Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Christopher Serju | Only time will tell

Published:Sunday | August 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

"Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden ...", a quote attributed to Jamaica's first national hero Marcus Garvey, has long been a source of inspiration for poor people across the world.

Having long accepted the veracity of these words, recent experiences are conspiring to lend credibility to my new theory that dunce people are less of a danger to progress and, rather, that 'bright' persons in positions of power are emerging as a clear and present danger on an unprecedented and alarmingly catastrophic scale.

Two Thursdays ago, I attended a swearing-in ceremony for a foreign national being granted Jamaican citizenship. The Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) advised that the function at the Police Officers' Club, 34 Hope Road, St Andrew, would start at 10 o'clock.

Like relatives and friends of those to be sworn in, I made the mistake of turning up early, unmindful of PICA's plan to school the damn foreigners in Jamaican time. My interaction with the young woman zealously guarding the entrance was the first indication the gods were not favouring me.

"You not part a dis ceremony?" was her response to my pleasant greeting.

Caught off guard, my fluency in profanity threatened to eclipse my professionalism and upbringing as I struggled to come up with an appropriate, but civil, answer. I was rescued by one of her colleagues, who pointed to my identification card prominently displayed, while uttering, "Media".

"What you name?" my interrogator growled.

 

Polite in demeanour

 

Meekly, I told her my name and the media house I represented - all of which should have been evident to anyone even functionally literate. My subdued response was not a result of being cowed by this bully but rather the intense struggle to maintain my composure. What was it about me being properly attired and polite in demeanour that had led her to view me as a misfit?

Murphy's Law continued to prevail as 22 minutes after the scheduled start, with no indication as to a reason for the delay, a PICA staff member came to me and advised: "We are waiting on the minister."

"Why don't you start without him since there are other items ahead of him?" I asked.

The programme eventually got under way about 40 minutes after the scheduled start, after Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang turned up. He did not deem it necessary to provide an explanation or apology for having kept so many people waiting for so long, which brings me to another pet peeve.

On too many occasions, organisers delay the start of a function because the portfolio minister is late. Invariably, whenever he or she arrives, the audience is instructed to stand in acknowledgement of the government official who has kept them waiting.

As happens so often, the chairman then facilitates the minister by allowing him/her to speak ahead of turn, with no apology to the general audience, or those scheduled to perform prior. The minister then takes his or her leave early, with the adoring chairperson thanking the minister for "taking time out of his busy schedule to be with us today".

It is my considered view that too many elected officials are taking their constituents for granted, with no regard for them until another election looms. They continue to do so in ignorance of the need for a paradigm shift in how they operate day to day, as enunciated by president of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), Howard Mitchell, recently, if Jamaica is to achieve global competitiveness.

"Our survival in a changing world demands that we shift our cultural norms and behaviours towards being mindful of others and to respect ourselves and the rights of others. Self-respect and a common belief in our country and a caring commitment to our fellow citizens are part of the underpinning of good governance that is an essential part of whatever progress that we may hope to make as a nation," Mitchell appealed during a PSOJ President's Forum at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.

If they cannot even begin to honour simple obligations by turning up on time for jobs for which they are being paid, how can our parliamentarians hope to steer this country on a course that would make Vision 2030 Jamaica a reality when the world does not recognise, much less move to, Jamaican time?

Mitchell seemed to further suggest that the idea that Jamaica can and will attain developed-country status in 12 years' time as "the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business" is but a pipe dream.

"We must develop ourselves to be people of our word, to keep our commitments, not to make throwaway promises every election time that we all know will never be kept and we all know we won't ask to be fulfilled," was his timely reminder.

Our parliamentarians, however, seem still to be missing the critical point that time is of the essence, hence it's time to get cracking!

What are our chances of making Vision 2030 Jamaica a reality?

Only time will tell!

- Christopher Serju is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com.