Garrison politics on show, courtesy of by-elections

Monday, October 30, 2017

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The three by-elections today for parliamentary seats in St Mary South Eastern, St Andrew Southern, and St Andrew South Western bring into sharp focus the points raised by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck recently about garrison politics.

Indeed, the undemocratic nature of garrison politics has been extremely glaring over the past few weeks as campaigning between the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) intensified in only one of the three constituencies.

Both parties have placed all their resources in St Mary South Eastern and have largely ignored the voters in St Andrew Southern, and St Andrew South Western because the St Andrew constituencies are regarded as safe seats for the PNP.

What that really means is that St Andrew Southern, and St Andrew South Western are zones of political exclusion in which views opposed to those held by the controlling political party are really not entertained.

These are constituencies in which people's votes are not influenced by issues, but by blind loyalty to a political party, even in instances when their political masters fail to do their job of representing the people who put them in office.

As Mr Chuck so correctly stated, “The garrison phenomenon... is a blight on our democracy and our country.” Whether it can be corrected now is a big question, because politicians on both sides, having recognised its iniquitous value to getting and keeping them in the Parliament, have allowed it to balloon over decades.

So there is no demand on the four candidates in St Andrew Southern, and St Andrew South Western to lay out their plans for those constituencies. How, for instance, do they propose to tackle some of the burning social, educational and infrastructural problems plaguing these areas?

Instead, what we have seen is the candidates from both sides engaged in the hustings in St Mary South Eastern. While we recognise the significance of the St Mary vote to the power balance in Parliament, we don't believe that voters generally should accept blatant disrespect shown to them by candidates seeking their support.

But, as we stated before, voters in garrison constituencies are largely blinkered, and that suits the politicians.

We don't get the sense that there exists among the majority of the populace a high regard for the value of their vote. That is why candidates get away with paying people to either cast a ballot or stay away from polling stations on election day.

By any stretch of the imagination, this is not healthy for any country, especially one with a thriving democracy. Candidates should face examination from the public on any idea because, as we all know, discussion can lead to solutions.

The opposite of that is really dictatorship, which does not entertain debate, especially when people hold views opposed to those in political office.

Minister Chuck has said that the task of dismantling garrison constituencies is the job of the island's two major political parties. They would do this country a great service if they set about doing just that.




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