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YOU AND YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE! by Bryan ST. Louis

posted 25 Jun 2015, 13:58 by Gerry Kangalee

Whenever an individual makes himself available to serve the people he is expected to be full of integrity, morally sound and committed to service of the people. Only upon satisfaction of these basic principles is he supposed to be selected to face the polls at election time. This however does not happen in our political landscape. As such, party affiliation, nepotism, favoritism, loyalty to the Political Leader, political wealth and other cynical criteria are brought to bear on the selection process, which presents us with all types of candidates for Members of Parliament and Councilors. As constituents, we the people have little or no say in the selection process; as in most cases, if not all, the Political Leader has the last say on the selection of a candidate. 

After the elections, the candidate who gains the most votes in his constituency or electoral district is called the Member of Parliament or Councilor as the case may be, having gained the right to represent the people and the constituency. In that regard, when a Member of Parliament or Councilor is elected into office he has in effect signed a Contract with the constituents to be their representative in Parliament or Council.

It is therefore now the job of these elected representatives to work on behalf of all the people in the constituency, even those who did not vote for them. So, even if you voted for one of the other candidates and you strongly disagree with the views of the Political Party to which the elected representative belongs, he is still your representative, there to help you and the constituency with all matters for which Parliament, Central Government or Local Government is responsible. He is therefore now a servant of the people of his constituency.

In that regard, how is the performance of our elected representatives measured? Performance is deemed to be the fulfillment of an obligation, in a manner that releases the performer from all liabilities under the Contract. So let us therefore analyze and assess the performance of our elected representatives in the following context:
As candidates did they satisfy the principles of Integrity, Morality and Commitment to service of the people?

2. Do our representatives come to us to find out our positions on issues/or suggestions on what we want them to say in debates on behalf of the constituents they profess to be talking on behalf of?

3. Why do we have to take protest action to have issues affecting our constituencies addressed?

4. Are we approached or allowed the opportunity to contribute meaningfully on decisions affecting the National Community?

5. Do our elected representatives suddenly remember their constituents when elections are called or when they are in opposition?

6. Do our elected representatives blame being in opposition for their non-performance?

7. Are we allowed to participate in the governance of the country?

8. Do we have a say in the Legislative agenda and the impact this will have on our lives?

9. Do our elected representatives keep or honour manifesto promises?

10. Are we kept up to date on the stewardship of our representatives at any time during their term of office?

A careful analysis of these areas would easily cause all our elected representatives to fail their performance appraisals. This therefore raises the issue of what are we to do with these non performers. At present nothing is done; which suggests that something is radically wrong with our political system. In the circumstances, measures should be quickly put in place to meaningfully address the long outstanding Constitutional Reform, so that the right of recall for non-performing Parliamentary Representatives and all other representatives of the people can be immediately addressed and implemented.

In addition measures should also be put in place constitutionally to address checks and balances to safeguard against the abuse of power, respect for the voice of minorities whilst acknowledging the will of the majority, integrity in Public Office, containment and eradication of corruption and systems/mechanisms to facilitate participatory governance.

In the meantime, whilst we await this long overdue Constitutional Reform, our Members of Parliament and Councilors will continue to violate their contractual obligations as representatives of the people. At the work place we all know what the penalties are for a failed performance appraisal. So what are we as a people waiting for to demand the implementation of similar criteria for our Members of Parliament and other Representatives of the people? They are our employees as they signed a contract with us at election time and are being paid with our tax dollars.

My analysis suggests that these Representatives of the people would continue to feather their own nests, buy big cars, build big expensive mansions and give their friends and families the best opportunity for education and employment, whilst the masses themselves struggle to survive in these challenging economic times. They will continue to operate as owners of the nation until we the people demand accountability from them as servants of the people, with the attendant constitutional reforms in place.

The existing electoral process only generates power seekers who once elected into office lack humility and repeat the cycle of neglect for the people who elected them as representatives of the people. It is time to put an end to this charade and implement the necessary mechanism and legislative framework to demand accountability, integrity and performance from our Representatives.

These representatives of the people have signed a Contract with us as servants of the people and as such must consult with the constituents and act in their best interest at all times. For, after all is said and done, the will of the people must come before the position of any political party. We need meaningful Constitutional Reform now so that the existing political system could be addressed and tailored to facilitate the framework for good governance from those entrusted with the Governance of our beloved Country, Trinidad and Tobago.
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