Traffic Lights and Accountability

First Published: 2005-01-25

There are an inordinate number of traffic lights around the island that are either not working at all or no longer synchronised. Some intersections without functioning traffic lights have become dangerous to both motorists and pedestrians.

This is not only inconvenient for drivers, it is putting citizens at risk and increasing the workload of the police who have to deal with traffic accidents when they could focus their energy on solving crime.

The Nassau Institute has learned that the Ministry of Works has not yet awarded a new contract for the maintenance and repair of traffic lights on the island after putting the job out to bid late last year.

After hearing this, a friend of the Institute decided to take the government – or more specifically, the Ministry of Works – to court to resolve this issue.

However, he soon discovered that the average citizen cannot take the government or its agencies or corporations to Magistrate's Court. Citizens can only file an action in the Supreme Court, at a minimum cost of $15,000 to $20,000.

So it was decided to contact a member of parliament and write a letter to the Minister of Works in an attempt to get the matter rectified.

An Interesting Dichotomy

This one incident confirms the double standards of the government. Parliamentarians pass laws supposedly to keep businesses and individuals accountable: rent control, price control, labour laws, and a myriad of laws incorporating fines against offenders whether it is for littering or swearing etc.

And guess what? The authorities can summarily fine an offender or employer or business from his or her desk. They do not even have to go to a Magistrate's Court for an independent decision. Not to mention the Supreme Court.

Of course the rhetoric is that these bureaucracies are created to help the average person get results without the burden of going to Court. Because after all, there are so many dishonest business people and citizens. Right?

Well this begs the question…why can't Joe Public have the ability to sue the government in Magistrate's Court or take them before an Accountability Commission or the like. It seems only logical that what applies to Joe Public, should apply to the government. After all, doesn't every political party claim they will be above reproach if elected to parliament?

Maybe P.J. O'Rourke was right when he noted that, "If government were a product, selling it would be illegal."

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