Community welfare needs sidelining MPs' job


Community welfare needs sidelining MPs' job

Observer staff reporter

Monday, February 24, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Member of Parliament for St James West Central Marlene Malahoo Forte is arguing that elected representatives have not been able to focus on lawmaking, their primary responsibility, because they are busy filling social breaches arising from what she described as failing welfare agencies.

“Let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, it [political representation work] is very difficult. Now, the primary role of the Member of Parliament is that of a lawmaker, and it has become lost because the State agencies have not worked very well and we have had to take on the responsibilities... we have had to become social workers, the mothers and the fathers,” Malahoo Forte charged.

She was referencing the situation, particularly, within some lower income communities in some constituenceswhere a number of people expect MPs to cover costs associated with their children's education, funeral expenses for loved ones, medical bills, housing costs, among other things.

Speaking at the formal opening of her constituency office on Eldemire Drive, Montego Bay, on Saturday, Malahoo Forte said she is eager to see change.

“Part of what I am committed to doing is to ensure that the machinery of government works better for the people and to ensure that we pass fairer laws, juster laws that are easy to implement... that is really my passion to our government,” she said.

As a means of remedying the matter raised by Malahoo Forte, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who attended the opening, urged Members of Parliament to work more closely with non-governmental agencies in their constituencies.

“...And what I would want to see our MPs do is to structure their outreach into yes, their political work, but you have to work even closer with the NGOs, with the non- governmental organisations,” the prime minister advised.

“I want to take this opportunity to encourage all our MPs that, you have your political role and you do your political duty to get the roads fixed, you address the water situation, you deal with education, but a large part of your job is as if you are a social worker. You do a great deal of social work.”

He further advised that where no NGOs exist, the MPs should “work with the community to see to it that they emerge”.

“You can set up your own charities and your own foundations to execute and deliver things that may not necessarily fall strictly within your political remit but you may have certain causes, certain issues that you may want to champion. You need to have greater presence in that space as well — and don't be afraid of that space. Work closely with your churches, work closely with your youth groups, work closely with the NGOs to deal with issues that may not be political issues but issues which are still of importance,” said Holness.

Using the recent surge in the incidence of domestic abuse to strenghten his point, Holness said, “but we don't have many MPs who are working to establish, within their constituencies, support groups that would help in this regard”.

“Don't limit yourself to only what you are going to get a demonstration about — focus on serving the broader needs of the people and that is how you are going to broaden politics from just being about road, water, crime to dealing with all the other issues which are of equal importance to the well-being of the society,” pointed out the prime minister.

Malahoo Forte, in the meantime, charged the public not to underestimate the work that political parties do.

“I was one of those that, at one time, kind of scoffed the nose at the political process because I was in another professional realm. But having come into politics, and I am now in my 11th year, I have seen how hard the road is and I have seen the commitment,” she said.

Prime Minister Holness pointed out that the recently opened constituency office is not set up to provide service on a partisan basis.

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