Someone, not this writer, once argued that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
We are sometimes shocked by a decision purportedly based on popular will, even though we choose to ascribe the outcome to the vagaries of democratic choice or, which is nearly the same thing, to the deification of the voice of the people.
There were, during the last week, the public explanations for two decisions that cogently demonstrated to us that while democratic or official decisions should be accorded the respect they deserve qua decisions, sometimes these choices might be based on the slenderest of reasons, on regrettable ignorance of precisely what is involved or even in defiance of the principles of fairness.
The first was the explanation given by the Honourable Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ms Marsha Caddle, for the decision to scrap the National Productivity Council. While addressing a branch meeting of the constituency for which she was elected as parliamentary representative, Ms Caddle stated that out of 5 000 responses from members of the public and the Social Partners, 0% or none of the social partners thought it essential, while 28 per cent stated that it was desirable and 73% believed it to be optional. We are prepared to ascribe the additional one per cent to the rounding up of figures, but we note that so far as the public was concerned
12.8% considered it essential, 22.8 % as desirable and 64.4% regarded it as optional. While we are not in a position to query the outcome of the expressed opinion, we are still entitled to ask about the level of information there might have been in the public domain and among the Social Partners as to the functions and mission of the Council.
As one of our columnists pointedly observed last Sunday, “Emphasis on productivity is most important at a time when redundancies are in vogue. It is unwise to rid slimmed departments of their best workers. In the best of times, it is traditional for only a percentage of the workers in Government departments to pull their weight. One can imagine what it would be like when the ones who work best are let go. This is one way to guarantee that nothing gets done in the public sector”. Given the figures on which the decision was said to have been based, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the view of the Social Partners as to the utility of the Council played a significant role in its demise. Was this decision arrived at after consultation with their constituent members or otherwise?
The second decision in question was that of the Board of Directors of the Cricket Association to settle on its support for the incumbent leadership of Cricket West Indies in the upcoming presidential election, based on its perceived accomplishments. This would ordinarily be incontrovertible, except that the issue now appears to have been decided without even hearing what the opposing team has to offer.
This offends the primary rule of natural justice – that no man should be condemned unheard – and it would be shocking to discover that trained legal minds would have been party to this inequity. According to recent reports, the challengers will be able to speak to the Board as to their proposed programme, but we believe that this will now be of little persuasive import, given the already publicly declared position of the Board.