What’s gone wrong?
A few days ago, I watched footage of the laughable, but sad spectacle of German police officers, weighed down with their riot gear – stuck in the mud while trying to defend a coal mine from angry, jeering protesters. The struggle has been going on for weeks against the demolition of a village to expand the mine. Even more bizarrely, in the video that I watched, the police were being tormented by a tall man in a monk’s habit and wearing a mask, who just won’t leave them alone.
I thought to myself that 2023 is beginning to take on a somewhat surreal air – already. And it’s not the end of January, yet.
On our island, I get the sense that, right at the start of a brand new year, Jamaicans are already feeling weary. I don’t mean physically, but mentally and even perhaps spiritually. I think the breath has been knocked out of us by two disturbing revelations (a kind of “double whammy”): The scandal over children in state care, and now the huge fraud at Stocks and Securities Limited. Heads are spinning.
But even as we stagger to our feet (a bit like the German riot police) and try to pretend life can proceed as usual, we know that behind it all, something is not right. We are all stuck in the mud, pushing each over, struggling to find a foothold, determined the other side is not going to win the day.
And so, our politicians on both sides of the fence are running round in circles, trying to score political points, busy with their own little games. I am not sure that anyone, except their “die hard” supporters, is listening to them any more. What, really, is the end game here? Just to keep the bickering and “tit for tat” exchanges going until the next election – when even fewer Jamaicans than last time will vote for any of them?
We are all “tyaaad” – in Jamaican parlance.
I think the Advocates Network nailed it in their recent press release. Where are we going? Can’t we shake ourselves out of this nonsensical divisiveness and get to work, sticking to our principles? My friend Dr. Anne Bailey put it very well in her blog (which I will share in full in my next post) when she asked what happened to those principles of integrity, respect and honesty?
Meanwhile, this is what the Advocates Network has to say. It’s a desperate plea… While they believe the current Holness administration is largely to blame, I feel a great deal more effort could be made on both sides. But certainly, the current government needs to start listening – and not just to its echo chamber.
Let’s get a grip! It’s 2023, for heaven’s sake.
GOJ Must Unite Jamaica! Find Common Ground with Critics
Kingston, Jamaica, Wednesday, January 18, 2023. It is now clear that our government, like others in the past, is challenged in tackling the most pressing issues in our society. The unfortunate recourse is to abdicate responsibility and to target civil society advocates as being a part of the problem, as we hold them to account.
This government, like successive administrations, has a damaging deficit in support. Though they won 49 of 63 Parliamentary seats, this was with the support of only 21% of the electorate, as 79% of Jamaicans eligible and registered to vote either stayed away from the polls or voted for the Opposition. Citizens’ participation is a critical ingredient to meet the storms lashing our island nation: Crime, Corruption, inadequate Education, Health services and basic Infrastructure, as well as our weakened international standing as a country that could be relied on to take principled positions on international affairs, are all indications of a country that is taking a beating.
The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) instead of finding common ground with civil society groups, the Opposition or the media, has decided to rely on strategies to reduce crime that are addressing the effects and not the root causes.
There has been little reference, it appears, to the reports, dating as far back as the 1993 (Wolfe) Report of the National Task Force on Crime, which itself cites earlier studies on crime, with their strategic analysis of the root causes and calls to focus on upgrading underserved communities – the slums and squatter areas, especially in housing, as included in the many recommendations of these reports.
Corruption is normalised and treated with impunity. There is a lack of will to clean up the Boards of Directors of public sector organisations. Those suspected of corrupt practices are rapped on the knuckles and shuffled around for shelter. Issues related to conflict of interest and cronyism are disregarded.
The Education and Health sectors are suffering severely from underfunding which has resulted in weakened infrastructure and our schools and hospitals are besieged by a lack of basic supplies and drugs.
Our foreign affairs positions, taken over the past few years voting against Venezuela and Cuba and even Trinidad, and the failed grasping after the Commonwealth Secretariat, are all indicative of a government at risk to itself and its citizens. One damaging result is our seriously tarnished international reputation, where we were once leaders in the region, supporting those fighting for justice.
What the GOJ needs to do to save Jamaica is to dare to listen even to your critics – to our civil society, business leaders and opposition groups. We must do things differently to stem corruption, cronyism and scandals. We can be a people of integrity!
As a nation, our unity is our strength! We call on our government to resist division and strife and embrace unity in diversity!
Here’s an amusing yet apt quote – the utter foolishness of this kind of divisiveness…
The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.T.H. White, “The Once and Future King”