Having observed George Town’s disillusionment with, and
complaints about politics and politicians, it is hard to understand their very
high election turnouts.
If so many of George Town
constituents, and perhaps many in other districts, believe that politicians are
involved in politics for totally selfish reasons, why do they continue to
participate in, and not attempt to change a process they think is against their
There are several possible answers
but the May 2009 elections demonstrate an interesting lesson about political
corruption and its acceptance. Our lack of political education has resulted in
many seeking immediate gains, or to reward past favours, rather than endorse
manifestos, at election time. This is
one reason why door-to-door campaigning can be so effective; promises can be
made off the record; especially a few days before the election when voters must
finally decide who they will elect as their representatives.
What I have been able to gather is
that in 2009, many George Town
voters were made promises they would receive personal favours after the
elections, and a good number were given money and written instructions bearing
the names of some party candidates. This type of interference or ‘assistance’
is an old habit and voters bearing instructions are usually being told by
another person how to cast their votes.
In my opinion, the more voters become despondent with politicians, the
more they think of self and not of country, making sure they get something
before casting their votes.
Many believe that we politicians
are all alike; forgetting them as soon as we are elected. This fact is partly
illuminated by the close contacts candidates have with electors shortly before elections
and their distance after they take office. After taking office it is said that
very few answer their phones or return messages out of fear they will be asked
to deliver promises of personal help made during the campaign. Some politicians
are seen often, only on the church pulpit at funerals, which they use as a
means of demonstrating their continued closeness to the community.
One must only observe the drastic
increase in entertainment and free food at political functions to recognize
that voters have been conditioned to think of what they get directly from
political meetings, political parties and individuals rather than what politicians
can accomplish for the country. And many of us politicians feel compelled to
give turkey, ham, pork or beef at Christmastime and make financial
contributions to funerals.
There is a marl road story from the
1950’s about a certain politician who gave a cow to a grass-root supporter with
the instruction to butcher the cow only if he won at the polls; so the people
would know that if he did not win they could not prove they voted for him and
they would not get the beef.
Often I have heard voters remark that they do
not mind a politician getting something as long as they get something as well.
This could mean something as simple as the Government making a decision to
pay 10 dollars per hour to clean up the
streets or having individuals rather than one big contractor construct
affordable housing. Paying back is a necessity if a politician is to remain in
The time may have come for us to
have a new breed of politicians, but this will only happen if the political
expectations and behaviour of many of our voters change. Certainly, the institutionalization of
Westminster-style political competition and rewards will make corruption more
widespread by involving members of our professional classes.
It may be true that during this last election
not all persons that got or were promised favours were approached directly by
candidates, but their committee members and other professionals seeking future
positions of influence on boards if their party won, did a lot of promising and
influencing. It is not just politicians
that are corrupt; many of our voters by making their support dependent on what
they or family members can achieve by sitting on boards and having other kind
of benefits and influence are also weakening our democracy.
Caymanians will not
be able to have completely honest politicians so long as they forget the
corrupt and corruptible that “handle” them.