Can the PSOJ answer the call to duty once again?


Can the PSOJ answer the call to duty once again?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

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Although the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) is tasked with defending the interests of the business community, the organisation has never been able to extricate itself from the tumultuous context in which it was launched in 1976.

Jamaica was waging a fierce ideological battle, over fears real or imagined that the then Government was going communist. That battle culminated in 800 reported murders in 1980. The business sector all but engineered the booting of the Michael Manley Administration from office, returning the country to relative tranquillity.

The calm of Jamaican election campaigns today contrasts sharply with the days when bloody political violence raged and some candidates could win constituencies by more than 100 per cent of the votes, as thugs would steal and stuff ballot boxes.

The PSOJ worked with the Electoral Advisory Committee (now Electoral Commission of Jamaica), established in 1979, to bequeath to Jamaica an electoral system now admired by the world.

The PSOJ also rose to the task when the issue of political campaign donation threatened to undo much of the democratic gains, because electoral victory could virtually be bought in exchange for corrupt contracts and influence.

Passage of legislation setting limits on contributions and election expenditure, as well as requiring disclosure of their donors by candidates and political parties to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica finally came in 2018.

Once again, the urgency of the times is calling the PSOJ to national duty. This time it is the runaway murder toll 600 already this year, despite lockdowns and islandwide curfews due to COVID-19.

The PSOJ has been the key entity in pressing the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) to act on a national consensus on crime that would, hopefully, unite the country in the fight against criminals.

Recently the PSOJ complained that the Government and the Opposition are showing no urgency in reaffirming their respective party's commitment to expediting agreement on delivering the national consensus on crime.

Late last year the two major political parties, alongside approximately 20 groups from civil society, came together in a summit to discuss an aligned approach to combating crime and violence in Jamaica.

The groups appointed a working group which completed its work in February this year, having gained agreement on the main issues, strategic decisions, and key actions from a broad grouping of civic stakeholders.

The report on 'The National Consensus on Crime — an imperative for Jamaica' was submitted to both the prime minister and the Opposition leader, who acknowledged a request to have penultimate meetings with the stakeholders, but nothing has happened since.

“The working group is of the view that the sense of urgency exhibited in the first three months of pulling together the consensus has not been replicated in the ensuing months during which it awaited responses,” the PSOJ said.

The PSOJ is not without teeth. It can mobilise the business sector to withhold campaign donations until the parties sign off on the national consensus on crime.

On the eve of its 45th anniversary, the PSOJ is once again being summoned to do its patriotic duty.

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