A sober speech, Mr Holness; we'll be watching and judging


A sober speech, Mr Holness; we'll be watching and judging

Monday, September 07, 2020

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SURELY, since the very first poll under Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, there can't have been a more restrained and sober election-night speech than we heard from Mr Andrew Holness last Thursday night.

Indeed, a self-described cautious Mr Holness told the nation that his was an “acceptance speech”, not one celebrating victory.

Without doubt the sense of extreme moderation would have come partly out of recognition of the struggle ahead to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

COVID-19 is now into its community spread phase. Experts have suggested that in time, well in excess of one million Jamaicans will have contracted it.

With or without a cure or successful vaccine(s), it's clear that the consequences on the economy and society will be long term and extreme.

There are no certainties going forward as to the best way to approach the crisis, even as Mr Holness and his Government get set to announce new restrictions today.

What is certain is that the Government will be judged on the perceived efficiency or otherwise of its actions.

The burden is increased by the huge margin of victory, suggesting great expectations from those who voted for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

But that brings us to another important element, for the preliminary figures suggest an unprecedented low voter turn-out of less than 40 per cent — we are hearing 37 per cent.

That's more than 10 per cent less than the proportion which stayed away from the polls in 2016.

That means the great majority of the approximately 1.9 million people registered to vote, chose not to do so.

COVID-19 no doubt had an effect. Many older people, especially those with serious underlying health conditions and who are therefore more vulnerable to contracting the disease, stayed away.

Also, it would appear that many who would have traditionally supported the PNP stayed away because of infighting that has plagued that party as well as a paucity of confidence in its leadership.

But all of that provides small comfort for those who must now lead.

For we believe that more than anything else, what the decline in voting numbers tells us is that an ever-increasing number of people are so disappointed in political leadership they no longer wish to participate.

Hence, Mr Holness's pledge that good governance will be a feature of his new Administration, and that he will be dealing firmly with the stigma of corruption. Said Mr Holness: “It must never be that the Government takes on any characteristic of arrogance. It must never be that this Government takes the people for granted.”

He said further: “In our last Government the narrative of corruption dogged us, and I want to make it very clear — because there are many persons who will be assuming State authority — this Government does not stand for corruption.”

Jamaicans, not just those who voted last Thursday, will be watching and judging.

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