THE EDITOR, Sir:
Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has used the occasion of his parliamentary honour to call for more civility in our political affairs.
Given some of the vulgar scenes we have witnessed in Parliament from both sides over the past two years, all Jamaicans will welcome this. Name-calling and worse, which reached a climax in the July incident, deeply undermines the political process and further coarsens our society.
But the problem goes further than just the absence of civility. Even when civility is present, there is a dearth of serious thought and policy analysis in our political class, including the intellectual circles close to them.
There are exceptions, of course - one thinks of someone like Chris Tufton, for example. But by and large, a pure politics of personalities is what we have been reduced to.
For example, if you were to ask a politician from either side, young or old, who aspired to become a Cabinet minister which particular post they would want and what would be their policy prescriptions for that position, you would be greeted with a blank, uncomprehending stare.
They would accept any powerful post. This is contributed to by the fact that neither political party has any active policy analysis committee and has no plans to establish one, as far as I know. All they do is to opportunistically stitch together political programmes at election time solely for public-relations purposes.
Getting serious people back into our politics means more than just restoring civility. It means restoring the tradition of careful policy analysis which Jamaican political parties - especially the PNP - used to have. It means doing hard research into our problems and those of comparable societies and focusing our debates on the issues, not the person.