PNP to address perception of corruption in politics

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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THE People's National Party (PNP) is unhappy with public perception about the level of corruption in politics, and hopes that this year's 75th anniversary celebrations of the ruling party will provide an opportunity to correct it.


According to former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, while it has become fashionable to "bash" politicians and political parties, the consequences of their non-existence can be seen in the resulting threat to democracy.


"When you read all the things (being said) about politicians and what they are up to and what they are not up to, I wonder how many of those people (who write) are prepared to make sacrifices and subject themselves to the discipline which political life entails," Patterson said.


"And when I speak about sacrifice, I am not just talking about money, I am talking about the time they have to spend and the less time they have for their families. Some of the discussions they have to take about their own conduct in life. Some of the pain, the agony that people have to face in the discharge of public office," he added.


Patterson, co-chairman of the party's 75th anniversary organising committee, was speaking at a special sitting of the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at his St Andrew home.


"I looked at the last set of candidates for both parties with a discerning eye. We had more women than ever before. We had more young people; certainly on the Government side the number of young people was a significant improvement over recent times," he stated.


"I take some comfort in that, but what I feel is that there is need for more people to be coming into the mainstream," Patterson said.


He was supported by the PNP's Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson, and fellow organising committee member Senator Imani Duncan-Price.


"Personally, for me, I could work in the private sector, but I would never be self-actualised, and I would never be happy, because that's not what I am about," Robinson explained.


"I want to give back, and I want to commit to service, and that's what I have done," the first-term MP for South East St Andrew and minister of state for science, technology, energy, and mining explained.


"Yes, there are options and, if you look at it purely from a financial perspective, you can question why would you do it, because you can do a lot better elsewhere. But, the question is, if you want to be true to yourself, is that what you would want to do?" Robinson asked.


He also blamed the media for promoting much of the bad perception about politics.


"The media ought to be more responsible, because the media shape this perception that everything in politics is nasty and dirty. Not that we don't have individuals who are, and I am not going to tell you that within our party we don't have individuals who don't meet all the standards that we would want, but I think that it is important that, while holding us accountable and being critical, there is a sense of responsibility in how we report on these things because, at the end of the day, if you cast all of us as a bunch of thieves and crooks, the country doesn't benefit: neither the PNP nor the JLP," he said.


According to Duncan, it was unfortunate that, while there has been a growing number of people willing to serve through service clubs, like the Kiwanis and Rotary, there was no similar growing engagement with the political parties.


However, she admitted that the perception of the politicians resulted from "some real things".


"Things that happen in this country and in both parties. So, we have to take action, as a party, with our own members in an appropriate way," she explained.


"People are still engaged and giving a lot of time, but not giving the same amount to the political process. But, no matter which side you choose, engage in the political process, because it impacts every one of us in this country," she suggested.


Patterson said that not all who volunteered would end up in seats, or as ministers, but that should not prevent them from contributing to the political process. However, he felt that the perception that the parties were corrupt was driving away many people from entering the process.


Asked what he thought about people giving up lucrative professions for the political process, Patterson said, "I ask that question of myself, even now."


"However, when we won in 1955, Norman Manley said: 'I give up my place at the bar to plead the case of the Jamaican people, for history'," he recalled.


Organising committee member Delano Franklyn said that there was a need for the parties to produce some kind of philosophy that "will capture the imagination of persons out there to pull them into the party".


"During the course of our celebration, during the course of our looking back and our renewal, that is something we have to look at," he added, noting that it was a constant issue for the party.


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