Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Ronald Thwaites | Step up, Sir Patrick

Published:Monday | January 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Sir Patrick Allen

So in the midst of the most murderous January we have ever experienced, the police force is left headless again, unreformed despite promises, demoralised without proper wages and equipment, and in danger of a political take-over by a trumpish minister.

And once again, the little children burn when their mother has to work and the teenager in charge, in turn, leaves the infants in inadequate care. Any word about the father(s), the extended family most of us grew in, or the village we say it takes to raise a child?

Another instance showing us that the basis unit of our society needs, and is not getting, urgent attention. Too often it turns out to be a case of life and death.

Then, yet another promise was dashed last week with the sheepish acknowledgement that there is little or no economic growth, 'five in four' is dead, while we are fatuously invited by some who are already very 'fat' to "stretch" ourselves, even as many of their type 'stretch' not our 'optimism', but our meagre pockets to breaking point by extortionate fees and uninvested profits.

This despite ordinary folk facing rising prices, in spite of an appreciating dollar and at the same time as their little remittance lifeline changes out for less.

Of course, the criss cars are selling 'good-good' while the police will have to wait on their deportees, and a minister bullishly promises two and three per cent GDP growth from agriculture when backra and the government still own the best idle land and there is no clear word as to where the needed credit is going to come from.




Fear and disillusionmemt among the majority grows, unrequited by anything the political culture can produce. If you don't believe me, just hold an election without the hundreds of millions of our money that lathered recent contests and see what turnout you get.

Many of our governors squander what is left of their own credibility and don't even realise it. Last Tuesday, Parliament was asked to close the books on the Tivoli slaughter as we threw down the last of the 30 pieces of silver before unimpressed and uncompensated Tivoli victims and voters, without even the remorse that Judas showed.

Those who were directly involved in the years of political acculturation, which led inexorably to the massacre, came seeking absolution and reconciliation without confession. It was the same with Green Bay and Agana Barrett.

People won't trust us. Their number is growing. You can't rebuild national spirit and endeavour on the bitter gall of injustice, divisiveness and cynicism. We need a refreshed atmosphere; to change the course of public dialogue on desperately urgent national matters: to rebuild public trust.

Ten days ago, I participated in a shadow Cabinet retreat, where several good policy prescriptions were gleaned on a range of national issues - from crime to education, land use, the economy and more. Then last week, I had a chat with Ruel Reid and later listened to Audley Shaw at the Customs Week commemoration, offering basically the same analysis and prescriptions (often almost word for word) as the PNP is espousing.

I have had the similar experience of attending two back-to-back religious services in different denominational churches, hearing the same scripture read and the same Jesus preached but the two congregations never able to combine in effective and sustained Christian witness.

I suggest that the office of the governor General is an underused unifier in Jamaica. Given all the above and more, it is clear to most of us that no one element, political, religious or civic can sufficiently revive the nationalist fervour needed to confront crime, economic growth, effective education, let alone restored family integrity.

The governor general, were he to move beyond his largely dispensible ceremonial role, has the charisma, equity and respect to draw narrow interest groups together, to mediate their disagreements; in short, to exercise moral leadership in a way that perhaps no one else can in Jamaica at this juncture. He could invite most people towards a longer and deeper look at things than the ordinary concerns of individualism, business objectives and the election cycle allows.

The PSOJ and their industry collaborators are trying to pull everyone together next month around the issue of crime strategy and accountability. They should invite Sir Patrick to participate and, over time, broaden their remit to a wider array of matters.

A lot hangs on this effort. Step up, Sir Patrick!

- Ronald Thwaites is Central Kingston member of parliament and opposition spokesperson on education and training. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.