Gov't, Opposition can't even agree on things they agree on

The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know — Napolean Bonaparte.

It is in the nature of things democratic that governments and the political opposition will disagree on nearly everything under the sun — which is generally acceptable, because the alternative is problematic.

However, the two parties too often disagree even on things which they say they agree on. That seems to be the recent case in respect of two very important matters — the need for the wanton blood shedding to be stanched; and the decision to take Jamaica to republic status.

With reported homicides running at roughly 1,400 a year and Jamaica being called one of the most murderous countries in the world, the two major parties here agree that a solution needs to be urgently found.

Yet, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) can hardly bring themselves to jointly pursue a workable solution, preferring to waste taxpayers' money chasing ineffective programmes that fizzle almost as quickly as they are announced.

The so-called Vale Royal Talks, despite the overwhelming backing of the private sector and civil society, have failed miserably to deliver a solution after many fruitless years of talking.

The biggest mystery must be in the inability of the JLP and the PNP to agree on treating crime as a non-partisan issue and working together to mobilise their supporters and the Jamaican people to wage a united battle against the murderers.

No progress can be made unless the citizenry is confident and ready to provide the police with the necessary support, especially in telling what they know about who the criminals are and where they hide out.

Let's face it, Jamaica's 'informer fi dead' culture and the lack of adequate technology supported by forensic know-how largely leave the police to fight crime on their own.

On the matter of republic status for Jamaica, both the JLP and the PNP agree that is the way forward. So it is weird hearing Legal Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte saying the Opposition is holding up the process. The PNP used to be the one pushing republic status!

Mrs Malahoo Forte blames the Opposition's delay in naming its two appointees to the committee spearheading the process, and "twinning accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) to the move to abolish the constitutional monarchy and establish the Republic of Jamaica".

She signalled, and this would be very unfortunate, that the Government is ready to go ahead with discussions to make Jamaica a republic "with or without the participation of the parliamentary Opposition".

Opposition Leader Mark Golding admits his party is concerned about the "Privy Council remaining as Jamaica's final court of appeal", and "is insisting on a formal and transparent response from the minister on the aspects of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms that the Government has indicated it will amend".

Who is going to tell Mr Golding that Jamaica's limping justice system is obviously not ready to leave the UK Privy Council, but that need not stall the move to republic status?

On crucial matters like these, the importance of agreeing or disagreeing courageously is palpable.

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