In one of my previous blog articles entitled Constitutional boundary changes – only the tip of the gerrymandering iceberg, I identified three types of gerrymandering in addition to gerrymandering of the constituency boundaries. I wrote:
“Having listened to the [former] Prime Minister’s monthly press conference yesterday (July 24, 2013), it dawned on me that what was being discussed was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, which I would call constitutional gerrymandering. Deeply submerged and entangled in the whole discussion are three other layers of implicit gerrymandering, that are more malleable and more cunning and serve the bidding of unscrupulous leaders while at the same time absolving them of all culpability. Let me explain.
The first layer I will call institutional gerrymandering, which deals with the appointments of persons to crucial positions of influence where they are charged with safeguarding the integrity of the institutions, and by extension the trust of the people for whom they were appointed to serve. It is no secret that the Heads of the Commissions, the National Assembly and the State, Directors of Boards, Directors of Audit, Permanent Secretaries and high-level managers of the Civil Service are more likely to be compromised or conflicted and be more partisan and more likely than not to act in the vested interest of their incumbent leaders, rather than the people they were appointed to serve. Some may say that many of them were appointed on party loyality rather than merit, and for many “the person does not fit the post.” Many say that having weak managers in positions of influence allows the ultimate chief civil servant unbridled power and elbow room to micromanage, to serve his/her vested interests with the unintended consequence of unproductivity, inefficiencies and wasted resources. And some feel that this is the root cause of not only our fiscal debt, but also of our social, moral and spiritual debts.
The second layer I will call electoral gerrymandering, which is less subtle and deals with people voting where they do not live, padding of voters list and voters boxes, bribing people for support and votes with jobs, contracts, houses and lands, and last but not least, the disenfranchisement of the resident citizens by their votes being debased by overseas voters who do not have to live with the potentially negative consequences of the policies of the winning party. I do not have to say more regarding how the managers of the electoral processes from registration to counting votes are already infected with the institutional gerrymandering bug mentioned above.
The last layer is the most pervasive and the most sinister and I will call it cultural/ideological gerrymandering, as the mindset of our people and the narratives of our land are manipulated for political advantage, and this is what we are seeing right now being played out in all of its tainted glory. Here we are seeing the battle lines being drawn between serving party over serving country, between the rule of men (and lawyers) over the rule of law, between the letter of the Constitution over the spirit of the Constitution, between political tribalism over national unity, or to sum it all up, between the people in power over an empowered people.”
Truth be told, gerrymandering is a form of corruption, in which the rules of society, a public good, is manipulated for private or political gains. One can make the claim that when leaders abuse their power of trust and undermine the integrity and trustworthiness of our public institutions for private and political gains, then in a real sense the real victim is civil society. Hence politicalisation of the civil service and by extension its corruption, in turn results in the victimisation of us all.
This issue of political victimisation has been banded around ad nauseum on the political platform and social medium, and I believe it is time now to expose the belly of this victimisation beast. The discussions on the SKList, when substantive and informative, have been a wellspring of ideas and inspiration for me, and I want now to share some of the exchanges with you.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Joseph Hughes, a respected lawyer, to whom I have to give the most credit for opening my eyes to the root cause of this political victimisation. On September 23, 2014, he wrote:
“I am never in favor of victimizing anybody. However, both parties have unclean hands in this regard! Do you think Unity would be comfortable working with all the top Labour party supporters in the civil service such as permanent secretaries etc ?
The model that we inherited from Britain said that civil servants should not openly engage in politics. This has been observed more in the breach than in the observance. Each side conveniently point to the rule when it suits their purpose.
Maybe, if both sides would chose persons to fill positions based on competence as opposed to political allegiance, there would not be the need to clean house whenever there is a change of government.“
To which I replied:
“Mr. Hughes, I think you smacked it right on the head!!! This is the core issue of why we are in this mess. The civil service and the guardians and stewards of our institutions of governance should be chosen on their merit and qualifications and not on political allegiances. It is interesting that “victimisation” would never have been said to occur if civil servants and these stewards and guardians were apolitical. Even more, the loyalty and the patriotism we would have had to our country would have been stronger, and I am a hundred percent sure that as a nation we would have been stronger, more productive, and more caring and loving. We would not have had a divisive civil service, lawless parliament, and compromised and corrupted electoral system.
The fact that we are in these difficult situations today is a testament to the fact that the leaders who engage in weakening and corrupting these institutions of governance are more concerned about their political ascendancy and less about our country and by extension our people.”
So in a real sense, by gerrymandering and corrupting the civil service, not only do we victimise civil society by denying them of the best public servants, we also victimise and hamstring future administrations to govern the affairs of the state as efficiently and effectively as possible, as 1) we may not have the best technocrat or administrator in positions of trust, and 2) if the technocrat or administrator put political allegiance above national service, they may by their acts of commission or omission, sabotage the implementation of government’s policy and agenda.
So next time you hear the word victimisation on the political platform or see it on social media, ask yourself these questions. Who has encouraged some of the best and brightest among us to become blinded by political allegiance and political ambitions rather than to use their gifts and talents in the genuine service of our people? Who, as chief public servant, failed to safeguard the integrity of the civil service, constitution, electoral process, SIDF, CBI and other public resources, and have undermined the full physical, emotional, social and spiritual growth, resilience and development of civil society? In short, we have to ask: WHO WAS VICTIMISING WHOM?