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Friday 6 December 2019
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Commentary

Why this election is important

Ashvani Mahabir

I have heard an argument by some that this local government election is not an important one. I have even heard the bold suggestion that this election is “small ting” and that the big one is constitutionally due next year. But in a land where fundamental rights include the right to be wrong, I would respectfully disagree. In fact, these elections are perhaps more important than the general election which is due by December 2020.

From the perspective of the delivery of social services to the communities, the elections on Monday are vital to the sustenance and maintenance of our villages and neighbourhoods. There can be the fanciest proposals for legislative reform, grandiose skyscrapers reaching for the stars, the most contemporary approaches to crime prevention, and widespread trade and investment initiatives, but if we can’t fix the problems in the communities, then simply we are defying the aspirations of a people who deserve at the very least, the basic amenities of life.

But this election goes beyond that. Timed as it was, this election gives an opportunity to voice an opinion on more national issues that outstretch the scope of the administration of local government bodies. Truth be told, in the last four years this government has fallen under rigorous scrutiny for a voluminous number of matters, each of which may be deserving of individual electoral review.

For example, this election provides an opportunity to echo a voice on whether this government’s legislative agenda and objectives have met the needs and ambitions of the people and whether they mirror the promises scripted in their manifesto four years ago. It is an opportunity to question whether this government’s legislative itinerary sought to restore the very social fabric of our society or whether it was a glorified theatrical attempt to win popular support.

It is the opportunity to question whether their legislative programme was geared to promote resolution of our core social and economic dilemma or whether it was used as a political negotiating tool, as is the perception with the Cannabis Control Bill. Since the government itself has introduced this bill as a campaign issue, then the election provides the platform to question whether it was a calculated political advertisement that would puff away into wind as did local government reform, a much-touted 2015 general election manifesto promise.

This election must also be the medium through which voices are heard on the mass hysteria that surrounds our energy sector, from the condemning allegations of “fake oil” to the mystery and mayhem surrounding the closure of Petrotrin and its subsequent seemingly clandestine sale to a group being perceived as a “trade union conglomerate”.

In this election, voices should also echo on the chaos and pandemonium that surrounded the leasing of new inter-island sea bridge vessels, possibly the greatest political disaster to hit Caribbean shores. And Monday’s poll also represents an opportunity to reflect on the manner in which matters relevant to certain sexual harassment charges against a government minister were handled by the Prime Minister himself, and the resultant web that was woven ostensibly pointing to secrecy, concealment and half-truths.

In these matters and many others, the common thread appears to be the lack of transparency, break down in accountability and a defiant prime minister who appears consistently contradictory.

Monday’s vote may also be about a country with a homicide rate which confirms us as one of the bloodiest nation on the planet, or of pictures that flood social media depicting a horrific tale at the nation’s hospitals or of mass demonstration and protest for something as basic as a reliable supply of drinking water.

The issues in this election extend far beyond secondary roads, drains and municipal infrastructure, public health and sanitation services, municipal buildings and recreational facilities. This election is about exercising a right to secure future good governance, a right to exercise a franchise which is more than a mere foundational virtue of our democracy. It is a right that must never be wasted.

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