Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Despite most Jamaicans having an opinion on every topic, the level of civic involvement across the country remains relatively low, with most persons opting to keep their views to the aptly dubbed 'veranda talk'.
But now a coalition of civic groups and individuals is urging more Jamaicans to let their voices be heard in the push for improved governance as the country balances precariously on the edge of a precipice.
"The crisis that our country faces today is perhaps only replicable in 1937-1938, and perhaps again at the end of the 1960s," declared Professor Trevor Munroe at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
"If you look at each of those periods you will find that as a matter of natural development, groups arise which express dissatisfaction with the existing authority and establishment ... and put forward ... a conjuncture of views that have to do with transformation.
"Change and transformation cannot come from any one leader, any one party or any one social group, it needs a coming together of those who share a common vision of good governance, accountability, transparency and citizens awareness and engagement," argued Munroe.
According to Munroe, who heads the anti-corruption group National Integrity Forum, which is a member of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), civil voice is desperately needed in Jamaica at this time.
He was supported by chairperson of the JCSC, Carol Narcisse, who declared that there is space for many more voices to hold the country's elected representatives accountable.
"Jamaica has more than enough work to be done, and I think more people need to see themselves as having a responsibility for doing," said Narcisse.
"It is not sustainable if people are thinking that the few organisations and individuals can do everything that is to be done. So if more people get involved the better ... . We have a tendency to think that solutions will happen if someone else brings them about," added Narcisse.
She noted that Jamaica has a long history of people organising themselves to make a difference, and that is needed now more than ever.
"We see things getting to a period that is crisis driven; as they are, I think the time has come for us to step up not just the response in terms of practical interventions ... what's needed now are more voices, both individual and organisations, that are dealing with lobbying and advocacy."
She argued that more Jamaicans need to be prepared to take on the elected representatives who have been given the job of setting policy for the country's affairs.
WE'RE ALL TEAM JAMAICA
That is a view shared by president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Christopher Zacca, who charged that everyone has to see themselves as part of 'Team Jamaica'.
According to Zacca, 'Team Jamaica' must take the blame for the failure of the country to achieve an acceptable level of economic growth over the past 50 years.
Immediate past president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Reverend Dr Paul Gardener, agreed that civil society needs to do more to make Jamaica a better place.
"I would say that there is so much more that civil society can do. There is always room for improvement, but one has to look at the things that civil society has done over the years," Gardener told the Editors' Forum, as other participants agreed.
"While I blame the political parties for the mess that Jamaica is in for the past many decades, I also have to blame civil society for allowing them to do it," said Horace Levy of the Peace Management Initiative.
Levy argued that the events leading to the west Kingston incursion by the security force in May 2010 underscores the strength of civil society in Jamaica.
"While credit goes to the extradition request from the United States, civil society played a key role, and that incursion was a turning point for Jamaica," said Levy.
"It was somewhat negative in terms of the massacre that took place, and positive as an assertion of the central authority of the Jamaican people," declared Levy as he added his voice for more Jamaicans to come off their verandas.