The island’s main political parties have agreed to support a resolution calling for Members of Parliament to be more accountable to their constituents.
The resolution, an initiative of Joe Issa, executive vice-president of the SuperClubs chain of hotels, was first passed at a meeting of all the island’s Chambers of Commerce in Ocho Rios, almost a month ago. It calls for candidate in the upcoming general election, if they are elected as MPs, to sign a pact with their constituents, promising to address two pivotal issues in their constituencies within “a reasonable period of time”.
On Saturday at the SuperClubs head office in Ocho Rios, representatives of the political parties – the PNP, the JLP, the NDM and the UPP – and business leaders from throughout the island met and endorsed the plan. It now needs only to be “fine-tuned” for it to become a reality before the next election.
In the next couple of weeks, the chambers of commerce and any other local organisations will identify the issues considered most critical to their areas. Their proposals will then be sent to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Kingston, which will draft a document for the political parties to sign.
“We have no problem supporting this initiative,” said Dr. Kenneth Baugh, general secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party. “As long as it is broad-based and allows for flexibility, then you can count on the support of the JLP”. Asked to explain “flexibility”, he said, “While it is easy to identify needs and wants the decision on what to do and what not to do is a difficult one. I experienced that when I was Minister of Health. What I am saying is that I am hoping this thing doesn’t become rigid where there is no room to manoeuvre; that’s all I am saying.”
Senator Aloun N’dombet Assamba, Minister of State for Industry, Commerce and Technology, representing the People’s National Party, said, “We too support this Issa initiative,” referring to the resolution. “I view this as a shift from where we were before and where we are going as a country. This is something which will make all our lives easier and is worthwhile supporting.”
She also wants the issues to be clearly defined and not for things to be asked “that are unrealistic and unfair” to the candidates. “The issues that we are asked to sign off on must be practical and doable.” She added, “My experience is that, from time to time, people will have issues and dreams that simply are not practical”.
The business leaders pointed out that they were not about to make “pie-in-the-sky” kinds of requests, but would stick to basic issues that were relevant to their constituencies. “We are reasonable people and, therefore, it can be assumed that our requests will be reasonable,” said Anthony Chang, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. “You wouldn’t expect us to ask for a nuclear plant in Clarendon or for the national debt to be reduced in half over a three-month period. There are some communities with real issues like water, light and bad roads – these are some of the things we are talking about.”
Joe Issa, commented: “We have an opportunity here to do something historic – to do something that has never been tried before. We are not trying to ambush anybody; what we want is accountability from elected representatives.”
Brasco Lee, general secretary of the National Democratic Movement, said he had been praying for the day when an initiative like this would be brought forward “as a way part of the way we conduct politics in this country. I feel something happening here… I feel the way we used to look at politics is about to change, as what this initiative is proposing is to make elected representatives more accountable to the people they have pledged to serve.”
Source: The Gleaner