In light of recent moves to appoint persons to serve on various local government bodies including the 13 constituency councils, former Member of Parliament (MP) for Micoud North Jeannine Compton-Antoine is calling on the new government to restore local government elections to bring some fairness to the system.
Compton-Antoine told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in an interview on Wednesday that was one of the things she was campaigning for and would have implemented in Micoud North if she was successful at the June 6, 2016 election.
The former MP observed that at present the government still continues to select persons to sit on various councils and the opposition has no say as to who should or should not be selected to serve.
But what Compton-Antoine finds more upsetting, is that most of the time the people from the constituencies are not even familiar with the council members.
“Prior to the election, in every community in Micoud North, when we discussed the council, no one knew who was representing their community on the council and what their role on council was,” she told SNO.
Compton-Antoine who is passionate about this issue and had spoken extensively about the need to improve accountability and transparency on Saint Lucia said that the people should decide who gets to represent them.
She said, “The government needs to allow for the strengthening of local government, by allowing the people of the various communities to elect their representatives on council and to give each constituency council a budget to do meaningful work in the constituency. The council should meet regularly with constituents to discuss and determine the projects and priorities for each community. Thus helping to create a development plan for each constituency developed through the input of the people.”
The former independent MP also believes that the council should inform constituents regularly of budgetary allocations, projects approved, expenditure and contract processes and awards of contracts.
She is also of the view that the council should meet with the various communities at least every three months.
Further, Compton-Antoine suggested that all elected representatives should be the head of the local government and should not hold any ministerial portfolio.
“Each constituency would have a mayor i.e. the elected representative and elected councils. They would submit annual budgets to central government for approval based on each constituency’s development plan and would approve legislation etc. via the Parliament,” she explained.
The former Micoud North MP favours a Swiss model of governance, where each constituency has a ‘people’s parliament’ which meet often to discuss, appraise and get the input of the people as what to is happening in the constituency .
This ‘people’s parliament’, according to her, would be made up of: the representative, the council, the police and fire service, district education and health representatives, youth and sports councils, among others.
“This would bring true accountability and allow governance to be put back in the hands of the people. Right now, Saint Lucians have no say in our governance,” Compton-Antoine told SNO.
At present, most councilors are appointed not based on merit or capability but rather on their political affiliation. They are not subjected to public scrutiny as they do not have to face the public during the general election.
Council polls were suspended in 1979 by the Saint Lucia Labour Party-led government.