Munroe Calls for End to Political Tribalism and Deepening of Governance


The Senate yesterday (March 26) approved a motion, which called on government, the opposition and civil society to resume and speed up constitutional and political reforms aimed at removing politicians from the contract awards system and deepening democratic governance.
The motion, which was moved by Government Senator Professor Trevor Munroe, also pointed to the need for the further strengthening of the role of Parliament and enhancing popular empowerment.
Speaking on the issue of how public contracts were awarded, Senator Munroe cited a report by the Joint Consultative Committee for the Building and Construction Industry of Jamaica, which found that politicians were involved in determining who got contracts and the persons employed on work sites. He said that this practice often led to work delays among other problems.
“It underpins victimization and tribalism. It is morally wrong and it is clearly unconstitutional,” Senator Munroe stated. He however noted that the coming together of the government, the opposition and civil society following the Temple Hall incident in October 2003 (in which three men were killed allegedly over a road work project), had indicated that a different, more transparent approach to the award of contracts was possible.
With the assistance of the Peace Management Initiative, he informed, the various stakeholders had arrived at important agreements, including the right of the contractor to hire and fire based on skill, expertise and performance, taking into account need and geographical spread, thereby eliminating the role of the area ‘don’. The agreement also covered the content of the application form, which a job-applicant would be required to complete.
Senator Munroe said, “This Temple Hall agreement provides the element talked about in countless reports, of a new approach, which, with modification to suit local circumstances, needs to be developed in an appropriate Memorandum of Understanding amongst all parties and urgently applied elsewhere”. On this basis, he proposed that in all areas where publicly funded job creating projects were due to begin, broad-based community meetings of the citizens from all sides should be convened by some respected authority.
Stakeholders such as the contractor, the political directorate in the area, and community organization leaders would be invited.
In terms of deepening the process of governance, Senator Munroe called for complete consideration of the Charter of Rights Bill and a resumption of talks on the structure of government in terms of the type of electoral system to be adopted to ensure greater accountability, less corruption and more popular empowerment.
He pointed to the need to initiate discussions on regulating political party funding and campaign reform and to consider limits on party spending, disclosure of sources of funding and forms of public support for parties.
Senator Munroe also called for measures to reduce the dominance of the executive and strengthening the role of Parliament.
In calling for the reforms, Senator Munroe said that this was not to imply that there had not been any achievements and or advances made “as in fact, definite progress has been made, real achievements have been registered in bringing our country and our people together, and in enhancing the role of Parliament”.
Pointing to Parliament’s efforts to enhance the power of the people, he noted that no major law in Jamaica had been tabled by the executive nor passed by Parliament without significant input and amendments from the opposition; input from non-governmental organizations, and from civil organisations such as the trade unions, the churches and human rights bodies and other groups.
“The responsiveness of the government to popular representations and to opposition can hardly be a matter of question or of doubt,” he stated.
Supporting the motion, Opposition Senator Shirley Williams submitted that an audit of the existing contract procurement system should be done to find out where the loopholes existed.

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