Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Why I couldn’t be a politician

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Ever since I witnessed close up what people who enter representational politics must encounter and endure, I knew that I could never be a politician. It can be a very demanding and thankless job in which people use you merely as a means to an end.

Often, as soon as a potential representative is announced, a veritable throng of hangers-on, mendicants, 'soldiers', bodyguards, job seekers, contributors with enlightened self-interest and strangers posing as long-time 'friends' appear.

The politicians that I knew had to make certain that they carried enough cash to hand out to those claiming to be supporters. Some wanted 'something' to buy 'a food', a drink money, a few 'bills' to send their children to school, a 'smalls' to effect home repairs, and even bus fare. In other words, they always had to 'let off' something.

Those perceived to be financially solid were routinely hit upon by some in the party hierarchy to fund party business, especially near election time. In some instances, the requests were for contributions, and in other cases, the requests were for interest-free loans with no definite pay back date. Honest and well-meaning representatives risk going completely broke unless they can find some way of avoiding fiscal exsanguination.

Politics always usurps one's real profession. Your job, family, friends, hobbies and any other interests come in a very distant second to politics. But what bothers me a lot is how the collective responsibility of politics forces many to suppress their personal views and even their ethics.


Code of silence


It goes a step further. If a politician becomes aware of another doing something unethical, the code of silence prevents him/her from acting on it. Certainly, many professions also have that unwritten code of silence, but since politicians enjoy so much power, interact with so much money, and play such pivotal roles in all our lives, if unethical or illegal activities are allowed to slide, generations of citizens will suffer the consequences.

This recent mess in which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) finds itself is a great study in the pitfalls of politics and demonstrates why, although I want to contribute to Jamaica, I steer clear of participating in politics at any level, for any party.

A member in the Upper House with legal expertise was 'commissioned' to draft undated letters of resignation as coercion and insurance in a specific matter. The signed documents were kept safe by the party leader. My personality would prevent me from drafting such a document. That would be the end of my political career.

I'm certainly no lawyer, but it seemed to me that any document so crafted, drafted and especially used out of context could never survive the glare of legal scrutiny. Therefore, the court ruling that the letters were "inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful and accordingly null and void" came as no surprise.


Big stink


And so we all witnessed a rotting egg firmly plastered on the face of the leader of the Opposition. The odour engulfed the entire party because the pre-signed resignation letters were not secret. Obviously, the proverbial bell drowned out their still, small voices within. It's not that I'm better than any politician, I'm just not capable of tolerating that sort of thing.

The constitutional conundrum has been met with sombre concern by some, levity by others, and brushed aside as nonsense by those with extreme bias and self-preservation motives. The instigator remains confident that his actions will have no negative effect on him or the JLP. He has not offered a proper apology and instead opined that it is a good thing for our Constitution to be so challenged.

Andrew Holness has proposed a simple solution: the relevant members should resign and allow him to appoint whomever he wishes anew. And now he plans to take the matter to a higher court. Oh boy! Thank God I'm not a politician.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and