A Response to Guardian’s Editorial – “Keep cutting parliamentary seats”

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1st September 2011
The Editor

Dear Sir/Madam:

Response: Nassau Guardian Editorial of 31 August 2011
Captioned: “Keep cutting parliamentary seats”

Once again I have been provided cause for disappointment with the print media- a medium which provides some great material but, all too often, resonates with drivel. Your paper’s editorial of 31 August 2011 captioned “Keep cutting parliamentary seats” was one of those. The writer missed the point and the great difficulty facing us in The Bahamas.

It really does not matter if we have 38 seats (presently required as a minimum by the Constitution) or 49 (the number contested at the 1992 election) or even more. What matters is what is expected of members of parliament and the capacity to produce as required by the electorate.

The Bahamas could do quite well with less than two dozen members in a unicameral parliament with six or seven ministers- provided they were able and dedicated. The present parliament has too many ministers and members who just do not measure up to a reasonable standard.

There is a real job that members of parliament could do working for and with the people who elected them but it does require some talent; an appreciation of the world around us; an appreciation of national realities; a social justice commitment; love and respect for the citizenry; among other capacities.

Another cause for great concern is that the present cabinet numbers seventeen ministers (and, there is one junior minister), even though the Constitution ONLY requires nine ministers including the prime minister. Mr. Ingraham has eight more ministers than constitutionally required. Yes, I know other prime ministers have headed cabinets of more than nine.

Eight supernumerary ministers COST the taxpayer SUBSTANTIALLY MORE than eight members of parliament would cost. What is particularly galling is that there remains four so called ministers of state working in four ministries which already have ministers with job titles. I know that they were supposed to be ‘apprentices’ with ‘real’ ministers until they were able to learn the job- so far only one ‘apprentice’ has been given a real job! This is a clear case of the proverbial ‘jobs for the boys’.

And speaking of members of parliament, it is insulting to the supposed impartiality of the Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Justice of the Supreme Court who serve as Chairman and Deputy Chairman, respectively, of the constitutionally mandated Boundaries Commission, to have the prime minister publicly ruminating on the numbers before the Commission is able to consider and receive input from the public. The Commission would include two members of parliament appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister and one member appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. The prime minister is provided the opportunity, by the Constitution, to make changes to the Commission’s report before bringing the report to the House of Assembly. Take him to task for this breach rather than compliment him.

I support an independent electoral commission which will set constituency boundaries and be responsible for conducting elections. Then the prime minister and anyone else would be free to ruminate at any time because the decisions would not rest with them.
Just because it is a prime minister who speaks it does not mean that it is not drivel.

Thank you for your kind courtesies.

Yours sincerely,

Philip P. Smith
philippsmith@gmail.com