Saturday Express Editorial

WHEN she addressed the ceremony marking the re-opening of the refurbished and renovated Red House recently, President Paula-Mae Weekes told parliamentarians she was delivering a message from the people.

She said the population was hurting while Members of Parliament and other leading citizens were “dabbling in semantics” over whether we were a failed state, or in a crime crisis. Saying that she was in regular receipt of correspondence from members of the public, she listed some of what appeared to her to be their major concerns. These included what she said was lack of opportunity for advancement, food prices spiralling out of the reach of many, and more and more children falling into the “at-risk” category.

She told her audience on that occasion that “citizens are entitled to look to you for, and demand of you, solutions to alleviate their pain.” She was, with this injunction, conveying what she saw as a message from the population to members of the country’s legislature, and by extension the wider national community.

Now, two weeks later, Madam President has no doubt heard the collective voice of the people about her plan to operate a lottery system for allowing visits by members of the public to the newly renovated President’s House. It has emerged clearly that an overwhelming sentiment exists that this is unwelcome.

Her Excellency seems duty bound, therefore, to listen carefully and conscientiously, and come up with a radically different plan to satisfy public expectations about how this exalted piece of public real estate should be rendered available for viewing by citizens and visitors to our country.

There is no need to re-invent the wheel in coming up with alternatives which are much more acceptable. There are established procedures which obtain for public visits to such venues as the White House, residence and office of the president of the United States, and other buildings of historical and national significance, all across the US, the UK, Canada and countries in Europe. The same applies in countries in Central and South America.

As one citizen responding to our question on the matter yesterday has pointed out, there are many for whom any form of gambling is against their morals. By asking persons to participate in a form of lottery to win the chance to visit President’s House violates those moral codes. In addition, someone who wins the privilege of visiting on these terms is presumably not in a position to take with him or her, any other member of the family, any close friend, or someone visiting from abroad.

The opportunity to engage in such activities in the company of family members and/or friends, invariably makes for a much enhanced experience.

School children and lovers of history and architecture ought to be able to organise, or have organised for them, guided tours of the building and its premises, such as the rules will allow. These are just a smattering of the suggestions coming forward for consideration which Her Excellency and her staff must now go back and reconsider.

In keeping with her announced desire to listen to the voices of the people, and to communicate accordingly, Madam President will undoubtedly take to heart the pointed reactions to this rejected lottery plan.

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