Thu | May 23, 2019

Allan Lewis | Discord and acrimony will only result in war

Published:Friday | April 26, 2019 | 12:32 AM

What do Brexit, ‘Obamacare’ and NIDS have in common? All three were championed by persons with good intentions.

The persons who believe that the United Kingdom (UK) should leave the European Union make a solid case that the citizens of the UK would be better off with different relationships with other European countries.

Former united States (US) President Barack Obama and a majority of the members of the Congress at the time believed that they had found an effective way to expand healthcare coverage in the US.

The proponents of NIDS have made a credible defence that all Jamaicans would be better off with the implementation of a national ID system.

However, another, more important, factor common to Brexit, Obama Care and NIDS is despite the good intentions of those responsible for governing at the time each has been implemented – or attempted to be implemented – each has resulted in additional discord and acrimony in the respective countries. Consider the paradox that men and women with good intentions seize on a problem that most, if not all, citizens believe is important and in pursuit of a solution increases disharmony among citizens.

Representative democracies confer great power on many elected officials. A simple majority of one is enough to win a seat in Parliament. In fact, it is possible that a political party can win a majority in Parliament while losing the popular vote! Yet, once elected, the party with the majority in Parliament is then able to enact laws without consultation, even though almost half the voters may have a different view.

It is well known that the song War by the Hon Robert Nesta Marley was based on a speech by Haile Selassie’s – then Emperor of Ethiopia – address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963. Bob focused on the injustices facing African countries. However, when you read or listen to the entire text of the speech, I believe Haile Selassie had a larger message. That is, if countries, or, by extension, persons in power, did not govern in consultation and dialogue with their counterparts who held different views, then war would be the inevitable result.

CONSENSUS AMONG THE MAJORITY

In his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago, President Obama promised that while he understood that government cannot solve every problem, he would always listen to all Americans “especially when we disagree”.

Here’s the thing. The Affordable Care Act (Obama care) was passed without a single vote from a member of the Republican Party. Similarly, Theresa May promised to deliver Brexit for all UK citizens. Yet, she developed a plan on such a contentious issue without any consultation with leadership of the UK Labour party. Regardless of whether May and Obama were convinced about their respective positions, and notwithstanding the motives of their political opponents, how can one reconcile the promise with the action?

Back here in Jamaica, most persons believe that the introduction of a national identification system is vitally important for the future development of the country, especially if it enhances the security of all citizens. But there are many ways – almost infinite in number – to accomplish this.

Good governance demands that such important changes in the lives of Jamaicans are done in a way that a super majority, perhaps – but certainly more than a simple majority – of Jamaicans are convinced is acceptable. It would be wonderful if our leaders would conduct themselves in this spirit and ensure that every piece of legislation receives votes from members of the Opposition.

However, if our political and other leaders are not able to be so persuaded, then constitutional change will be required. Otherwise, discord and acrimony will only increase, and it does not require any expertise in history to know what results from continued national and international discord and acrimony. You only have to listen to the music of Robert Nesta Marley.

Allan Lewis is the managing director of JN Fund Managers Ltd. Follow him on twitter @peleten. Email feedback to peleten@email.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.