Editorial | No, Mr Jackson!
If there is one issue that demands bipartisan support, it is the law-and-order strategy aimed at tackling the scourge of crime and violence on society. It's unfortunate, therefore, that the latest crime-fighting initiative by the Government has been met with a frivolous display of political divisiveness from the People's National Party's Fitz Jackson, who is chairman of the party and spokesman on national security.
Reacting to the launch of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (PSTEB) earlier this week, Mr Jackson was more concerned that the bikes and the accessories to be worn by the officers were coloured green.
He had this to say: "Jamaicans must be concerned about the blatant attempt to politically brand the police force by 'greening' of the supplies which is consistent with the established colours of the JCF." He added that green bikes would compromise the neutrality and impartiality of the force.
Seemingly intent on protecting the public from a police service that appears to be complicit with partisan politics, Mr Jackson called on the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and civil society to join his protests.
Well, the result is that Mr Jackson was roundly criticised on social media by a public that has obviously grown impatient with political tribalism and divisiveness. Instead of praise, Mr Jackson was mostly greeted by expressions of disgust.
From the Government's perspective, the bright neon vests and vehicles, which are more yellow than green, were chosen because of their high visibility in its latest push to restore public order and ultimately lead to a reduction in crime.
If he had listened keenly to his party leader, Mr Jackson may not have reacted the way he did. Almost a year to the date, PNP President Dr Peter Phillips said in a television interview: "Excessive political division and political tribalism have stymied our efforts to confront fundamental issues of education and crime fighting."
Dr Phillips is correct. The corrosive effects of political tribalism and the violence it breeds are evident in many of our inner-city communities. The scars of tribalism are plain to see, and people are generally tired of it. We acknowledge that the Opposition has an important role to question Government's action, and to hold it accountable to the public. Indeed, the strength of an Opposition is vital for measuring the quality of democracy.
The two tribes that have governed this country, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party, have never been able to agree on many ideas to advance the common good. Instead, they have set out to condemn and defeat each other every step of the way. Each tribe has demonstrated that it knows how to exploit the nation's tribal divide. So arriving at consensus to move the country forward has been impossible.
To make even a small dent in the crime situation, there has to be collaboration and cooperation. But it is not easy to be optimistic in the current environment. The best interests of the country can only be served by building a positive narrative and working together.
Political leaders like Mr Jackson should be seeking to de-escalate tribal differences for the sake of a healthy democracy. A responsible Opposition has a veritable platform to initiate debate on important issues, but it loses relevance by raising frivolous and petty matters.