Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Power grab for power sake

Published:Sunday | August 16, 2015 | 8:00 AM

The two major political parties in Jamaica grew out of the struggle against colonialism for a people earlier released from slavery. These were matters that led to great coalescing by the people. Who did not want the right to universal adult suffrage? Who did not want the political version of 'full free'? All wanted this, and I suggest that this was the foundation for the rejection of the Federation of the West Indies.

How did the parties seek to gain dominance in the politics of 1938 through to the internal self-governance of 1955? One party would embrace the role of leadership as if it had a divine right. The other embraced the masses of the working class who were portrayed as 'dutty'. It was played out where the 'leadership' was numerically smaller and ended up in the wilderness for 13 years in one stretch.

Over time, up to the present, this has changed dramatically. Social mobility, increased educational opportunities, and the revulsion at the 1980 election period have led to a blurring of the ideological differences. This was brought home quite forcefully hearing a junior politician, Dr Dayton Campbell, stating that he is a "socialist", a point of distinction for being a PNP versus being a JLP. When was the last time you heard a PNP official identify himself or herself as socialist? I heard the leader of the JLP state that he favours some socialist policies, but that was as far as he would go.

 

Quest for personal power

 

This lack of ideological differentiation has led to a dramatic change in both major political parties. No longer does one join to advance a cause or movement. Now it is solely for personal power. The quest for personal power leads Lisa Hanna, according to the grapevine, to allow the talk of her ascension to PNP leadership. The quest for personal power leads Ian Hayles to seek the removal of D.K. Duncan as regional chairman.

This leads also to the 11-person majority of the JLP parliamentary group, reports have it, being willing to remove the leader of three and a half years because he does not appear to have sufficient traction that would lead to them grasping power. Listen to the defence argument as advanced by Andrew Holness. "I am a different kind of politician. I am not the confrontational type like Audley Shaw." No longer are parties being defined by the claim to primacy of policies in the area of education, health or judicial efficiency. Power is earned by 'just win'.

To earn the win, governance of the country is now marked by oppose, oppose and oppose some more.We hear that it's not 'my responsibility' to offer alternatives to what is called failed policy. When we get there, we will disclose what we will do differently. The ruling party says you failed on your turn. The people rejected you. The people want us to have the power. Build your claim to lead, not on programmes but on personalities.

What a calamity if Portia Simpson Miller were to now vacate the Office of Prime Minister for whatever reason! Here come Peter Phillips, Lisa Hanna, Phillip Paulwell, Peter Bunting, et al. No continuation of sound policies designed for national good, but a new personality to fill a slot.

This is aided by the fact that any Government of Jamaica MUST follow the economic dictates of the multinationals, primarily the IMF. The leader/president does not have a programme other than to preen that he or she is at the helm. How sad for us, the followers.

The need for change must begin to occupy our minds. There are two proposals. First, have a coalition of government. Not likely. However, very necessary. Arrive at a consensus on the following national concerns.

(A) Caribbean Court of Justice.

(B) Free education up to secondary level and the funding of tertiary education.

(C) Joint efforts to tackle crime, the garrison removal, justice reform, fully equipping the law-enforcement community. New prisons and structured, funded rehabilitation.

If we could achieve the above in a prescribed time, think of the impact it would have on the development of the country.

Second, rebrand the political parties. What if the JLP were to propose a reformed tax system? A flat tax, consumption-based tax with cash distribution to cushion the impact on those citizens at the bottom of the income scale. How about an iron-clad pledge to implement a generational change to the water policy to minimise the effects of drought? What about self-sufficiency in food production for security?

This could allow the electorate to make a choice in the general election. Not just vote because my antecedents did so for that party. Vote for projects that match my priorities. This would require the evaluation of the proposals. Those who would announce the project would have less power.

It's time for a difference of substance, not just to acquire power.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.