‘Elevate the discourse’ – Holness calls on politicians to engage in civil discourse
KINGSTON, Jamaica— Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called on representatives who are leaders at varying levels of the political spectrum to elevate the national discourse, keeping in mind his campaign thrust three years ago for civility to prevail even as the competitive political climate is navigated.
The Prime Minister, who also serves as leader of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the member of parliament for West Central St Andrew, says it cannot be disputed that there has been evidence of a reduction in the level of civility and the quality of the political discourse.
However, he says it is not beyond stakeholders in the political arena to rectify the deficit in the standards of the conversation and narratives which are advanced.
The Prime Minister also called for political representatives to resist the urge to pander to the presence of mere political opportunity while sacrificing civility and the quality of debate on important national issues.
“I’ve been on record, particularly in the 2020 campaign, I made civility a campaign issue. I think we all have to agree that there has been a debasing of the national discourse to the point where you could say it is uncivil. Leaders have a duty to ensure that the debate is elevated regardless of whatever political opportunity is seen, there’s a duty to ensure that the national debate is elevated,” Holness told a quarterly media conference at his Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) headquarters in St Andrew on Thursday.
The Prime Minister was responding to a question about his reaction to a call by the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) for a restoration of decency and a sound temperament among various leaders who contribute to the national discourse. The Prime Minister affirmed that he welcomes the call.
In a statement last week, the PSOJ highlighted controversial statements made on platforms by Police Federation chairman Rohan James, and People’s National Party general secretary Dr Dayton Campbell, along with profanity-laced remarks directed at Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn by the then chairman of the PNP Human Rights Commission, Isat Buchanan.
The private sector group then appealed for a restoration of decency and civility as leaders address national issues.
However, the PNP rejected PSOJ’s call for a personal apology from its president and leader of the Opposition Mark Golding in relation to disrespectful comments made by Buchanan towards DPP Llewellyn.
In a statement Wednesday, the PNP said while it appreciated and shared the PSOJ’s concern about maintaining respect and civility within our society, it disagreed with the PSOJ’s call for a personal apology from the leader and was disheartened by the glaring bias clearly evident in the PSOJ’s statement.
On Friday, former prime minister PJ Patterson also released a statement where he criticised what he described as ‘vulgar and disturbing behaviour’ on the political stage and other platforms.
Patterson cautioned that the ‘ugly behaviour’ never attracts an increase in political support and will further divide the Jamaican people.