Formalise role of caretakersTuesday, May 02, 2017
Dear Editor, After watching the rebroadcast of Emprezz Golding's town hall meeting 'Yout fi Chat', co-hosted by journalist Giovanni Dennis, I must take this opportunity to congratulate the organiser on this initiative. It is a step in the right direction.
However, a section of the programme really came home to me as I can relate, having been a person that has found himself in a similar position.
Each person on the panel was asked to give a description of the position and/or job they hold. It was quite easy for the mayor and the Members of Parliament to adequately describe what their position is about and what their responsibilities are. For Ashley-Ann Foster, who serves as chairman of a constituency and by extension caretaker, it was not that easy, and this is so for several reasons.
The position of caretaker does not exist within the ranks of the People's National Party. One is asked to serve voluntarily as chairman for a division or a constituency. This position allows the person to lead a committee that is mandated to govern the division and constituency with a view to organise and manage the membership, workers and volunteers of the within that jurisdiction.
Every so often the person that is asked to serve as chairman is the one that has the ambition to become the candidate and ultimately the elected representative. It is very important to note that the role of the chairman is separate from that of the person that will be selected to be candidate; however, the same person is often asked to occupy both positions.
The term caretaker is one that is loosely used to describe the person that is going be candidate in an upcoming election or that person who has recently lost in his or her bid for office, as with the case of Ashley-Ann Foster.
In a nutshell, what I am saying is that the position of caretaker is a label and the position, if it exists, is a voluntary one. There is no second position in an election; once you lose you either be on your way, or you try to wait out the period and run again.
It is unfair for the person deemed to be caretaker to be measured with the same yardstick as the one elected as Member of Parliament or councillor as they receive a salary, travelling, and an allocation to carry out various duties within the constituency or the division they represent. For caretakers, there is no salary, travelling or any other kind of allocation. Whatever they get done they do at their own expense, and it is for this reason many people, after running, resign immediately after losing an election.
I must emphasise that caretakers are people too who have to survive like everyone else and cannot be expected to volunteer indefinitely.
It is my view that both Dennis and others came down on Foster very hard, and I believe that she should have been commended for remaining as chairman/caretaker even after losing the election using her own resources to make representation on behalf of the people.
As a caretaker, I can attest to the fact that people still come to you for assistance with activities such as funerals, back-to-school expenses and welfare, and many of us are forced to assist from personal resources. Caretakers are treated as if they the ones who have been elected and it becomes even more difficult after an election defeat.
I am recommending to the powers that be that individuals who participate in an election and are placed second should be duly recognised as caretakers and given a stipend no less than 30 per cent of the elected official's salary and be mandated to attend the monthly meeting of the municipal corporation and Parliament as an observer.
I further recommend that the caretaker be given the opportunity to identify one project or projects to the value of no more than 30 per cent of the elected official's yearly allocation. It is unfair to expect caretakers, who are volunteers, to function similarly to the elected member who has the job of being the representative.