By Garth A. Rattray
I do not dislike politicians; however, I dislike the way that politics has warped our society.
There is too much jostling for 'power' and 'control' of the country and its people. There is a lot of divisiveness and consequent tribalism, the diminishing of individual freedoms within poor communities and a loss of respect for human life. Long-standing acrimony, envy, greed, hate and political violence persist and resonate across all sociopolitical borders within our little country.
What goes on behind closed doors is nothing short of shameful in some instances. Both parties have individuals within them who use their politically gained clout to reap under-the-table financial benefits to the eternal detriment of our feeble and, perhaps, moribund economy.
In spite of the rules and regulations that we are always fed in the public arena, an undetermined number of work contracts are still subject to the prevailing local politics and to the economic cravings of some politicians.
Voters are well aware of the shenanigans of some of our politicians. Even staunch members of their faithful retinue accept that some are involved in corrupt practices and, perhaps, more sinister stuff. For them, it comes down to what crumbs they can get from the feeding frenzy going on above their heads and above their station in life.
It, therefore, appears to me that most people vote for 'their' political party and not for the good of our country. Their party representative must prove him or herself good at doing things for them - especially around the time of elections. In essence, the future of Jamaica is in the hands of people under the influence of enlightened self-interest.
So, as the rivalry for leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) unfolds, I wonder who and what the supporters of the candidates will be voting for. There are some who want a vociferous leader who will 'light up' the People's National Party with stinging and incessant tongue-lashing. There are those who feel that the poor showing at the polls (during the general election) deserves a change at the top.
Others feel that the current leader was hurriedly handed a sullied basket with a gaping hole in the bottom to carry water. They feel that such a leader deserves a real chance at the helm going into the next general election.
Some feel that the next major polls will be determined by the prevailing socio-economic conditions within the country and that things are going to be so bad that the current leader, Andrew Holness, may as well stay at his post and gently guide the vessel along. They do not want anyone rocking the boat at this time.
Unfortunately for the JLP, the challenger, Audley Shaw, has severely criticised the sitting leader and, among other things, blamed him for ignoring the foot soldiers (the base, the foundation) of the party during his historically brief stint as prime minister.
But, obviously this did not happen overnight. Even I, an apolitical individual, knew of this growing concern long before the general election. It was, and is, a party problem, not an Andrew Holness problem.
It will not do the party or either of the candidates any good to tear down each other. Anyone left standing will end up looking like a poor leader. Bilateral denigrating swipes will pull down the entire party again, and this will not bode well for our democracy. Jamaica needs a vibrant and efficient Opposition (no matter who is in the majority).
In all of this, given our political habits and history, I fear that what will motivate the various supporters to vote for their chosen candidate for party leader will have little to do with the welfare of Jamaica. Delegates should not decide based on personal preferences or possible personal gains.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.