Make a stand for integrity, Dr Alexis


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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I do not know Dr Shane Alexis in person. What I know of him is what many Jamaicans do through his public profile as a medical doctor. From his public presentation he comes across as a man who is deeply committed to his work as a doctor. He does not only serve a private office, but has served in public capacities in the medical industry in Jamaica.

From his public persona he comes across as a man of integrity. From this public service, he has given no reason, to the best of my knowledge, why anyone would question his morality or integrity as a person. One believes that in those realms such characteristics may be unassailable, as far as the good doctor is concerned. Indubitably, he is a busy man.

But now Dr Alexis has shifted gears in a dramatic fashion and is running as the candidate for the People's National Party (PNP) in the St Mary South Eastern constituency. He is hoping to replace the late Dr Winston Green, whose sudden death opened the way for a by-election in that constituency. But it has emerged that Dr Alexis has placed his party, his constituents who he is hoping to vote for him, and the people of Jamaica in a spot of bother in that he is not a Jamaican citizen.

It is inconceivable that a person can sit in the people's parliament without having a Jamaican passport. And here one is not questioning Dr Alexis's 'Jamaicanness'. As far as it appears, he is as Jamaican in his sociological and psychological temperament as any other Jamaican. But I cannot recall any precedent in which, since Independence, a person has sat in the Parliament without Jamaican citizenship or holding a Jamaican passport. If there is, I would be happy to be so advised.

Dr Alexis is hoping he can get thorough the necessary documentation that can certify him a Jamaican citizen. This is so notwithstanding, by his own admission, that being a very busy man he could not endure the tedium that such a process requires. It seemed not to have occurred to him that he should have had this process tidied up before announcing his candidacy. What is he hoping for now? Is he hoping that, given the urgency of the election, something special can be done for him under two weeks to speed up the process so he can have citizenship?

In Jamaica this is called 'pull strings' or getting a bly. Is this what Dr Alexis is really depending on? If this is the case the question must be asked: Why should ordinary Jamaicans be subject to the tedium of waiting in lines to obtain a passport or suffer the wait while the bureaucratic machinery churns at its own pace, while there are others who are not subject to the same treatment? Is it because a person is running for political office why this favour should be granted? Dr Alexis should get no easier passage to a passport than the household helper over in St Elizabeth who wants to visit 'farin'.

Have you seen, Dr Alexis, the pickle you have placed your party in, or that the party has placed you in? It is only a bly that can get you a Jamaican citizenship under two weeks. And if you can have it done for you it is a terrible precedent that you are asking the Government and people of Jamaica to grant. We know that we operate a society of inequality where especially the political class tends to behave as if the rules do not apply to them. If you think it applies to you, then do the decent and honourable thing and withdraw. Do not sacrifice your integrity for a mess of pottage.

There are other concerns that are raised. Did the PNP know that Dr Alexis had this peculiar challenge? If the party did, then it is incredible arrogance on the part of its officers to believe that they could get this one past the Jamaican people without anyone noticing. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would have had to be sleeping at the wheel to let this happen, given the cost that some of its members had to pay in similar circumstance. To have known this and to proceed on the basis that Dr Alexis would be 'let through' based on his Canadian, and hence Commonwealth bona fides is not only short-sighted, but is to take the people for fools. Furthermore, it is to visit an unnecessary paroxysm on the people in a matter that they thought was well behind them. Here expediency has trumped principle — not for the first time, may I remind.

If the party did not know any of this and proceeded with the nomination it would be an indication of incredible ineptitude on its part. Any cursory vetting of a candidate would have had such concerns at the top of its agenda knowing that it is that same party that brought such issues to light in an earlier dispensation. There is no excuse for it not knowing, and I am not aware of any being given. It appears obvious that the PNP, under Dr Peter Phillips, was quite content to shuffle through Dr Alexis on the basis of Commonwealth parliamentary privilege guaranteed by the Jamaican Constitution.

In conclusion, here are the facts. It is only a special arrangement by the authorities that can get Dr Alexis Jamaican citizenship in under two weeks. If he does not get it and he wins the seat, he will sit in Parliament solely on the basis of an archaic provision in the Jamaican Constitution that Commonwealth citizens can be elected to Parliament if he has lived in the country for one year. This is an incredibly thin fig leaf to hide behind in representing a section of the Jamaican people in Parliament. If he wins he may do well as a Member of Parliament, but there will be a long shadow cast over his tenure. Unless it really does not bother him too much, but this is a slender limb to be clinging to if one wishes to serve the people with sagacity and give them hope.

Again, from what I have seen of the doctor, he is a good man. A clean hand, clean shirt, and a pure heart should dictate that he not subject himself to this kind of political expediency. There are other opportunities to come. My advice to him is to resist any bly that is being encouraged, especially by those who should know better but whose consciences have become too calloused by years of political timber chopping to think or do otherwise. Hold on to your integrity, Dr Alexis, and withdraw. Many will argue that it might be too late to do that, but it is never too late to stand up for principles you consider inviolate.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or




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