Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Mark Ricketts | Labour Day 2017 - Parliament becomes adult

Published:Thursday | July 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

What if we could twin Labour Day each year with some significant and memorable activity, such as a major shift in government behaviour or policy that would have a lasting effect on the nation? What if we started it this year, in memory of the just-concluded Labour Day 2017, and what if the theme is, 'Parliament becomes adult as far as decorum, discourse, debate, order, attendance, and punctuality'? And what if Parliament actually becomes adult and makes a big impact on the country, then new suggestions could come in next year, and the year after, and the year after that, with ideas and themes underscoring changes that could have a positive and far-reaching impact on our nation.

This year's Labour Day has come and gone. It was not the movement it was decades ago with volunteerism at its best and passion, participation, and commitment at their finest. But numbers by themselves are not the tell-all. The parks, schools, police stations I visited, which were given a facelift, testified to a labour of love embodied in a national spirit of sharing and caring on the part of individuals, companies, institutions, government agencies, and youth clubs.

This year's theme, 'Restore, Preserve, Beautify', engendered in quite a few Jamaicans a need to play their part in achieving the day's objective. Even before Labour Day arrived it was good to hear friends phoning around and organising where they would be going and what they intended to do.

 

STILL HAS RELEVANCE

 

I know Labour Day has lost some of the national spirit, intensity, and sheer size of yesteryear but it still has relevance and significance because people and companies continue to share and give of their labour on Labour Day. And as long as there are beneficiaries, be they schools, parks, police stations, those inhabiting or functioning in those spaces afterwards are oftentimes motivated to higher levels of achievement. As I have always believed, kindness begets appreciation and appreciation influences performance.

Whatever the motivation of our people, our companies, institutions, and agencies delivered, whether at the Cecil Charlton Park in Mandeville, at police stations in Golden Grove, St Thomas; Montego Hills, Montego Bay; and Central in Kingston. It was heartening to see those who turned up and pitched in, those with paint on paintbrushes adding colour and brightness to buildings.

Also special, there was togetherness on display and I wondered if there wasn't a way that we could symbolically and substantively reference Labour Day 2017 for years to come. I thought, wouldn't it be great in the competitive political arena, if our politicians could similarly come together and show more civility and respect in our House of Parliament, and improved attendance and punctuality.

 

CIVILITY NEEDED

 

With the debates televised, giving access to a much wider audience, the level of incivility in the House can no longer be justified, even if it has its tradition and relevance in the British House of Commons. Impoliteness, rage, and lawlessness are too prevalent in our society to allow big men and women in suit and tie, and formal dress, representing the nation to be behaving as immature children showing no respect for each other. Our politicians have to realise, whether they like it or not, that they have to increasingly become the role models of the nation, especially as the church, the family, the neighbourhoods are dwindling in their effectiveness.

Wouldn't it be nice if the prime minister were to call the leader of the opposition to a meeting and suggest to him that in honour of the hard work and shared togetherness of so many Jamaicans on Labour Day 2017, he would like the both of them to agree that Parliament has to be adult; to be civil, to show respect to the Speaker, to stop shouting across the aisle at each other, and to stop banging tables and desks while someone is on the floor. Parliamentarians must also demonstrate respect for the institution by being there and being on time.

Hopefully, if both sides of the House agree on this meaningful change in direction and decorum, this might influence behaviour modification in the rest of society. People in observing uncivil behaviour around them would say, "We are past that now, that's not even happening in Gordon House any longer."

- Mark Ricketts is an economist, author, and lecturer living in California. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and

rckttsmrk@yahoo.com