A Permanent Electoral Campaign

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Judging from futile discussions whipped up in the media on decisions which partake solely of prime-ministerial prerogatives, we hope that the country is not set for a permanent electoral campaign. A second mandate should bolster the self-confidence of the executive in what should be the guiding principles in the appointment of high-ranking officials in statal and parastatal bodies. In the US, the winning candidate wastes no time in asking officials appointed by the outgoing ruling party to vacate their offices, pack up and leave without any further delay, and fill the posts with nominees from their own political obedience. Their counterparts in European democracies meet the same fate but with less haste in the replacement procedure.

It is the duty of the press to act as a counter-power, inform and divulge information of public interest, comment on key policies with a critical mind. Press people are not lackeys of the ruling team. Neither is the public expected to gulp down whatever is dished out to them by the press, more so because daily delivery of news does not facilitate the task of covering all aspects of topics dealt with to allow proper understanding by the public, and thus conveys only a partial view of issues. A fair degree of objectivity is expected from the media though total independence is a blurred concept. The public is not fooled by endless palaver which is constantly churned out in so-called talks on private radios.

An electoral reform that gets rid of the Best Loser System will spare the public the sight of stupid journalists focused on whether a specific ethnic group will be represented in the front bench. There should be more attention on deserving people from any group than taking on board any mediocrity for the show of diversity just to please a few lobbies. Such biased choice which is akin to positive discrimination only serves to hand over hefty salaries from public funds to undeserving individuals, which, unfortunately, happened for the last years.

By now, the ruling party must have fully realized that such generosity has not brought electoral gains either and is unlikely to change in the future. So better be pragmatic and rational in the policy of nomination and the choice of the right profile in the highest posts. The authorities should be careful not to create a situation which makes it an obligation for any winning party to appoint someone from any ethnic group to represent the state or whatever. Otherwise, it will be taken for granted and may lead a few to make wild claims, utter threats and start a riot if their demand is not met in the future. It is not the prerogative of the press to dictate government’s choices of the right candidate. Media spokespersons’ vision of who have been appropriate candidates in the past often cajoles a few individuals from their own clan, and some of them top the list of their online fans. It does not reflect public opinion on these people.

While the ruling team is starting a new mandate, advisers at the PMO must warn against abuse of national television for self-publicity. There should be enough self-confidence in the PM not to indulge in self-promotion, make room for other ministers to hold the floor on their own and recommend them to avoid cheap rhetoric, and to address the public only when it is deemed necessary. Once a fortnight for prime-ministerial address is enough. After the past fifteen years it will be a novelty that will be appreciated by the public.

Emotional outbursts from various quarters or specific individuals entailing threats of violence of any kind on grounds of being offended for personal, ethnic or religious reasons should not be encouraged and stirred up for sensational effects in the media. Ministers should be above the fray and not let themselves be intimidated by media insistence to keep or dismiss elected representatives.

Far from being enlightened, quite a number of clerics are immature individuals with little knowledge of the logic that drives public figures to make statements on topics related to sociology, culture, mores or civilizational ethos. Ministers have the right to comment on such topics. Clerics had better attend to their flocks and not poke their nose into matters which they cannot fully comprehend. Spare the public the sight of mimetic reaction of religious representatives heading towards PMO with high blood pressure to drawl out their list of irrational grievances. If the government appears soft-spoken on specific issues and gives in to the whiners, such scenes as witnessed before are likely to occur again.

In a small society prone to palaver and gossip in which media gladly participate, cool-headed people are expected to stand up and voice out rational opinions. We have had enough of individuals being oversensitive on issues of identity, nationality, religion and all that. The world has had enough of such nonsense. One can defend a country one relates to or a culture in a poised rational manner without going crazy at any mention of topics which one believes are taboo subjects for others to speak about.

* * *

With a view to creating an inclusive society, a sound suggestion to the national television is to adopt a policy of inviting protagonists from various walks of life and socio-professional categories to debate on key topics which concern one and all. The younger generation should feel included in the decision-making process related to consumerism, environment, new technology and other relevant topics which will have far-reaching consequences in years to come.

Over the years, the national television has made headway in proposing a variety of local productions. Though private television channels are considered as a component of democratic societies which promote free speech, they have also played a negative role in creating more confusion and division in bigger countries. As private enterprises funded by specific groups, the ultimate goal is more about reaping profits and telling half-truths to the public than a wish to enlighten and uplift awareness on key issues. Journalists of poor level despite academic credentials from prestigious schools are the cause of a loss of interest in a variety of privately-owned television channels.

The MBC should not be reluctant to give citizens a space to freely express themselves. It will help those who are seething with resentment and frustration to find a way to air their feelings and views instead of slinging poisonous arrows online using fake identities. Ways and means to federate citizens across the board to create a deep sense of belonging to the country and create a feel-good factor so that no group feels excluded or is tempted to adopt self-imposed segregation have to be considered.

* Published in print edition on 13 December 2019

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