Imani Duncan-Price | Rebuilding trust: Lie detector tests for politicians?
A survey of youth aged 10-19 across Jamaica indicated 20 per cent either paid or cheated to pass an exam; 40 per cent thought it unacceptable to report those who cheat on an exam; 23 per cent think lottery scamming is OK and not harmful to society, and 41 per cent think truth-telling is not valued in Jamaica. Also, 20 per cent of young people surveyed thought it OK to do an illegal action to make the family better off, and 35 per cent thought that people who are more corrupt and lacking in integrity are more likely to succeed.
This is absolutely disheartening as this take on corruption, on ethics, on what is right and wrong, is also linked to the endemic crime and violence in our society.
While it may be easy to remain numb, it is hoped that these numbers will spur Jamaicans, young and old, into action citizen action, political action. We have all colluded in the chain of corruption in different ways and allowed this to happen. We can, therefore, collectively change our course, but it requires deliberate action.
Indeed, the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) must be commended for commissioning this landmark national survey of 1,100 young people. Assessing the perception of corruption among young people in Jamaica is key to formulating practical strategies to correct the situation for the next generation of leaders. These preliminary results (with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent) were presented at a youth symposium held by the OCG in December 2016 titled 'The Fight Against Corruption Begins With You'.
It is time to take Jamaica's democracy to the next level, with heightened accountability. It is sincerely hoped that the 300 primary, secondary, and tertiary school students who attended the OCG's forum will continue to be emboldened to take action and fight corruption wherever they confront it.
They were certainly energised to act assertively in their communities, but at the same time, they were extremely sceptical about the prospects for changes at the national level. This is critical as young people mimic what they think they see.
The most corrupt?
"Police, bus conductors, and politicians were regarded as the professional groups which are the most corrupt and least transparent."
Given the audible response from the 300 young people at the forum, the survey appeared to be spot on in terms of that finding. A young man, in the discussions that ensued, stated unequivocally, "I don't believe in the government of this country."
His further statements did not discern a difference between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) with regard to lack of belief, the mistrust.
Think about his statement in the context of the drastically decreasing levels of participation in elections, especially among young people. It begs the question, what is the fight for political power about when so many citizens don't seem to care anymore, don't believe? Ernie Smith's song, We the People, readily comes to mind:
"And as we fight one another
Fi the power and the glory
Jah kingdom goes to waste
And every drop of blood we
A fi we own disgrace."
The fight needs to be for the people, to fight for them to believe in the system, in the future of Jamaica. Believing is critical to hope. Hope drives human beings to do absolutely incredible things make the impossible, possible. Indeed, if Jamaica's political parties are to survive and to have any relevance, 'rebuilding trust and belief' should be the joint unrelenting focus as it underpins the drive for economic progress and prosperity.
So, what can be done? Start at the top. Start with those who have been bestowed with the honour of serving the people, protecting the people's purse (taxpayers' money) and seeing to the development of communities, cities, and the country.
In August 2016, Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams reported that 88 of 191 potential recruits to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) failed the required polygraph (lie detector test) screening for enlistment.
That's 46 per cent! He disclosed that "while not all 88 were found to have criminal links, there were some who had been actively involved in lottery scamming; others were affiliated with gangs. There were persons who had handled illegal guns, and some were habitual thieves."
Implicitly speaking to the systemic ethical issues Jamaica faces, Dr Williams further stated that "many of these potential recruits received glowing recommendations from justices of the peace and ministers of religion and other 'upstanding residents' as citizens in their communities". As a result, they would likely have made it into the JCF and would have further corrupted the force. "We would be stuck with them for the next 30 or 40 years. But thanks to the polygraph, we won't have to worry about those types coming into the force anymore," he said.
Now it is known that lie detector tests are not fool-proof, but given sufficiency of accuracy to be used as an entry requirement for the police force, why can't it also be used for those seeking political office? Should Jamaicans be stuck with unsuitable politicians for the next 10, 30, or 40 years?
"Can't build no foundation
'pon a if and a but
Are we building a nation
Or are we building a hut?"
Imagine this for Jamaica. When Prime Minister Andrew Holness calls the next election and Parliament is dissolved, any sitting member of Parliament or new aspirant who wishes to offer himself/herself to run as the people's representative must take a lie detector test. Anyone who fails cannot run. The same would occur for those seeking office in local government. After all, the focus is on re-building people's trust in those who have access to or influence over public funds.
This is not the only required action and will certainly not solve all of Jamaica's problems.
But it is implementable. It is important to make a start to visibly shift the path that Jamaica is on. Political leaders, young people, Jamaica, what say you?
- Imani Duncan-Price is co-executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and former senator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com