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What Mr Seaga did not say, but should have said

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mr Edward Seaga was quoted by the Jamaica Observer yesterday as saying that Jamaica had not made much progress since gaining political Independence in 1962, and that what was achieved could be likened to "making one step forward and one step backward".

The former Jamaican prime minister and one of the longest-serving members of Parliament up to his resignation could not have said everything that should be said in his relatively brief stay at the Observer's Monday Exchange with reporters and editors. But very often, what is not verbalised is more telling than what is actually said.

"...It is true that we have four areas that we have done well in and they are easily identifiable -- the music industry, athletics, tourism, and mining... But the economy is worse off, the justice system is worse off, the education system is worse off..." said Mr Seaga.

Any discussion of Jamaica's progress, or lack thereof, in the 50-year period between Independence and now, can hardly bear any credibility, if the discussants ignore what would have led to this progress or lack thereof.

Few Jamaicans, if any, will disagree that political tribalism and its dastardly offsprings have been the single greatest deterrent to the advancement that we could and should have made since 1962.

The warring tribes -- whose numbers range from illustrious PhD holders, priestly men of the cloth to marauding gunmen -- have had this country locked. Nothing grows in its barren shadow. Development comes only through severest pain, and unifying moments are few, fleeting and far between.

Mr Seaga is among the politicians who have bequeathed to this nation this tribal politics. He must talk to us about it. He must address his part in it. He must name those of his ilk who are numbered among the ones responsible for it. He must embarrass those from the People's National Party (PNP) who are part of this accursed history.

We are not with those who demonise Mr Seaga because we understand that the building of a nation is not a simple matter, but a complex mix of processes, personalities and policies. No one involved is guiltless. But at the same time, no one has all the answers. And we all know that it takes two to tango.

We look to Mr Seaga as one of the few still alive and lucid who can enlighten much of the darkness surrounding our emergence as an independent nation. He can bear testimony that only this handful can, as he was among the framers of our Constitution, a significant member of our first Independence government, and a towering political personality to this day.

We believe that one of the best things that could happen to us as a nation in this 50th anniversary year is a heartfelt apology from the leaders who have been the main architects of our State, for the failures that have held this country back, despite the abundance of talent and the genius of our long-suffering people.

Mr Seaga told the Observer editors and reporters that all was not lost to set the island's affairs right for the next 50 years. He can make yet another contribution, this time to the demise of tribal politics in Jamaica.

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