The essence of a thriving democracy is oversight, that is, political action being subject to scrutiny, which is the check and balance mechanism that makes it obligatory for politicians to think about the consequences of their utterances and their actions.

Oversight is evident in many democracies like in the US where Trump is continuously subject to a majority Democratic Congress and in the UK where even Boris Johnson , despite his overwhelming majority in the House , is still accountable to the Opposition. Where democracy is distorted as in Venezuela ,or Syria or some African countries, such accountability related to oversight often does not apply.

Where do we fall as a democracy inT&T? The government in this country hardly considers the official Opposition “oversight” in Parliament, never really allowing their queries and questions to influence policy, except perhaps conveniently so in a two thirds majority situation, and public reaction to governmental action is often minimal, at best.

Closing school until January 2021 is a case in point despite valid concerns from parents.

This indifference to oversight is more pervasive than you can imagine.

One instance is seen in the less than flattering language used by some senior officials in reacting to the UNC call for a recount , one describing it as “hogwash”, another as “ridiculous”, yet another as “disruptive” and one reputably iconic individual as “farcical” deliberately obstructive of the government functioning in a time of COVID, when to those of average intelligence it was common knowledge that even with the recount, the government is officially in charge and can still function. I detail the latter example to indicate that similar to governmental indifference to oversight , its officials are typical offshoots in their use of language unbecoming without the concern for public reaction or otherwise.

And the “otherwise” is in reference to the deafening silence of organizations like the Law Association and Women’s Rights organisations,the Church, Teacher’s organizations and Youth organisations and others on critical issues affecting the nation.

This is possibly a spin off from the overriding indifference to oversight from the top, but may also be due as in the case of the first, to the futility of their efforts against a legal system which has been thwarting their efforts at every turn, and with some of the others. out of patronage of a government which they suppport, and in some instances ,not to jeopardize their”interests” by being critical of the government.

Perhaps the Media is the only exception to this rule, but it has often suffered for its “oversight.”

It was interesting though that some former UNC players , now rejects , were willing to praise the government against a backdrop of the continued presence of Kamla who was responsible for their political demise .”Positive” oversight often can become “agenda” oriented.

Oversight has been the root of human civilization for the caveman would have had to be answerable to the “group” head and such has continued throughout history in its infinitely multiple manifestations, making society dynamic and forever changing. Here continuity is being touted as being progressive which it may well be in some ways, but is there any substitute for continuing intellectual exchange as the way forward which is the essence of the mechanism of oversight and corresponding adjustment?

As usual I leave that answer to you.

Dr Errol N Benjamin

via email