Who will catapult this country and people into 'the spring of hope'?

Louis E A

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,

for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In my observation of the current political situation in Jamaica I find myself locked into a feeling of “the winter of despair” to borrow the phrase. The writing provides a story of social and political instabilities among extreme hardships in two settings that were ready to explode. This 21st century is the best of times and also the worst of times; the best of times regarding the promise of science and the role of transformative education that led to the development of peoples and nations. It is the worst of times for those countries that have been enslaved and colonised they have been placed into a persistent programme of dependency to acquiesce to the power of the metropole; from the stage of colonialism to imperialism, and to the highest stage of imperialism, supranationalism, with the features of globalisation and the frills attached to this new global arrangements.

This 21st century is filled with lots of challenges, especially the role of technology and new social-psychological theories of self-esteem that separate the children from the family, the Church, and the school respectively. The global challenges are compounded with the pitfalls and weaknesses of the modern Government in Jamaica after 1944. After 80 years since 1938, and 74 years after universal adult suffrage that led to this modern political system, we are in a “winter of despair” in terms of Jamaican politics. A question for our political leaders: Who will catapult this country and people into “the spring of hope”?

I will articulate how a history of corruption from the 1940s to the 1950s designed, in some way, the nature of modern Jamaican politics that was baptised in moral pollution. It argues also that the recent response about living in a glass house by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to the Opposition's insistence on the Petrojam investigation is what we expect to hear from the streets, but not from the leader of the country. This is a mega problem and it requires serious attention. It has the quality to be the tipping point towards a new era in politics, and this is what I am expected to hear from young Andrew Holness.

Make this a watershed moment, Sir. The time has come from parties to stop the protection of corrupt practices and promote failure and incompetence. Equally, it is my thinking that the leader of the Opposition should understand that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) might not have a large pool of people to find an easy replacement. The prime minister may need some time for this one; it is a most important State entity, having the potential to support financially critical areas of the economy. Currently it has a magnificent training programme for inner-city youth that needs lots of improvement, but it is a most important transformational endeavour. There has to be probably a 'basket' of ministers or ministerial council that will help, with the assistance of the Opposition to find a new minister. The Petrojam crisis is complex and the delay in naming a minister should not merit the Government's resignation.

In his victory speech after the 2016 General Election, Andrew Holness gave a commitment “to lead a responsive Government that is accountable to the Jamaican people”. He continues, “Let us now unite for a cause and purpose.” The issues concerning the bushing and roadworks in such massive bit and blatant supporter centric, and every aspect of the matters concerning Petrojam contradicts the promise of a young said he would change the Jamaican politics.

When parties are very weak in organisation they rely heavily on money to bring out voters on election day. The glass house reply was not helpful at all. Where is the responsive and responsible leadership? We need, Prime Minister, a practical way for the road forward for Petrojam and the country; and that such project will be grounded primarily in the Jamaican experience.

We speak of unity in the post-1944 era, but what is being done to foster this cause in a practical and meaningful manner. The political system in Jamaica is characterised by vicious, caustic and damaging tribalism between the two major political parties and also within those parties. As it relates to the People's National Party (PNP), there cannot be any effective party leadership and strategies to rebuild the party organisation if the interest group that is responsible for some of the serious and most divisive rhetoric continues to play its “dark role” in PNP politics. Its work rocked the very foundation of the party in the general elections of 2007 and 2016: The margin of defeat was little over 5,000 in 2007 and over 3,200 in 2016. These figures are showing the slipping away of members and supporters, as well as a new trend reflection an indecisive polity.

I am making the case, also, that since 2002 when the JLP, under Edward Seaga, won 16 seats in that election against P J Patterson — the gain was a signal that the PNP had lost its efficacy. The PNP was at one time offering an alternative type of political thinking, but in 2002 the history of these narrow margin victories began to reveal that voters have no choice. There was just no difference between the PNP and the JLP. The PNP suffered from the negative impact of internal party tribalism that contributed, among other weaknesses, to the defeat of the party in 2007 and 2016. The PNP needs to recover its exclusiveness as the political party with the sound platform It needs to rebuild its political machine and recapture its effective articulation of new political ideas that will be attractive to all levels of the Jamaican society.

Both political parties need to develop their political academies to produce future leaders with focus on ethics, political thinking and organisational skills — and the principles of leadership and governance. The prime minister and the leader of the Opposition should work more closely in resolving the Petrojam issue. There is no political point to score in this matter of significant national interest. We have our national problems, but there are global and technological changes that have created havoc on society and these are some problems that both parties could explore in the same manner that the ganja question was dealt with. Who will catapult this country and people into “the spring of hope”?


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