Cross-examiNATION: Time to end political parachuting

By Alexander Shaw, Columnist

The importance of our parliamentarians and by extension our parish councillors is rooted not only in the Westminster system of government, but in the minds of the citizenry whose interest should be more paramount than any other consideration these political representatives may have.

As time goes by and the urge for power becomes more pressing, the interest of the people seems deflated, and replaced with political ‘best practices’ in an effort to either maintain or regain power.

The actions of our politicians, however beneficial they may appear to the people, are not always intended for such, but more so for personal gratification and party-win.

Against this background, I consider it imperative that our political representatives – particularly members of parliament and parish councillors – have more than whimsical and fanciful connection to their constituencies. Else, they will only understand or purport to understand, but will be unable to relate to the cries and woes of their constituents.

As we draw closer to the next general election, I urge our political leaders to rethink the old approach of political parachuting, whereby a candidate is sent to vie for a political seat in a locus where he or she has no real connection.

The existing approach sends a message that there is no competent and capable person living within the boundaries of individual constituencies who can ably represent the interest of the people.

Gone are the days, I believe, when we had just a handful of intellectuals in this country and had to look abroad for political guidance and leadership.

Let it be noted that being a part of the intellectual political ‘minority’ doesn’t mean such a person will best represent the interest of the named constituency. Who feels it knows it; they don’t have to imagine it.

If you drive on the road every day you will know that it needs repairing. Too often we see constituents holding placards for hours in the boiling sun, hoping and praying the traditional media sources will air their cries and contact their political representatives on their behalf.

I respectfully believe that political parachuting, more than anything else, accounts for our history of non-performing members of parliament and parish councillors, who retire their constituents to nothing more than book vouchers at back-to-school and bun and cheese in Easter.

Those benefits, though appreciated by many less fortunate Jamaicans, are, in my view, synonymous to vote-buying in election. Why are our people reduced to such low value? Why do we believe that political handouts are best for our people?

The old adage is instructive, in that, you give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

If successive governments and members of parliament create the framework for growth and development, there would be no need to feel an urge to supply two bottles of ‘White Rum’ at a Nine-Night .

We need to reshape and retool our political practices, and it should start with our leaders. We should learn to appreciate what we have, the talents and skills that emerge from among us. It is this same mindset that causes many of us to consume more foreign products and look with greater respect and admiration to foreign nationals and celebrities.

I would want to believe that educated and political savvy individuals are located right across the length and breadth of this country. Hence, there is no need to send a man from Mocho to represent Cherry Gardens in Gordon House and vice versa.

Let us end this nonsensical and narrow-minded practice of political parachuting, and put the people’s interest and views first, not that of our political parties and their special interests.

Alexander L. Shaw is an educator and an attorney-at-law. The views he expressed are not necessarily those of The Beacon. Email your feedback to him at Legalservices.alexandershaw@gmail.com and to The Beacon at jamaicabeaconnews@gmail.com


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