Our Readers' Opinions
April 15, 2005
Elected officials must let conscience guide them

Editor: A common complaint voiced in a number of letters to the editors of all three SVG weekly newspapers is the perception that elected representatives are not sufficiently accessible to, or do not persuasively represent the views and concerns of, their various constituents. {{more}}

It is likely a valid concern, attributable, at least in part, to the fact that they are required to expend considerable time on ministerial duties that may only tangentially reflect the most critical issues facing the specific voters that elected them. The new constitution may or may not help resolve this aspect of the elected representatives divided loyalties.

Another contributing factor is the expected undivided and unquestioned support for every policy and bill supported by his or her respective party leader. Elected Parliamentarians’ lemming-like support for their party leader, no matter what their conscience, private convictions, or their constituents’ concerns may dictate, cannot be in the best interests of the future social and economic development of this country and everyone knows this.

Every voter has the right to expect that the men and women they elect to represent their issues and concerns, and to formulate and advocate solutions to the same, will do just that, in each and every debate and discussion that takes place in Parliament.

We all know that does not happen. We all want to believe that the major focus of the representative we voted for will be on problems and concerns that face our community. If that is not the case, then government is a charade.

The particular and peculiar problems and needs of each constituency are different: sometimes they may be similar enough in some respects to effect temporary alliances between adversaries and create strange bedfellows, even between members of opposing parties, while at the same time disaffecting some members of their own party. Debates and votes should reflect that.

Undeniably, there are occasions when overriding national concerns must take precedence over the narrower interests of particular communities. Then elected members of Parliament must take their stand accordingly and then be obligated to take especial care to explain to, and inform their constituents as to why they may seem to have voted contrary to the perceived majority interests of their specific electorate.

Anything less is political duplicity and cannot help but undermine the faith of the people in their government and further cynicism and contempt for the political process.

A new constitution may assist in encouraging solutions to some of these concerns, but no government is any better than the people elected to office.

Bad men can subvert the best system; good men can salvage and elevate the worst system. A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.