Our democracy is not working. Our parliamentarians have no mission. Being an MP is not a job. There is no task, no vocation, no ambition. Parliament is a waiting area for promotion and prestige. The process of seeking re-election is not liberating, it is paralysing. They’re at work for a few hours a week and few know what they’re meant to be doing. The onslaught of legislation is beyond anyone’s attention span and debate is largely pointless. Experts are only at hand to help ministers. The rest fend for themselves or don’t bother. Laws are not written so much as they’re rubber-stamped.


Our judges and magistrates are free in name only. They judge those brought before them and have no power to seek truth. They are chosen for the job on the basis of experience in law and not its understanding. And the depth of understanding required cannot be overestimated, especially when it comes to technical laws such as those governing the financial world. While political affiliation is unhelpful, it doesn’t necessarily make the ones without any baggage any better at their job. And the desire and pursuit of promotion is never far from anyone’s mind.


Our prosecutors are themselves on the same judicial career path that politicians control. Fears and desires are inescapable. Expert knowledge of technical crimes is lacking and training is practically inexistent. Prosecutors are not only lawyers for the State but also for its government, or more accurately for the incumbents. And in the matter of government v State, they will defend the sitting government over the interest of the State, let alone the public.


If it’s true for prosecutors, it’s generally true for all civil servants. The ethos of independence, forward thinking, bridging across political terms, safeguarding laws and retaining institutional memory: all this is the stuff of legend in the mist of the past. Senior managers are agents of political will and fully expect the last day of work for their minister to be their last day on the job.


If the police do not enforce the law, no one else will. All administrative authorities must wait in line to persuade the police to act on their behalf and they are unlikely to want to get out of bed if there is no blood on the floor. We now learn that the bench cannot inquire whether a crime has occurred if the police will not investigate. It is the complainant’s job to do the job of the police and magistrates and compile the evidence. And thus we find ourselves in the unenviable position of crime not existing if the police cannot (or will not) see it.


Imperfections in legal texts are as pervasive as they are exhausting. They start life on the desk of lawyers in private firms without experience or exposure to public administration. They go through Parliament for scrutiny and approval by people who care little for the job and are even less qualified for it. And they are managed by administrators who have little or no capacity to understand them.

MPs are at work for a few hours a week and few know what they’re meant to be doing


Since the law is not to be applied equally for everyone, it is useful to no one. The notion that popularity at the polls exempts politicians from the application of the law has now made the mainstream. The police’s refusal to make any move on a politician spares the prosecutors embarrassment and the judges grief. Smaller fish award themselves immunity too. When the big guys get away with it, it provides cover for the little guns.


If justice must be dispensed on the back of evidence and facts, the best way to bring about acquittal is to doubt the evidence and the facts. This is easy in a country where fake news is old hat. For 30 years we have watched TV stations transmit a truth partial to the party funding the station. And since there are multiple TV stations, there are multiple competing and contradictory truths, so everyone just chooses the one they like best. And no one is likely to choose a truth that would lead them to being punished.


When enough people congregate around their preferred truth, the ones that don’t, live beyond the wall with grumkins and snarks. Those outside the tribe are infidels that can be excluded from the solidarity of an imagined community. The family first, right or wrong. And the political party can feel enough like family to be right even when it’s wrong. Religious notions of the unfathomable wisdom of a supreme being seep easily into people’s experience of politics. With that comes jihad.


If the loyalty of political followers can be commanded without the need for truth, political parties invest their energies in the totems of political religion rather than the job of drawing up policy, hammering out consensus and promoting new ideas. With no politics in Parliament and little politics in a media that opts out of engaging with facts, parties see no point in political ideas. Instead they are communicating machines that repackage old dogmas and generate enough noise to drown out any alternative.


Politicians could rely on party loyalty but they would rather not run the small risk of betrayal. A small government with low taxes for the rich is an unquestioned precept. Teachers and nurses are underpaid. The police and other law enforcement agencies are understaffed and undertrained, MPs work reduced hours, arts and culture is underfunded and waiting lists for surgeries and court judgments are long. The best of times are not measured by improvement to public services but by the length of the shadows cast by tower cranes.


If you dare complain about any of this, you may still be fine if you stay in your box. In a world of multiple truths, you too are welcome to live with your lies. But don’t call them all liars. Do not challenge both political parties at the same time, question State-controlled journalism, object to collusion between business and politics, seek the truth on crime and power and threaten the status quo by demanding meaningful change. That would make you an independent thinker and we will have none of that here. The right to protest is in the gift of those you want to rail against and gratitude is expected when leeway is granted. Civil society is for band clubs and fireworks enthusiasts, hunters and trappers, and sports clubs for footballers but not runners or cyclists. Leave the politics to politicians, even if they will have none of it.


Public life is transparently opaque. Political parties should be bankrupt and yet sometimes, some of them are inexplicably wealthy. No one should afford to campaign as they do, and yet they do. Rules and regulations stop some crimes, but some others miraculously make it through. You’re more likely to be punished for painting your door blue instead of black, than if you choose to build 12-storey towers on a beach. Lady Justice is only partially blind. There may have been a handshake there somewhere, but are you sure? Could it be all in your head?

That’s 13 reasons why, if you wanted them counted, our democracy is not working.


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