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'We are at the edge of the precipice'

PJ laments state of social, moral decline

Basil Walters

Thursday, May 29, 2014    

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CITING an urgency to arrest the swelling tide of anti-social attitudes in the society, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson says the time has come for a renewed look at the values and attitudes campaign he introduced 20 years ago.

In his address to members of the Rotary Club of Spanish Town at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew on Tuesday, Patterson said the aim of the campaign was to develop a national strategy and programme of action to promote attitudinal change and social renewal.

"I spoke then of the growing tide of social incivility, indiscipline, disorder, disrespect for each other, the fight against corruption in all its forms and the critical need to promote integrity in every facet of national endeavour. Every speaker at the launch of that original campaign emphasised the need to

arrest moral decline in our country and enunciated compelling reasons to stem this growing tide.

"Twenty years later, even those who doubted the validity of the plea or contended that the call was driven by partisan political motives, now openly admit its national urgency as our condition has deteriorated beyond belief," Patterson told the Rotarians.

"In spite of the efforts that began at that time, we have seen a massive increase in crime and violence; drug warfare is more rampant, the urban ghettos have spread across our countryside and elsewhere, our ethical standards have fallen. Today, there is a growing sense of alienation and greater distrust of leadership in politics, in our legal system, our national institutions, corporate business, even in the church. This means, ladies and gentlemen, we are at the extreme edge of the precipice," Patterson lamented.

The retired prime minister, who has strong connections to the old capital, categorically refuted the notion that the national campaign he initiated two decades ago bore no fruit. He highlighted some positive achievements, pointing to the relaunch of the National Youth Service, the establishment of community development agency Jamaica Social Investment Fund, the creation of the social welfare system called Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, the National Contracts Commission, and the distribution of scarce benefits including land and housing.

He also called for the strengthening of existing institutions, some of which have been maintained by successive administrations.

"I challenge Rotarians, not just the Spanish Town club, but all (Rotarians) to initiate a new conversation on how to restore the positive values that will stem the growing tide of negative practices and anti-social behaviour. I urge you to kick-start a new movement in which the nation takes a good look at where we are and where we want to go. ...Tonight, Rotarians, let the new national conversation begin," Patterson said, before quoting the lyrics of Michael Jackson's song Man in the Mirror.

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