Being a responsible citizen

I am writing in reply to a letter written by a Barbara Greaves and printed in the February 26, 2013 edition of you newspaper.

I will start off by saying that I am a proud, responsible citizen of Barbados who did not vote on election day. Moreover, I’m tired of reading the political party garbage that passes for sensible writing in this country.

Garbage indeed it was, as Greaves decided to end her one-sided rant by gloriously praising a DLP candidate who, unfortunately for him, failed to win the electorate over. I was told the same sentimental dribble that Greaves proposed in her letter, including that nonsense of not having a right to complain or criticise the Government if you did not vote. What!?

I have even more right then to scrutinise and criticise! I live in this country and no matter which party is in power I want them to be working in the best interest of me and my fellow countrymen!

It is interesting to note that in that same edition, directly above Greaves note, was a column by David Comissiong which spoke about the problems with our present system of government and highlighted some of the many reasons why some eligible voters decide not to mark an “X” on polling day. They were some of mine. She would do well to read it.

Being a responsible citizen means so much more that marking an “X” every five years, then sitting back and letting the Government do whatever it feels like. How many of these voters have engaged their MP telling him what they think of the job he is doing or of the job the Government is doing?

Have any of these “X” markers ever attended a town hall meeting on any of the pressing issues affecting our nation, simply to let their voice be heard or share their opinions and ideas? Maybe they’ve at least written to a local newspaper to express their views to the wider community instead of grumbling about them to a friend over a drink in a rum shop.

Of the 60 per cent of individuals who voted, according to Greaves, I can safely guess that not many of them did one of these things.

Some 10 years ago, back when I was a student at BCC, we were set a paper to write on what it means to be a good citizen. I cannot remember what I wrote then, but here would be my answer now if given the same assignment.

Being a good, responsible citizen means contributing to society, not only through paying your taxes. It means not unnecessarily and wastefully using up the country’s resources such as the free education, by spending years and years at a tertiary institution but never graduating.

It means keeping yourself in the best health you can so you won’t join that growing population who suffer from NCDs using up around 65 per cent of the allocated resources at the QEH.

Being a good citizen means disposing of your litter in bins and not throwing it all over just because it’s too much of a hassle for you to hold onto it a few minutes longer.

It means being able to have a say in how the country is run; being able to vote in or out new proposals put forward in the House of Assembly or firing or suspending MPs whose performances have been unsatisfactory. It means at least writing your MP or engaging him in your concerns about the future of this country.

Should we really be proud of the fact that the best way we can make our Government accountable is by shaking our fist at them and saying: “You just wait. In another five years we’ll vote you out and you won’t be the Government anymore.”

In that case I would prefer to be an irresponsible citizen.

— Asha Chase

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