The good news is that PNM representatives, at the level
of both central and local government, have been told to
focus on service to the community.
Speaking after a PNM General Council meeting in San Fernando
on Sunday, party chairman Franklin Khan told reporters that
the party was about to launch a blitz of service to
the national population.
Councillors and MPs will have to re-energise themselves,
said Mr Khan. They have to hit the road and be more
visible and focus particularly (on the) service of people
and service of their community.
The bad news is that this is because the party has been
placed on an election footing.
In other words, the coming blitz is part of the usual frenzy
of activity that precedes an election, when government representatives
rush to provide all sorts of services to their constituents
in the hope of garnering votes.
Citizens can expect to see improvements in the condition
of streetlights, the collection of garbage, and perhaps
the water supply, as is usual before elections. No doubt,
too, the road-paving equipment is being wheeled out and
dusted off all across the country. Mr Khan, who is the Minister
of Works, will no doubt be in the thick of things, and will
supervise such enterprises as the widening of roads and
the repair of landslides.
Mr Khan did not comment on whether the move meant a snap
election was imminent, even though local government elections
are not due until next year and the general election is
constitutionally due in 2007.
Instead he suggested that the election alert was necessary
not because an election was in the offing, but because that
was the only way to galvanise the party.
In an ideal world, he admitted, we should
probably have five years of continuous activity and that...should
bear no relevance to election dates.
For that reason, we are putting the party in an election
frame of mind.
Hopefully, the population will benefit from this curious
logic, which, in fairness to Mr Khan and his party, is not
peculiar to the PNM, road-paving syndrome being only too
familiar from previous regimes.
Mr Khans confession also revealed another failing
of both this and previous administrations when he said the
PNM was going to focus on the basic community needs
of the populace. Too many of those basic needsroads,
lights, water among them are still not being met,
despite the customary pre-election drives and the campaign
promises from all sides.
It is not at all certain, either, that it is a good thing
that the provision of these basic amenities is continuing
to be linked with an election campaign by any political
party. Meeting the basic needs of the people should be a
given for any party that comes into office, and should not
be seen as the special gift of one side or the other, or
as being dependent on the political allegiance of the beneficiaries.
As Mr Khan came close to admitting, providing service to
the people should be the watchword of government representatives
at all times, not only when the party is put on an election
That would have to be the case if the population made it
clear that the usual pre-election scramble will not work
as a political strategy. Naturally, voters will welcome
the attempt to provide them with basic services, but they
should also make it clear that this is the kind of performance
that they expect throughout the governmentsany
governmentsterm, and that they will not accept