Friday, December 20, 2002

All other qualities aside, Lloyd Best's patience is a marvel. His ideas for constitution reform in T&T have become topical once again, but he's been propounding some of these since before I was even born; yet he still explicates & argues with the vigour of fresh enthusiasm. In today's Express he once again restates the primacy of the issue of representation, suggesting pragmatically that this must be addressed first at the national, central level, not through the local government mechanisms which citizens perceive as basically useless:

"The re-constitution of the communities is ... long overdue. It is the most important single pre-condition to collective decision we must make, at that municipal level in this city-state, about environmental conditions, infrastructure requirements, public utilities, social services etc. Clearly this is the real task of nation-building.

"The attendant need for municipal and local government reconstruction obviously implies a patient phasing in. Utopians may, quite rightly, argue that we would learn to govern ourselves effectively only to the extent that we were afforded opportunity. If we were starting the world anew, there would scarcely be a problem in devolving responsibility willy-nilly to all those psychological communities where individuals, families and groups have little trouble inserting and locating themselves. However, to attempt that in our context would be sheer folly, as we can guess from the operations of our present system of health administration. There can be no identification with authority, no popular prompting of decision and no accountability where the great majority of our people belong to something called a region only to the extent that they might be sleeping there — not working, not playing, not worshipping and, above all, not even going to school. If we simply transferred serious financial and executive responsibilities to local authorities, we’d merely be exposing ourselves to the kind of charlatanry and crookedness we’ve already let loose.

"The prior and first requirement is, therefore, at the central level. The virtue of addressing this matter of representation at the centre is that it involves a restricted and well-defined intervention, much more limited in scope than would be any attempt to re-configure community and municipal life."

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