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Hope for a professional political space this election cycle

Friday, August 14, 2020

Dear Editor,

I have noted with concern that, for many decades, whenever the “silly season” or election cycle is upon us in Jamaica, some political activists have resorted to weaponising the personal lives of their opponents for political gain.

It is not far-fetched to hope for a political space in which political parties can encourage and ensure that their members treat the political arena as a professional space and, in so doing, ensure as well that the personal lives of their opponents are not weaponised using the cover of anonymity afforded by the advent and immediacy of social media.

Is it too idealistic to hope for a Jamaica in which more of us will start to see some merit in not having a vested interest in the private lives of our political representatives, but more so in what they bring to the table and can offer to the Jamaican people?

I am concerned that for some political activists, leading up to the election cycle, their armoury is probably filled with only private information that can be weaponised to distract the average voter from paying attention to what is important for our country at this point in time in our history — getting our economy back on track in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the realisation of a new normal in our society for the betterment of our people.

I am not saying that people's private lives do not, to some extent, have a bearing on their public lives and image, but many of the things some activists choose to focus on is much ado about nothing — mere noise to distract the average voter from their party's lack of overall vision for the country.

If you have to rely on sullying your opponent's name using private information about their lives that has nothing to do with the running of the country; you have already lost the race.

I suggest focus on the issues. Many of us seem to be caught up with the American style of politics and the First World political area, but those countries have their bread already buttered on both sides; they have nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things, because their economies are on track and their citizens are doing well socially, for the most part.

Jamaica, despite the progress that has been made in some areas, has been lagging behind for decades now because of the tit for tat between our two main political parties — the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP). The rivalry between them is akin to members of a family carrying a grudge for each other from their youthful years to present day over some long-standing disagreement between older family members from decades ago. And, more often than not, no one can recall the details of the feud. It is time for us to move past the 'Manley vs Seaga' era and not corrupt the minds of our future generations with the stain of that time in our history.

As we celebrate Jamaica's 58th year of Independence, I call on the hierarchy of both political parties to go within and take stock of what brand of politics they would want to leave behind, and what are the traits they want to carry forward into the new Jamaica. This will help to shape this election campaign and the ones for the future.

The truth is that the more vested we are as a country in an engineered conflict by political diehards from decades ago up to present day, the less we are able to unite against the common enemy — poverty.

Look around us, the majority of our citizens are poor, black people, many without stable jobs and homes. Many are barely able to put food on their tables and school their children. We don't have any time to focus on anything else but how we can come together and move this country forward.

Present your plans for the country then use the election cycle to focus on doing the groundwork to break down those plans to our citizens. Leave the veranda and bar talk where you got them.


Shanica Blair