Democracy at work

British Prime Minister David Cameron is fighting for his political life and the legitimacy of his Tory party after Conservative members crossed the dreaded political divide and joined with the Opposition Labour party in voting no to Cameron’s plan of participating with the United States in a military strike on Syria.

The planned military action is in response to the use of chemical weapons, allegedly by the Syrian Government, against civilians in what has become a brutal and bloody civil war in that country.

This newspaper places on record its total abhorrence of the use of chemical weapons in any conflict, be it domestic or otherwise. We shun the repugnant notion that in any war, which seems to be the bane of mankind, the use of chemical weapons can be justified in any way, shape or form.

We, however, applaud the strength of democracy displayed by the British House of Commons which, apart from clearly stating that it was not interested in British forces being involved in any armed conflict at this time, sent a powerful signal to countries like Jamaica which practise the Westminster parliamentary style of government.

Indeed, our politicians here in Jamaica should take careful note of this development, when party political interests are subdued in preference to the will of the majority and in the interest of the people.

Jamaica’s parliamentary history does have instances where country is placed before party by sitting members; this is rare, however, as the majority of votes taken at Gordon House are based on strict and well defined party lines. Members of our Houses of Parliament, mainly because of the deep and sickening nature of our tribalism, feel constrained to cross political lines because they know that in most cases their careers will be stymied and eventually buried in the political graveyard.

The bitterness of our tribal politics dictates an almost blind allegiance to the party and the party leader when the rules of engagement should be the effectiveness and importance of any legislation or vote placed on the table of the legislature. A direct and needed component of effectiveness and importance is the will of people.

Far too often, members of parliament and senators who openly vote or agitate against their “mother” parties, be it the People’s National Party or the Jamaica Labour Party, are condemned as traitors and are subsequently consigned to seeming prison of apathy and degradation.

The recent British vote on Syria is therefore a poignant reminder to all and sundry that self or party political interests must never supersede conscience or the determination to support what is inherently correct for the people. It is a reminder also that one must not only subscribe to a particular system of government, one must practise, in full, the merits of that system without fear of repudiation or being foisted on the political scrapheap of nothingness.

We sincerely hope the spirit of the parliamentary vote on Syria at Westminster will quickly swirl across calm Atlantic Ocean waters and eventually find a resting place on Duke Street in Kingston, Jamaica. Surely, this is not too much to ask.

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