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.