Politicians and citizens are reminded that Trinidad and Tobago subscribes to the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development, defined as “an inalienable human right, by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development...”.
This imposes obligations on the country to ensure equal and adequate access to essential resources for all citizens. It also clearly identifies development as a right to which all citizens are entitled. In this context, politicians are duty-bearers, elected to ensure efficient and effective delivery of goods and services for the enjoyment of citizens or rights-holders.
It is inconceivable, therefore, that political par-
ties in Government, past and present, are permitted to persist in the abuse of citizens, parading them before television cameras, having them pay homage to their benevolence. Hapless individuals are caused to mouth-scripted words of gratitude for drains boxed, roads and bridges constructed, social programmes implemented —all routine services financed by the Treasury, the provision of which constitutes responsibilities of elected politicians.
What we witness therefore is nothing more than a crass demonstration of obscene politicking in the guise of taxpayer-funded public-service infomercials. It is also a form of quiet corruption, lining the pockets of supportive PR (public relations) practitioners. Incidentally, this practice is circumscribed by electoral law in India and Nepal, to name two countries, once an election date is announced.
Why then do citizens allow themselves to be exploited in this way? Recent debate, both within and outside Parliament, on the SRC Report on parliamentarians’ remuneration saw MPs on both sides arguing the case for more adequate compensation. This we ought not to begrudge them. But it underscores the fact that their services are not cheap nor do they fund national development from personal financial resources. And they do not take vows of poverty either.
There is no reason, therefore, for us to indulge them in the charade that we citizens should be grateful beneficiaries because they are generous benefactors. We have nothing to be grateful to politicians for; they are our employees. recruited and paid to serve.
After five decades of Independence, there needs to be a changed mindset. We should reject outright politicians’ distorted views of their responsibilities and their relationship with those whom they are obliged to serve.
Further, we citizens must refuse to be cast as thankful recipients indebted to politicians, deceptively dressed in the robes of generous providers.
Or do we like it so?
Winston R Rudder