Ministers of government versus leaders

Dear Editor,

Your edition of December 17 carried a letter captioned ‘The buck stops with the people’ by Karen Abrams. Ms Abrams, I must admit, is quite imaginative and thoughtful to paint a picture of a nation taken over by a series of conspiracies to keep its citizenry in poverty while its leaders bask in the riches, wealth and resources of the land.

While her opening statement of fighting for equality and justice is relevant and needed for any society to thrive on equal footing, her closing statement gave me a striking hint as to what knowledge, we as a nation, have been lacking for some time now. The halfway mark of her letter mentions the word ‘leaders‘ half a dozen times.

Now there is a difference between a leader and a minister of government, ie a senior officer of state in a government department, especially in the parliamentary system of government. The parliamentary system of government, I must remind our readers, gives power not to the people but to the officers the electorate has placed in office.

At the swearing in ceremony no one is sworn in as a leader, no, they are sworn to serve. They are servants of the state and not masters of the people.

We have a problem in determining who or what is a servant, compared to who or what is a leader. A servant is a minister to the people on behalf of the state, while a leader is a master who is in charge of a department or a ministry.

The problem is amplified when we accept a servant who is suddenly transformed into a master. Ms Abrams said, “If citizens give up that right or allow themselves to be manipulated by immoral and selfish leaders, then they deserve every bit of contempt they receive from their government.“ This said, let me add here that if the people receive their ministers as masters then they have no one to blame but themselves.

Finally, the principle of giving and receiving must be considered, because as I said earlier the parliamentary system gives power not to the people but to the officers the electorate placed in office. In short the people give power and the elected officers receive the power.

So the buck has left the domain of the people and has reached the minister in office. Therefore the buck stops at the minister.

We must be careful and strike a balance lest we become another Egypt or Libya. Power to the people can be a dangerous slogan if taken in the wrong context. It is always safe to have a group of humble persons, knowledgeable, honest with excellent character and a high degree of integrity to manage the affairs of state. You don’t give such responsibilities to novices.

I thank Ms Abrams for such insightful thoughts, nevertheless I find it difficult to agree with her final thought – power to the people.

Yours faithfully,
Apostle Vanrick Beresford

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