When all seems lost, act! – the late Mr Michael Manley


When all seems lost, act! – the late Mr Michael Manley

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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The late Prime Minister Michael Manley — who, incidentally, would have been 95 years old today — once described his Opposition years in the early 1980s as “boring”.

What the current People's National Party (PNP) Opposition needs to be concerned with now is not boredom, but finding a new template on how to do political opposition in an era of both enlightenment… and cynicism about politics and politicians.

Jamaican political parties, especially when in Opposition, are still stuck in 'old-time politics', which is largely an exercise in calling down brimstone and fire on the Government for every perceived shortcoming that they, too, had or will have once back in office.

The content of the Opposition party news releases — whether PNP or Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — is uncannily similar, except for the letterhead on which they are printed and the name of the person signing them.

But that approach is becoming more and more futile because the mere act of pointing out shortcomings or pontificating about wrongdoing that they were guilty of in their time, is beginning to ring hollow with the more aware and, dare we say, less gullible electorate.

In this regard one can't help but feel sorry for the Opposition spokesman on national security, the PNP's Mr Fitz Jackson, who seems totally at sea when it comes to handling the crime element of his portfolio.

Readers will recall his recent press release in which he came out swinging against the Administration, completely ignoring the fact that his leader, Dr Peter Phillips, had beaten the Government into submission on meetings towards a non-partisan approach to crime-fighting.

Mr Jackson badly needs a new template. But so does the PNP on a whole, as evidenced by the news release issued yesterday reaffirming its commitment to the fight against corruption in Jamaica and pledging to be a squeaky clean government next time.

Of course, it is one of the primary functions of the Opposition to be vigilant against corruption in government. And so far, no one can accuse the Phillips-led PNP of not being appropriately loud and proactive about corruption at places like Petrojam, the education ministry, the Caribbean Maritime University and so on.

But it is not cutting it to adopt a posture that suggests its own hands are clean and were never ever dirty while in Government, as the party's release observing International Anti-Corruption Day did.

Pointing to Jamaica's drop of two places on the International Corruption Perception Index over 2017-2018, the PNP declared: “This data highlights Jamaica's continuing decline of its image on the world ranking chart, which is indicative of the Administration's ineptness to significantly control public sector corruption… It is hopeless and incredulous for a Government to declare that it is pro-growth and at the same time be embracing corruption.”

In its time in Opposition, the JLP made a similar if not worse accusation about the PNP Government, which is well documented.

Mr Manley, who also famously said: “When all seems lost, act!” seemingly took his own advice, rose from his boredom and went on to win a resounding victory in 1989.

The current PNP needs to take heed, arise from its slumber and fashion a new template.

The clock is ticking.

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