We stand in solidarity with NNN
Is democracy now under threat in Jamaica?

The attack on the Nationwide News Network (NNN) last Friday should fill every well-thinking Jamaican with revulsion and concern about the future viability of our democratic way of life.

Over the years, NNN has carved out a reputation for itself as a fair and balanced media house, interested in carrying news items which are supported by evidence. As a journalistic entity it has hewn to the best standards of fairness in presenting the facts. However, like any news organisation, NNN does not always get things right and has, on occasions, apologised, in self-effacing accountability that must be respected in earning and keeping the public's trust, whenever it got things wrong.

In recent years, its carefully crafted journalistic probity, under the leadership of veteran broadcaster Cliff Hughes, has earned NNN the reputation of being a hard-charging news outlet, which undoubtedly is highly respected by different echelons of power in the country, be they political, ecclesiastical, or corporate economic interests. Its record in ferreting out wrongdoing and boldness in declaring such has inevitably won NNN enemies in a country riven by corruption at every level. The pathetic and reprehensible gun attack on its premises was almost a given in this atmosphere of corruption, pervasive political partisanship, and violence which exists in the country.

This brings us to the statements made on public platforms by those who aspire to political power in the country. One such statement was uttered by the general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP) Dr Dayton Campbell in an address he gave to the St Andrew East Central constituency conference. In what many are calling incendiary remarks, Dr Campbell declared that NNN has become an "incubator for the Jamaica Labour Party", citing the names of a number of former employees who are now in the government service.

Cliff Hughes

This column makes no direct connection between Dr Campbell's fulminations and the assault on the NNN premises. But it is clear to those who have followed events since his unfortunate declaration and name-calling that, in the atmosphere in which we exist, such hostility directed towards the station could result in violence. Merely a week passed between the statement and the attack. Therefore, one could fairly conclude that the stench of Dr Campbell's attack on the radio station hangs over the shooting incident like 30 days of rotting fish in a sewer pond. Such a conclusion is almost inevitable, although the direct link between the incidents is not provable and may never be. But perception, as we say in Jamaica, is often more than reality.

This brings us to a concern that we all should have as Jamaicans at this time. It is clear that we have now entered the political silly season when the search for power will be intensified. There is not a sitting political ombudsman to rap the knuckles of those who breach ethical guidelines from public political platforms. Reliance will be heavy on gentlemanly and gentlewomanly behaviour from those seeking office. Campbell's fulminations do not inspire confidence that we are on the right track, and neither does his party hierarchy's support of his statement in declaring it as an expression of free speech. Listing the names of personalities is as reprehensible as it is harmful to the health of those so named, given our violent political experience in the past.

The statement is all the more egregious coming from a young leader who ought to be a true repository of the trust of a nation going forward. One is particularly disappointed in Campbell, who, otherwise, is a bright man but is known to make ill-advised statements from political platforms. He is presently embroiled in lawsuits brought by people who he has allegedly harmed by his public utterances. He indulges political theatrics from the platform, and there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but there are times, like in his broadside against NNN, when he comes across as petty and unnecessarily bellicose and belligerent. If he is a man given to self-scrutiny, he must, in quieter and sober moments, be rightly shameful of some of his political conduct and statements.

Police cordoned off a section of Bradley Avenue in the wake of the recent attack on the Nationwide News Network offices.karl mclarty

So, if I may, let me give a word of well-meant advice to the young politician who no doubt has the potential to be a future political leader of which the country might be proud. I do this publicly only because you are a public person and perhaps it just might be of benefit to others who aspire for national leadership. I also do it because your friends will never say to you what I am about to say. If I am correct in this, then perhaps you need to reconsider them as friends. You have spoken of your struggles and that of your mother in ensuring you got an education that could liberate the potential within you. On this score you have done well, becoming a medical doctor and going on to earn a law degree. This places you in a category that most Jamaicans will never be. You must be applauded for this achievement.

It, therefore, befuddles the mind why you have not been able to demonstrate in your public life the level of sobriety and judicial temperament that these two professions require. In your daily practice you may be very good at what you do, but one is puzzled why, as an obviously bright young man, there is such a disjunction between your learning and how you present yourself on the public stage.

As someone who has been around long before you were born, examining and commenting on public issues and personalities, I would strongly urge you to get into your inner self, calm things down, and become a leader of which people can be proud.

As general secretary of one of our leading political parties, which may once again form the Government of the country, there is a weight of responsibility on your shoulders. Respect it. We the people deserve better from you.

Dr Dayton Campbell

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life; and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or stead6655@aol.com.

Raulston Nembhard

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