Time to act or time to chat?

Friday, August 22, 2014

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THE heat over the death of Mario Deane, the young man who met his demise while incarcerated at the Barnett Street lock-up in Montego Bay, has subsided somewhat but the public's outrage and concern are by no means over. Social media continues to reflect the conviction that this is yet another instance of dereliction of duty by police officers, in particular those concerned with administration of the jail. There is anger also at perceived neglect by the Government in not seeing to the condition of the cells in which persons in police custody are held.

The ministries of national security and justice have sprung into action belatedly, it is said. Last week's round of street demonstrations, fire and all, have subsided. The prime minister drew the usual heat for not making a statement and addressing the nation on the matter. The public has a right to want to hear the PM's views, especially in challenging issues like this, but I've come to wonder why it is so important that we must hear words on public issues. It has become a feature of political leadership not only here but elsewhere.

In the current matter of the shooting death of a young man in the town of Ferguson in the US state of Missouri, it seemed at times there was more concern as to what the president said, rather than what was happening beyond the White House. Not surprisingly, by the time he responded, the critics were ready for him. One noted activist asked: Why did he comment on the death of the actor Robin Williams before addressing the police shooting of the Ferguson teenager and a black person at that? Once again America's first black president had to walk a tightrope over the race question. In the long run, it was not what he did so much as what he said.

Mrs Simpson Miller has been long enmeshed in a web of criticism from the Jamaican public for the infrequency of her communication with the people, on matters of interest. When time passed and she did not join other public figures in making a statement about the unfortunate death of the young man in Montego Bay, the questions asked were not so much about what she and the Government were doing as what she had not said. Then, to some people's surprise, the mother of the young man reported through the media that she had got a telephone call from the prime minister, conveying condolence to her family. "I was moved by the manner in which she spoke, and I could feel her sincerity," the grieving mother told the media.

Was that enough -- a quiet expression of personal concern -- or would an address to the nation at large been more satisfying to the people? Obviously, there is room for both, but we've come to place greater emphasis on the mass approach. This is the age of public relations. Elected officers, in particular, must always be available for a big speech. As part of effective governance, the public must be kept informed, but there is still room for personal contact, in my opinion. What counts in the long run is reaching the people and levelling with them, whoever the leader is.

Back to the Missouri story: Last week, I asked aloud: When will the race cancer in America be healed? The answer is nowhere at hand. As the scenes of the drama in Ferguson, Missouri, being played out flashed across TV screens, there were memories of the tear gas and the soldiers on the barricades not only for Americans but their extended family around the world. Been there, done that, but it is full time for a new path to be tread. After all these years, who will be able to lead the way to peace and tolerance which is still being preached but not lived? Many of our people live in the US, among them the young black men whose future, by every analysis, is in jeopardy. Our family members are vulnerable, like any other, but we hardly ever say a word about it. Coward man keep sound bone?

Moving on: The new school year draws very near. Question: What really is in the mind of some of our teachers? One would have hoped that by this there would be no issues to go to war over; but apparently it ain't necessarily so. With all that confronts the school system, why at this stage should the energies of teachers, through their professional association, have to be diverted now to allegations of polling irregularities in an internal election? There is still work to be done in getting as many schools as possible put into shape, so what is the purpose of kass-kass at such a critical time?

In the meantime, there are still concerns about the over-inflated booklists and questions which some parents ask about "school fees", with no satisfying responses. And, while we're at it, why in Heaven's name should we be talking now about teachers and vacation leave? Don't the school holidays nearly done?

Dark clouds on the horizon

This one is the subject of the proposed increase in bus fares. The authorities had better be careful how this is handled. Things are touchy out there. I can see the JUTC's point of view. If it is costing more to keep the bus fleet running, then a way has to be found to finance it.

But, on the other hand, how will people manage as times get even more difficult? There has to be some way to deal with this or we could be heading for stormy weather -- and I don't mean global warming. Please don't say that I am putting ideas into anybody's head. They don't need me or anybody for that matter. Caring people would be less than responsible not to wonder aloud how we're going to bring this one off. The Government would do well to tek time mek haste.

Highway is the name, panic the game

To hear some people talk, vehicles aren't made to climb slopes anymore, or is this a campaign to prevent toll fees? Ah so mi hear somebody seh...So mi get-i, so mi bring-i. If the highway is as perilous as is being made out, what then is to be done? Actually, a more practical way of handling it is for the authorities to take a real good look at it again and determine if there is a problem presenting the difficulties people say there are.

Wednesday when I travelled on it I found the views breathtaking and our vehicle handled it well. If it is just that many drivers have never had the experience of a steep hill, then bring it out into the open. We can't waste time again. Bwoy, never a dull day in this here Jamaica.





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