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Commentators say public distrust evident as poll finds most Jamaicans want term limits for politicians

Political commentator Damion Gordon and trade unionist Helene Davis Whyte
By Nakinskie Robinson 
 
Term limits do not guarantee accountability nor effective performance from the political directorate.
 
That's according to political commentator Damion Gordon in response to the latest RJRGLEANER Don Anderson polls.
 
The findings indicate that an overwhelming majority of Jamaicans - 77.1 per cent - want term limits to be implemented as part of the constitutional reform process.
 
Another 18.2 per cent maintain that no restrictions should be imposed on parliamentary representatives and 4.7 per cent were unsure.
 
In an interview with Radio Jamaica News on Thursday morning, Mr. Gordon said while there are increased calls for imposed limits which would allow for a cap on the extent of political power and allow for a healthy rotation of politicians, there is no surety regarding good performance or better quality representation.
 
"I think that the term limits themselves do not guarantee enhanced performance or improve the quality of representation because they are not equated or they're not equivalent to performance mechanisms. Performance mechanisms are really the oversight that are in place to ensure that, you know, the performance of members of parliament meet the expectations of constituents."
 
But he said the government should give serious consideration to the public's call for imposed term limits, noting that the call "has not come out of nowhere". 
 
"It's really a response to the perceived failures of government and the issues of government ethics and corruption and other issues that have reduced the trust of the citizenry in government. Obviously, it's a response to the lack of trust that Jamaicans have in our elected officials for very good reasons," he suggested.
 
Still, Mr. Gordon said it is important that Jamaica establishes the type of government system best suited for the country before considering term limits.
 
The RJRGLEANER Don Anderson poll findings revealed that 54.6 per cent of those interviewed believe Prime Ministers should serve no more than two terms.
 
Another 25.8 per cent said there should be a three-term restriction, 9.5 per cent said only one term, 6.8 per cent believe there should be more than two terms and 3.3 per cent said they were unsure.
 
The findings also indicated that 48.2 per cent of interviewees believe Members of Parliament should serve no more than two terms and 30.2 per cent said three terms are sufficient.
 
The poll was conducted among 1,010 people across Jamaica from August 30 to September 14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.
 
Trade unionist Helene Davis Whyte agrees that the findings indicate public distrust towards parliamentarians.
 
"It really reflects how Jamaicans have come to view the political system, members of the political directorate. There's a lot of distrust and some will say it's born of experience. And the view is held by some that the members of the political directorate wield too much authority.
 
"I suppose it is felt that if there are term limits, then these persons who put themselves up for political office would not be able to become so entrenched that they basically control a lot of what happens in society. That certainly is the view that I have formed having had discussions," she asserted.   
 
But she noted, too, that term limits could also prohibit a strong performing MP or Prime Minister from getting the chance to continue serving their constituents. 
 
Mr. Davis Whyte said before the move to implement term limits is made official, the government must assess certain metrics to determine how much work can be done within the selected time frame.
 
If a ten-year limit is imposed, she said, this could reduce the effectiveness of policy work being carried out since "what one can accomplish in ten years sometimes is very limited". 
 


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