By Keith Noel
We have an interesting approach to democracy in this country of ours. Our politicians bandy the idea of 'the rule of the people' about in such a variety of ways that sometimes one wonders if they themselves have seriously thought about what they mean.
The latest 'let the people decide' flag waving has to do with the issue of the Caribbean Court of Justice. In the run-up to the election a few months ago, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seemed to attempt to make it one of the issues on which the parties would campaign. It came off the front burner because it was not stirring up major interest among the people. Maybe the members of the JLP believe that, the other issues having been voted upon, it is now time to revisit this one and have the people go back to the polls to decide on it.
My problem is that, if the people did not reject the position of the People's National Party on this 'highly important' issue by turning them back at the polls, do we need to go back to them for a special vote on it? Does not a party put forward a position on matters like this before an election and ask the people to decide? If I am wrong, what is the purpose of these 'manifestos' that are hammered out and presented to the public with such fanfare?
FINDING A SONG
Another issue that is heating up has to do with the 50th anniversary song. No one seemed to think of having the singers and songwriters publish songs, as with the festival song, and finding a way (like for 'Rising Stars' and 'Kings and Queens of Dancehall'; the school choirs and the gospel song competitions) to build our interest and then have people vote for the song they like. That would be a way to 'let the people decide', flawed though it might be. But committees were formed by each party and different writers commissioned. Both teams of singers did their best to capture what they thought would be the 'right vibe' for the celebration, and both writers seem rather embarrassed by the furor being stirred up by the politicians.
Ms Olivia Grange, the opposition culture spokesperson, seems determined to 'prove' that Ms Lisa Hanna, the culture minister, is being 'divisive' by her actions and clamours about the decision being 'political'. Of course it is. So was hers. Decisions about a song to mark a country's 50th anniversary are political decisions. But she seems to be demanding that the minister apologise for her decision and undo what has been done. This, she knows, will never happen. So what is her continued harangue about, unless to cause division?
STIRRING UP TROUBLE
I consider Ms Grange an 'ol time fren', and if I were to see her I would certainly say, "Beg yuh, Babsy, nuh badda wid it. Yuh nah duh nutten but stir up sum'n weh nuh haffi stir up!" Ms Grange may or may not have a point that the minister's action was ill-advised, but keeping on about it can do nothing except add a touch of sourness to the sweet taste of the celebration!
And to think about it, it is quite likely that one of our singers, writing from the heart, may come up with a song that captures the mood of the people at this time, and just 'carry the swing' for the entire period. 'Lef it to de people dem.'
The other area in which the 'voice of the people' is being expressed loudly and clearly has to do with the placement of students after the Grade Six Achievement Test. The Ministry of Education continues to struggle against what the people want. Interestingly, no one from the opposition party, or Jamaicans for Justice for that matter, has come forward to trumpet the cause of those people who have helped and encouraged their children, who have sacrificed so that the children would do well and so be placed in a school of 'choice'. No one is helping them in their clamour for 'justice'. Why is the voice of the people falling on deaf ears?
Maybe it is because, deep down, despite the ministry's bungling of the matter, they know that the minister is right!
Keith Noel is an educator. Send feedback to email@example.com.