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Put that in yuh manifesto

Put that in yuh manifesto

By Sherwyn Walters | Tue, November 06, 2012 - 12:01 AM

Every time a politician comes to my home, they always seem to behave as if it is time for the last bus – and they don’t intend to miss it.

Or they look as though they are, as the Americans used to say, casing the joint – with their wandering eyes, you could be forgiven for thinking that they are looking for places to burgle/burglarize.

If that is not bad enough, they or somebody with them always holding a clipboard, and they seem to be ticking things off (me too), rather than taking notes. So, I often feel like a statistic or unit of something as they behave like census officials. With their strained affability and unctuousness, they never seem to be in the business of connecting with me. Hit and run is written all over them.

Perhaps that’s par for the course. Perhaps it’s the need to cover all of these people who don’t know them or who have not had the chance to see them other than on television or in the newspaper.

And as elections must certainly be around the corner, I am sure to be afflicted with more of the same – for which, obviously, I have little appetite.

But since they always seem to be in a hurry when they visit, and would obviously have little time for my “long talk”, here are some of the things I would like to say to them.

First, I want some real representation. Study it: these people come begging you earnestly for your vote, saying they want to represent you; they are even said to be the representative for such and such constituency; but, in fact, they then go and represent the interests of their political party or, at worst, their own interests. In which case, they may well be not the Member of Parliament for, let’s say, Pelican Island, but rather the Member of Parliament against said constituency.

I want a greater stake in Barbados’ democracy. I want frameworks and opportunities other than occasional town hall meetings, call-in programmes or newspapers’ letters columns – or the chance to write a column – (none of which are state-created governance set-ups and each of which has extremely shaky ability to shape Government’s response to various issues, especially those at the constituency level).

There is no framework for constituency governance, so I can influence precious little in my constituency. And the Constituency Councils are not governance apparatuses – they are more like local welfare boards. So, here I am, like every damned body else in Barbados, with little more impact on our democracy than a vote every five years or so.

So, politician, put into your manifesto some plans for a stronger stake of the people in their own governance – more meaningful avenues for them to grab hold of their democracy; frameworks for more consequential intervention into public affairs. As it stands, we, the people, are on the outside – just waiting to vote. Come better than that.

Another thing: I believe that a focus on law and order sets the tenor of a country. I am also in no doubt that Barbados has not for some time put a clear and unrelenting emphasis on aspects of law and order beyond crime and violence (and imagine that concern about those two could have been the butt of jokes a few years ago!).

I want to see fierce attention being given to things that, though not registering as big crimes, do great damage to the fabric of the society, especially to the sense of community and relationships in a community. Loud playing of music (give me a reason to stop writing and talking about this), the indiscriminate burning of refuse, littering, the abandonment of vehicles, and other evidences of neighbour, in essence, bullying neighbour should be staunched from the highest levels. Deal with that in your manifesto.

Of course, you must take seriously the need to improve the behaviour of Parliament. Conduct in the Lower House generally holds little example of the sophistication of statesmanship, the gravity of high office, the beauty and power of appropriate language use, or the dignified treatment of even those with whom you disagree.

The conduct of many members is unbecoming. Some people must think that “Yuh mudda” is not too far from the lips of those who say they represent us. And to think that every so often they foist their sessions on us – at least those who are unfortunate enough to have Single Choice TV.

That last one may not be a manifesto kind of thing. But I know it is a character thing. Work on it.

• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email offwally@gmail.com.

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