For a long time I’ve wanted to both rebuke and defend (new) government ministers with respect to their attitudes to (their) voters. You may regard those election-time voters as “the electorate,” the party “base,” the ministers’ “constituents” or “constituencies,” or simply the nation’s people long after the party and the elected representatives begged for – and sometimes received – their precious career-building/career-sustaining votes.
So why does this issue attract my attention? Because the comrade-in-the-street and print media letter columns frequently bemoan the seemingly negative “treatment” by elected officials towards their constituents whether their “own” or not.
The pre-election environment and context will differ, somewhat significantly of course, when the dust of office status and authority settles after elections. And that reality is what poor Mannie had and has to come to terms with now. However perplexed, then bitter and disillusioned he has become. But who is poor Mannie?
Mannie’s minister friend. Friend?
Mannie is a seasoned carpenter who would land reasonable construction jobs now and then. He was normally apolitical just voting (tribally) for his People’s National Congress (PNC) now “disguised openly” as some “APNU”.
His common-law vendor-wife Vernie however was a passionate PNC/APNU worker activist, whoever led her party at whatever period. She worked tirelessly for the coalesced parties from January to May 2015. She goaded her partner Mannie, who despised Messrs Jagdeo and Ramotar, to “work” for an APNU+AFC electoral win. Matters here were assisted by the fact that Mannie grew up with, mixed and played dominoes with an APNU candidate who seemed destined for “big-things.”
So said, so hoped for, so happened. Mannie’s pal became a government minister in May 2015. By April of the following year (2016) two other folks with whom Mannie was closely acquainted – he would often work on their homes – landed heavily on the Georgetown City Council. Naturally, Mannie now/then felt well-connected. Not so!
His new minister friend became scarce. Inaccessible by all means. His municipal contacts had little time for him too. Mannie tried to understand, but felt deflated. When his wife was chased off of her years-long city vending spot he felt betrayed. (She who rang a big bell to awaken folks at 4 am to vote on Polling Day!) No matter how he tried to understand policies he couldn’t get any favour or assistance. Most hurtful, both categories of old friends – now in office – seemed to have vanished from his radar of old-time acquaintance.
Realities, dangers of office
Mannie is a symbol of hundreds (thousands?) who experience the changed of post-election relationships. New high office-holders cannot be expected to fulfil election promises swiftly or to have time, as before, to socialize and assist all their old buddies and comrades. Then slowly – but surely it seems – office status, authority, power, take hold of the psyche of too many new “big ones.” Disconnection, high-living and arrogance step in. They enjoy airport VIP status, American visas, weapon permits, all the perks of office – forgetting or ignoring those (voters) who made it all happen?
Observe the Georgetown Town Clerk and committee chairpersons. Accessible? Friendly? Which ministers now ignore you? Sure some issues can’t be discussed openly at any, every time. But the people should not be treated with class-conscious disdain. Because it is expected that they will/might still vote for the tribe. No matter how busy they are, name seven ministers who still make time to talk and connect.
The power of the Judge
This past Monday, a witty American TV interviewer confirmed that most Americans knew precious little about the work of their powerful Supreme Court. And our own enigmatic Attorney-General was complaining publicly that today’s Judges of the High Court were intruding in government ministers’ authority.
This sparked another topic which has long intrigued layman me: The role and power of judges – the judiciary – in societies such as ours. This complex rule-of-law Westernised system we live under reposes immense authority by legal arbiters – called judges – over every aspect of our lives. Immigration, financial disputes, civil criminal cases, interpretations of the supreme law – the constitution, our every right and freedom, electoral matters, commercial property disputes –are all subject to some judge’s decision. What power! Who supervises our judges properly?
My management of space herein is poor. I must lead off with this issue another time then. What makes a young person want to pursue law as his/her life’s career? The law and order and protection of society? Or the lure of sheer ultimate power? Discuss…
1) Two Stabroek News’ questions-of-the-week: (a) “was this the expected performance of a senior government minister who secured a whopping 50% increase in salary after just a few short months in office?
How President Granger can salvage credibility for his government from this debacle is unclear.
2) In the matter of choice of Gecom Chairman, I’m slowly siding with Mr Nandlall – reluctantly?
3) So even if Digicel’s connection with Suriname) is illegal, the interests of local consumers trumps that?
4) GWI is warning that even your neighbour should not supply you with their water if you are disconnected. Die of thirst?
5) When will works commence to build the new vendors mall on the old Co-op Bank site in Stabroek?
’Til next week