• March 26, 2023

How Responsible Politicking Enhances Responsible Governance

How Responsible Politicking Enhances Responsible Governance
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By: Sheku Putka Kamara

I approach this subject matter as someone that is always disturbed by the politics of deception, hate speech and prejudicial narrative in present day Sierra Leone. If you do not get this from the very politicians, some of the supporters and sympathizers would have a say on same. It is terrible and so to me, there is every need to curb some of these societal irregularities. I look forward to times when politics would not make people to see black and refer to same as white or see blue and refer to same as pink. These deliberate acts of misinforming and disinforming people and situations should be discouraged. It matters because the world deserves better and all of equally deserve same.

Among several postulations, some theorists have argued that a responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Governments (the equivalent of the executive branch) in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government, and in a republican context, to the president, either in full or in part. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament’s lower house, which is more representative than the upper house, as it usually has more members and they are always directly elected.

Responsible government of parliamentary accountability manifests itself in several ways. Ministers account to Parliament for their decisions and for the performance of their departments. This requirement to make announcements and to answer questions in Parliament means that ministers must have the privileges of the “floor”, which are only granted to those who are members of either house of Parliament. Secondly, and most importantly, although ministers are officially appointed by the authority of the head of state and can theoretically be dismissed at the pleasure of the sovereign, they concurrently retain their office subject to their holding the confidence of the lower house of Parliament. When the lower house has passed a motion of no confidence in the government, the government must immediately resign or submit itself to the electorate in a new general election.

The Head of State is in turn required to effectuate their executive power only through these responsible ministers. They must never attempt to set up a “shadow” government of executives or advisors and attempt to use them as instruments of government, or to rely upon their “unofficial” advice. They are bound to take no decision or action that is put into effect under the colour of their executive power without that action being as a result of the counsel and advisement of their responsible ministers. Their ministers are required to counsel them (i.e., explain to them and be sure they understand any issue that they will be called upon to decide) and to form and have recommendations for them (i.e., their advice or advisement) to choose from, which are the ministers’ formal, reasoned recommendations as to what course of action should be taken.

In Sierra Leone, it is terrible how people defend politicians and political parties even against the State, society and communities. When such things happen, one is temped to ask about what happened to the ‘country-first’ philosophy. As hard as this is, we still owe it to ourselves to recognize our duties to self and to society. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democratic societies and a cherished human right – and thus it should remain. During election campaigns throughout the world, the centrality of freedom of expression is even further accentuated as millions of people must make up their minds over whom to entrust with the leadership of their towns, regions or countries. To help them make their decision, the free exchange of information, ideas and opinions is crucial.

For an electoral process to be considered truly free and fair, there must be space for competing ideas and ideologies, and for a public debate in which everyone can be heard. However, it is worth noting that freedom should go with responsibility and in this case, press freedom and or freedom of expression comes with restrictions and limitations. But all human rights are interdependent and indivisible – and another foundational principle of international human rights law is that of equality and non-discrimination. And it is precisely in this context that freedom of expression has some narrowly defined boundaries.

Free speech may be restricted by law, for example if it is necessary to ensure respect of the rights of others. When speech – of any ideological provenance – incites to discrimination, hatred or violence, in some cases pitting different groups against one another, it should be prohibited by law.

Politicians, in their capacity as leaders and influencers, have more responsibility than many others in this context, because they have the power to shape the debate and to shift public opinion, either positively or negatively. International human rights standards, such as the Rabat Plan of Action, require political leaders to refrain from any incitement, to speak out firmly and promptly against hate speech and to never justify violence by prior provocation.In the digital age, the media, in particular the gigantic social media companies through which an increasing number of people access much of their news and form many of their opinions, have a shared responsibility to help ensure that acts of incitement to hatred are spoken out against and acted upon with the appropriate measures, in line with international human rights law.

Non-discrimination and freedom of expression are both absolutely essential components of the set of values which has provided the mainspring for democratic societies in Europe since the end of the Second World War. When they are seen as two parts of the same coin, they constitute a solid basis for democracy.

Yes, democracy is about listening to the will of the electors – but it is also about defending the minority, and those at risk, whoever and wherever they may be.

In summing up this position statement, Sierra Leonean people and politicians should be mindful that there is life after politics. Hate and misinformation should not be tolerated and this should be a firm position that should be implemented across all levels. When people are given state positions to man, the responsibility is to better lives and conditions of all and sundry, but not otherwise. This will help to enhance democratic good governance in fledgling democracies like Sierra Leone.

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