Sun | Jul 15, 2018

Letter of the Day | What, really, is renewal?

Published:Tuesday | September 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM


'Renewal', like 'prosperity', has become the new political buzzword of the day. It has been sliding on to keyboards, off the Lips of media practitioners, political commentators on social media, and the articulate minority for quite some time.

Renewal was the challenge that had been presented to the People's National Party (PNP) following its loss at the polls on February 25. Renewal, for some, was a missed opportunity last Saturday when the PNP leadership remained in the hands of seasoned leaders, shutting out newcomer Lisa Hanna.

But what does renewal truly mean? Why is it important for young persons? And what does the lack of renewal in political leadership and ideology mean for the wider society?

While many PNP stalwarts are content in blaming their surprising election loss on the promise of an increase in the income tax threshold to J$1.5 million, the uncomfortable truth is that their loss was more tied to their own folly than the machinations of the Jamaica Labour Party.

It was primarily the sense of entitlement of the PNP characterised by the decision not to debate, the regurgitation of the 2011 manifesto, and the focus on Holness' house, rather than plans to re-energise the economy, that led to the downfall of the PNP.

On February 25, even some of the party base deserted them, resulting in a low voter turnout, disadvantaging the incumbent party - an unlikely occurrence politically. Renewal, in the context of this loss, refers to a re-examination of the party and its ideologies and a generation of new ideas, new approaches and new strategies to breathe new life into the party. Renewal is not a person, nor is it an age group.

Renewal must involve the infusion of fresh blood and talent within the political arena. We should commend those who have afforded young persons who have grown up with different experiences, ideals and needs an opportunity to be involved in political leadership.

However, renewal is more than just allowing access. There is nothing new about a taxi whose driver drives the same way even though he might have changed a wheel or two along the way. His style of driving and his bad habits have remained the same, irrespective of the shiny new parts.

Renewal is about giving persons, young and old, an opportunity to have independent thought and say, rather than just to fall in line. There should be no punishment for dissent, even open ones. Renewal requires that those at the helm are able to acknowledge their failings and are open to different ways to approaching critical matters.

Any political party that does not facilitate this kind of renewal stifles the voice of the young and turns them away from engaging in politics.

And who loses when our political parties are not infused with new voices? Whose lives are affected when our leaders, on both sides, do the same things repeatedly without stopping to reconsider? Whose national development is stunted when only persons who accept the traditional way of doing things are given political backing? I will give you hint - there are 2.7 million of them.


Policy & Advocacy Manager

Equality for All Foundation