Good move, PNP

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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People who view politicians with scepticism and a great deal of suspicion are likely to dismiss the People's National Party's (PNP's) desire to address public perception of corruption in politics.

Yet, it is a burning issue that the ruling party should be commended for confronting with the hope of correcting in this its 75th year of existence.

Mr PJ Patterson, the former prime minister and PNP president; the party's current Deputy General Secretary Mr Julian Robinson; Government Senator Mrs Imani Duncan-Pryce; and former Senator Mr Delano Franklyn were quite candid as they discussed the problem at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

On the surface, their comments would appear to be casting blame for this perception on others, including the media. However, what we drew from their arguments was a real concern for the future of political involvement among a people who are the beneficiaries of their ancestors' sacrifice for sovereignty.

The PNP's concern, of course, is justified, given the declining number of Jamaicans who have been exercising their right to vote in successive elections. The less than 50 per cent voter turnout at the last general elections, in December 2011, is a demonstration of the severity of the problem we face. For, as Mr Patterson correctly said on Monday, Jamaica's young people, in particular, should not surrender the country's future "to others who cannot make the quality contribution that is necessary for the development of the nation".

It was against that background that he appealed to Jamaicans to embrace politics, and not regard it as something filthy; something not to be associated with for fear of being tainted.

Changing that perception, however, will prove most difficult, for it is deeply ingrained in the minds of Jamaicans, and not without good reason. For we have, in the past, had too many examples of misdeeds by politicians.

The PNP, to its credit, has travelled far down the road of addressing this problem by establishing an Integrity Commission, which is charged with the responsibility of vetting all its candidates.

That commission, we have been informed, has been very effective, as it has prevented the party from nominating candidates of questionable character, especially for the 2011 general elections.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has also informed us that, for some years now, its Selection Committee has been carrying out a similar task to that of the PNP's Integrity Commission.

Both parties, and indeed Jamaica, would benefit from greater public education about their efforts in this regard, as that, we believe, would assist in shaping perceptions of politics.

The PNP and the JLP, though, should not relent in their drive to get Jamaicans involved in the political process. For, as Mr Patterson said, involvement is broader than at the representational level.

We are, after all, responsible for governing our own affairs. We should not abdicate that responsibility.




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