The role of civil society in Jamaican Politics

posted in: Opinion, Politics 2

The Jamaica Gleaner has been publishing a series of editorials titled “The Gangs in Gordon House.” In the latest article we have the suggestion that civil society is disillusioned with the political process.

It seems to me that disengagement from the political process is ineffective approach to change. When the PNP storms out of parliament it acts like a spoiled child and does nothing to advance their agenda. When the PNP decided not to contest the elections in 1983 they took their ball and when home because they were being denied their socialist way.

In a working democracy we should see engagement, consensus building, cooperation, and compromise. When Portia hugs Bruce in parliament it suggests a promise to work together for the common good.

I have to restate however, that civil society has very few cards they can play that will force the parliamentarians to give up the dictator’s game. The dictator’s game calculates how little to give the people while still maintaining power.

Civil society may try to withhold financial support, but the political parties have shown that can use the government’s treasury to finance an election. We have the Trafigura incident and allegations of misuse of funds from road works projects that documents this approach. Coupled with misuse of the government treasury we have no laws that compel the political parties to disclose the source of funds used to finance elections. The PNP demonstrates real fear that the JLP will use JDIP funds to finance the 2012 elections.

Civil society has also to contend with the garrison constituency. Parliamentarians seem to hold dictatorial power in the places that ensure them a seat in Gordon House. What can civil society do in a garrison community when the police struggle to enforce common law? Again we have allegations that voters come to the polls only to find out that their vote has already been cast.

Its seems to me that civil society has to work to change the rules of the political game. That means we need to make meaningful changes to the Jamaican constitution. But how do you change the constitution when the parliamentarians in Gordon House are the only ones empowered to make such changes? Its a catch-22.

The lawful and constitutional answer is that civil society needs to support a third party. A third party will provide a counterbalancing force. Many will dismiss the approach. They will say that it has been tried before and has failed. If you believe that success is measured by a third party majority in parliament then you would be correct. If you understand that an effective third party can deny power to one or the other political party, then civil society can force consensus upon Gordon House by requiring a coalition government.

2 Responses

  1. nathansherlock
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    Great article. Question: The scary thing is that ‘civil society’ seems to be completely silent on all issues that matter in Jamaica. Those who comprise civil society seem to be enjoying there material advantages inside a civilization cocoon, with the intent of constantly repelling the ‘uncivilized, irrational and undeduated’ masses when there lifestyle is threatened, while cutting side deals with politicians as required. Key starting point is for civil society to identify shared interests, then, as you say, force a coalition government. Problem is we are going to see multiple groupings of shared interests that conflict – this is Jamaica we are talking about.

  2. nathansherlock
    |

    Great article. The scary thing is that ‘civil society’ seems to be completely silent on all issues that matter in Jamaica. Those who comprise civil society seem to be enjoying there material advantages inside a civilization cocoon, with the intent of constantly repelling the ‘uncivilized, irrational and undeduated’ masses when there lifestyle is threatened, while cutting side deals with politicians as required. Key starting point is for civil society to identify shared interests, then, as you say, force a coalition government. Problem is we are going to see multiple groupings of shared interests that conflict – this is Jamaica we are talking about.