Questions For The Opposition

HOAIt is conventional Parliamentary practice for the government of the day to give the Opposition what we call “Opposition Day” in Parliament, which is a House Sitting traditionally every third Wednesday of the month that is set aside for the Opposition to put questions to the government on matters in the country. The government has now been in office for two years, and being the undemocratic grouping they are, such a Sitting has not yet been given by them. Why hasn’t the Opposition demanded that it be given its monthly/regular Sittings on behalf of the Bahamian people to call the government to account about the business of the country? If you as Opposition will not demand your House Sittings for the country’s business, who will? The relatively small size of an Opposition in Parliament doesn’t automatically diminish its potential impact. It is about leadership and working in unity to accomplish the critical agenda of checking the government. Unity, laced with diligence and skill, is the universal power booster no matter the relatively small size.

Also, what many of us do not realize is that the position of Leader of Opposition is not a political post, it is a Constitutional post which gives it more authority and responsibility than many Bahamians are aware of. Leader of Opposition and Leader of a Party are not one and the same posts, though they are both often held by the same person. Party Leader is a political matter. Opposition Leader is a position in our system’s structure of government. A Leader of Opposition does not have to be relegated or confined to asking questions of the government from behind a reporter’s microphone, through a press release or from his/her Party’s headquarters. A Leader of Opposition has powers that he/she can directly exercise to access public information on the people’s behalf and deliver that information to us whenever the government fails or refuses to do so. We already know we have a government that thinks democracy is a joke, so they are not prone to do most things just because it is the right thing to do. The Opposition is a critical part of our Parliamentary Democracy and they, like the government’s MPs, are all elected and paid to do a job. We pay the country’s Leader of Opposition $78,000 per year to serve in that post (which is higher than the base salary of a Cabinet Minister). We pay the Opposition’s Whip in Parliament $28,000. This is separate from their salaries as MPs. We need our Opposition to be diligent, studying all Bills that come to Parliament from cover to cover so you know what you are voting yes or no to, and so that we can know what is going on. Live TV and radio coverage of Parliament cannot show us what isn’t brought up by our MPs for us to hear and see.

As for FNM supporters, who like PLP supporters, may read articles like these and catch feelings simply due to political sensitivities, you ought not. Your MPs are your servants, not your bosses. Your tax dollars pay their salary. Your vote gives them their job. You make them relevant because you gave them a seat. They owe you – you do not owe them. When you call on elected officials to do their job, that is not bashing them – that is what you as the voter/boss are supposed to do. Political support is fine and proper, but we must as Bahamians never lose sight of the fact that the government must do its job and the country always and especially more so today, needs the Opposition to do the same, else the entire nation suffers and will suffer more – all the more.

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