IT HAS BEEN a long break, and it wasn’t because of writer’s block, but I’m back.
We are clearly into the silly season. The activity by the political parties that has been almost non-stop since the last election is certainly being stepped up.
We all wait in eager anticipation of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s announcement of when eligible Barbadians will elect a new Government.
This is a good starting point for voters to start asking some questions about our system of governance. The reality is that we have little say outside of the polling booth.
We have inherited the Westminster system from our former rulers, Great Britain, and have stuck rigidly to it. Yet Britain has developed a system of checks and balances, which we have not.
Should we be still guessing when the date of our election will be?
In 2017, shouldn’t the existing laws be amended to have a fixed date for the people to go to the polls? Understandably there are many vagaries in our system making it possible for an administration to be toppled before the end of its five-year term. But where there is a problem there must be a solution.
And there is the question of funding of our political parties.
Exactly how are they run?
Almost anyone can apply for and be granted membership of a political party in Barbados. Political parties come to the public offering to serve, and asking us to have faith and trust in them. At least that is the cry during the period they seek our votes.
But why don’t political parties issue an annual statement of audited accounts? Why don’t these organisations publicly state the names of their top 500 donors whether corporate or individual and the amounts given?
No one should expect a political party to run for office without spending big. Advertising campaign will cost money, the use of social media will incur expenditure, campaign offices have to be financed, the entertainers must be paid, and some voters will be holding out their hands in expectation.
But more transparency about their finances is needed.
At the end of the last general election in Barbados in 2013 there was an outcry from politicians about disgraceful “vote buying” and the amount of money spent.
Some businessmen kicked up dust about it.
The Electoral and Boundaries Commission has turned on its mute button on the issue.
How will the public make the political class more accountable?
Well, when the politicians visit you, please ask them about the changes in the political system which they will institute and demand that they speak publicly about them.
Clearly, a lot of responsibility will rest on the Fourth Estate which must undertake its duty as guardian of the public’s interest.
Yes, there will be roadblocks and hurdles, and some may be major and challenging. But the media, new or old, must have the resolve and the determination to press ahead regardless of the difficulties, real or perceived, to hold to account those who seek public office. Change for the better and for the majority must be the ultimate objective.