Your “representatives”

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Dear editor,

I came across a spreadsheet listing all the sweet deals some of our parliamentarians want to reserve for themselves. I must say that I’m not the least surprised by the very sweet life the parliamentarians want to enjoy while those they claim to represent remain poor and destitute. Isn’t that our idea of public service? Isn’t that what you call representative democracy? What actually surprises me is the outrage.

If you listen to some very good comedians, they set up their jokes with a premise. If you fall for the premise, it’s easier to sell you the joke. Now let’s think of public service and what it means to many Gambians. If you buy the premise that service or representing the people means putting the people’s interest above all else, then you will buy the joke that you have a representative democracy and that your representatives represent your interest.

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You see the reason I’m not surprised by the rapaciousness of our people is that I never bought into the fallacy of representative democracy we have on paper. I learned a long time ago that in The Gambia, for many of us, service to the people means riding on the backs of the people to get ourselves comfortable and rich. Public service is seen as a ladder to enjoyment. And we see this as a right, an entitlement of sorts. We think we are entitled to ride on the backs of the poor to get ourselves rich.

We use the people to get cars for ourselves. We use the people to pay for our telephone calls and online activities. We use the people to get ourselves houses. We use the people to feed our family. We use the people to buy us clothes. We use the people to take loans we hardly ever pay back in full. We use the people to rob the people and as a mark of our “intelligence and ingenuity,” we call that a “robbing allowance.” And the sweetest part of all this is that we do it all legally and we do it while calling ourselves honorable!

Here’s why I am surprised even if I shouldn’t be. Do Gambians seriously think that Sayyindi Jatta actually represents their interest and puts it first and foremost? Do Gambians really think that any of those APRC/NPP nominated representatives actually represent their interest first and foremost?

 Do you really think that all your representatives put the welfare of the people above their own? Do you really think that the the consciences of your representatives will stop them from seeking comfort at the expense of those they claim to represent? If you believe in any of the foregoing, I am sorry for you. I really am!

Go to the homes of your representatives and see if the life they enjoy is representative of the people they represent. People, for many of us, public service is a euphemism for hustle on the backs of the public. It’s a hustle. And if you buy the premise that your interest as a citizen is the uppermost preoccupation of your representative, then you’ll buy the joke that they actually represent you! And that’s a very expensive joke for you to buy and it’s also a very expensive joke I hate to tell you! Because in the end, the joke is on you!

Alagie Saidy-Barrow