Letters to the Editor

It's time politicians feel the people's pain

Monday, October 08, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

The only group of people in Jamaica who are certain of justice and security are our politicians and their families. That is not fair. They can afford security detail and expensive lawyers when they get in a jam, all paid for by the same people they have failed to provide the same security and justice for.

Day after day the lives of Jamaican men, women and children are snuffed out. There was a time when the "village" raised the child, now the village rapes the children and old women. Mob killing is on the rise as people show scant regard for life and have lost faith in a broken justice system. Every now and then politicians express their supposed disgust for what is happening, but this is more PR than a genuine empathetic experience. We are not short on expressing our undying love for the poor, but our deeds are not consistent with our expressed rhetoric.

The time has come for some bold actions and we can begin by making some symbolic gestures. When the Jamaica Labour Party took office in 2009 the government made a symbolic move of having parliamentarians in the government take a pay cut. It was an important gesture because the government would later invite the people into a partnership of sacrifice (Jamaica Debt Exchange). Leading by example was important in that regard.

Although debt is still an albatross around the neck of our struggling country, the spate of crime, which is the greatest obstacle to our economic stability and prosperity, is not only increasing exponentially, but the types of crime are symptomatic of a society that is slipping deeper and deeper into a dark and awful place.

So here is what I am proposing to the government and opposition (government-in-waiting). Designate any week in October 2012 for all politicians, including the prime minister, to go about their business without their usual security detail. They should not alter their activities or movements; it must be business as usual. It is clear that our leaders have lost their ability to identify with the harsh reality in which our people live daily.

This one-week experience will teach them how to empathise with those they seek to lead. They will experience the fear that terrifies our people daily. At the end of that week both the opposition and the government should go on a retreat together for three days and come back to the people with a joint crime plan. One of the conditions of the plan should be that if within 12 months there is not a 50 per cent reduction in crime, the politicians should impose on themselves a 50 per cent pay cut. Any future increases in pay must be based on improvements in the reduction of the crime rate.

The first duty of a government is to protect its people, and in this regard our leaders have been found shamefully wanting. When the economy is bad the people have to dig deeper into their empty pockets. When businesses shut down, the people lose their jobs. When children are raped and women are killed, it is the people whose communities grieve. We are always getting the short end of the stick, yet politicians never have to lose anything. The guns are not pointing at them and bullets are not flying in their direction. Politicians' addiction to power has continuously taken precedent over their will to serve the people's best interest. Well, it is about time leaders do what they are elected to do.

Laval Wilkinson






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