election a certainty in 2016 and volatility within the political establishment at an all time high, there is no doubt that the two party system is heading towards implosion as the formal structures for handling internal matters begins to buckle under the call for a more democratic process. 

This call is strongest in the rural constituency of North-East St. Elizabeth, that has been a stronghold for the PNP as the first time young turk Raymond Pryce will be replaced with another candidate after the selection; his supporters have been adamant that they will only support the party at the ballot only if MP Pryce is the candidate.
The Independent
With the opposition party Jamaica Labour Party unlikely to pose a challenge in North-East St.Elizabeth there is a growing void for representation that s by the people and for the people. Joseph Patterson, the President of the newly formed United Independent Congress(UIC) has decided to plant his feet in the divided constituency and take advantage of the weaken stronghold.

With an independent being supported in a constituency with a voter turnout of 32% shared among the main parties in last general election; his ability to tap into the 48% of non-voters will be crucial. With a freshness and difference about him, and the possible pride of being the first constituency to elected an Independent is certainly energizing enough to get non-voters out on the day.

With constitutional and governance reform a critical part of the UIC's mandate, Jamaica maybe heading towards a galvanizing shift away from the colonial masters inspired system of governance.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Local Authorities and Local Advisory Committees

Although there has been a major leap in central government's agenda on Local Government Reform with the passing of the 3 pieces of legislation in 2015 aimed at giving greater authority and autonomy to the local authorities to be called "Municipal Corporations" and "City Municipalities" over their own affairs.

The laws are by no means perfect but are the result of many years of study and lobbying by
stakeholders, wanting to preserve and strengthen the bastardized institution that often receives
criticism for being a unnecessary economic burden and a political tool for rewarding the political parties' grassroots activists seeking representational roles.

But we shouldn't undervalue local government's importance in the day to day running of a nation by
actively fulfilling the national policies of the central government in nooks and crannies, translating
registration into action that directly affect the people, providing the communication channel between
state and people and most importantly the nearest point of contact the people have to affect state
policy; these are just a few basic roles.

Local Participatory Process

In the memorandum of objects and reason the Minister Arscott states "a participatory process which
facilities the direct involvement of key local stakeholders."

And If local government is indeed crucial for 'affecting state policy'; then local authorities must not fail to give life to sections "21" "22" and "37" of the "Local Governance Act 2015" which gives them power to create committees that will help in governance of their perspective parishes.

Sector specific advisory committees or taskforce are constituted of civil society, experts, private sector and citizens that are impacted by the decisions or nondecisions of state and are better placed to
understand best ways to craft and implement policy. The likes of local civil groups and advocates are
often overshadowed by the more influential national groups but this bypass is detrimental to local

Although we have numerous public agencies involved in community agencies that function under the Local Government Ministry, they too often operate as independent cells and The Parish Development Committee is private sector driven.

Few Councils have already implemented taskforce, but the government must see the need to make
mandatory at least four committees or taskforce: Youth. Women, Environment and Health. These
committees are usually voluntary or stipend hence no additional cost and the outcome outweighs the

However, leaving the local governance as a political tool would create more waste, more corruption and less governance.