If the status quo remains the same, then it is a waste of time and money.
The Turks and Caicos Islands House of Assembly currently 21 members, of which 15 are elected, four are appointed (two by the Governor, one by the Government and one by the Opposition) and the remaining two are the Attorney General and the Hon. Speaker.
One of the constitutional changes is the removal of the appointed members and replacing them with elected members. Therefore, the composition of the House of Assembly will remain the same except we will now have 19 elected members rather than 15.
Personally, I did not have a problem with the appointment of appointed members as I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to use people who would bring a lot of value but may not be electable. I had an issue with the Governor being able to appoint two members. I believe if there is any authority that should appoint two members, it should be the governing party. Anyway, it is what it is and apparently both the Government and Opposition have agreed to the abolition of appointed members.
I do not think it is necessary to add four additional elected members. I think it is a waste of time and money doing this especially since it is more than likely that the status quo will remain the same. The only benefit is to the politician who will qualified for pension at age 50 after serving two full terms.
Why do 19 elected seats not make sense?
Of the 15 elected seats, 10 are by constituencies voting in which the electorate vote on a single basis for their chosen candidate for the respective constituency. The other 5 elected seats are chosen at large by the electorate.
I do not know whether there will be additional at large seats or more constituency seats. I believe the idea of having constituency seats is to have a representative to represent and look out for the needs of their constituency. However, it is not working. Most of these constituencies are neglected. I am not even aware of an office set up in any constituency. These parliamentarians are getting paid well and I think an office should be set up in each constituency and the parliamentarian should be full time in that office except for those who are also ministers. I also think a budget should be set aside for each constituency to meet their needs and that is why I like the concept of the District Administration that exists in South Caicos, North Caicos and Salt Cay. I think we should get rid of constituency seats and replace them with local boards for each constituency and have them run the constituency with a budget.
The Bahamas whose population is five times our population with almost 200,000 registered voters has 38 elected seats and so why are we having 19 elected seats and only 9,000 registered voters in the last election.
In the British Virgin Islands, there are 16,131 registered voters and they only have 13 elected members.
In Anguilla, there are 11,950 registered voters and they have 11 elected seats.
I don’t think having 19 elected seats will make a positive difference in our political system. The parliamentarians who are not ministers do not seem to have a clue what is going on in Parliament until they get to the house for a debate. How many projects or needs have been done in the various constituencies over the last few years?
If something does not make sense, we don’t have to accept the recommendations. We could have accepted the recommendations to remove the appointed members, but they didn’t have to be replaced with elected members. It could remain with just 15 elected members with no appointed members.
We really need to focus more on our constituencies, and we can do so through having local boards being elected to carry out the needs of the constituencies or expand the role of the District Administration on each inhabitant island with a vibrant District Board.
Someone must make this make sense to me but looking from the outside having 19 elected seats in Parliament does not make sense to me. I know some people may argue that some of the constituencies are too large but there are some constituencies that are too small too. Some may also argue that we have multiple islands, and each island needs a representative. This still does not mean we must have 19 elected members.
If it were up to me, I would only have people running at large to become ministers and have them run the country, which technically is how it is being done now. I would eliminate the parliamentarians in the constituencies.
Let us be honest with ourselves, is the current system really working? I know some parliamentarians who are not ministers are fed up because they know they are powerless to do anything for their constituency. Even those who are ministers, their main priority is their ministry and that consumes a lot of their time.