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Editorial – Valuing health in politics

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

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THE CONFLUENCE of recent events has reminded us once again that we are living in very challenging times. Two and a half years ago we elected a Government headed by a dynamic young leader to chart the way forward for the ensuing five years.
Then, the country was on the brink of the economic turmoil brewing in the international arena, and everyone recognised that it required skilled hands and careful timing to navigate the ship of state through waters which were churning and economic winds which had the capacity to blow the economies of even the largest countries in the world off course, and they did.
The only member of the David Thompson administration with any experience as a Cabinet minister was Mr Thompson himself, and clearly he was going to be more than ordinarily influential as Prime minister and party leader simply because he had been there and done that.
It is therefore to the country’s disadvantage that within less than three years of his taking charge of the Government, he has been stricken with an illness which is at the very least physically challenging and debilitating, and he has to shed major ministerial portfolios.
We fully empathise with the Prime Minister, as he seeks, though ill, to fulfil his political obligations to the people of this country. Political duties are not to be lightly entered upon, and once so undertaken are not to be lightly jettisoned at the onset of difficulty.
Not one of us knows what may befall him or her in this life, as we are all hostages to the fates which may beset us.
As a member of the fourth estate and therefore a partner in the governance of this country, we are interested observers commanded by tradition and duty to critically examine the events that shape our lives and question the responses of our political players to these events.
As we understand the present position, ministers of the Crown are expected to be on the job once in the island, and suffer from the disadvantage that unlike other workers they are not entitled to holidays.
This is a matter that needs immediate examination, for the demands inherent in the job of a politician or minister are many, varied and immensely stressful. It can no longer be business as usual in this respect.
Provision must now be made for holiday breaks for our governors, and that must be a lesson to be drawn from the present situation.
The composition of the Cabinet is a matter for the discretion of the Prime Minister but already some controversy has arisen with allegations about lack of consultation about the changes.
Yet a Prime Minister need not consult anyone, and some  controversy rages whenever a reshuffle takes place.Whatever may be the controversies, our primary concern is that the public interest is protected and that a lively and timely public opinion is brought to bear on political matters, especially in the peculiar events that have befallen us.
The commentators and shapers of public opinion, whether they be academics or people from the street using the “call-in” programmes, must make their constructive criticism of public policy initiatives coming from both Government and Opposition.
Our political growth and welfare depends not only on what we are told may be done, but also on our responses to proposals coming from our political leaders, so that the best ideas from those who would contend for public office are subjected to the highest public scrutiny.
The options facing this country gives little room for wiggle and hard decisions will have to be made with very limited resources, and difficult questions have to be asked and answered in the very near future.
Some of these questions may be answered in upcoming budgetary measures; but we cannot ignore the reality that the health of our leaders is important to us, because it may impact their political decisions!