I think our aspirational motto, 'Out of Many, One People', is key to addressing the chronic challenges facing our national development. In that context, we must continue the work of our national heroes to create a society where:
1) Jamaicans of all persuasions, identities, and outlooks are allowed to hold their beliefs without being allowed to impose those views on others;
2) Children are treasured and not thrown out on the streets as young as 11 years old, just because they are different;
3) Tolerance for all is taught as a core principle in schools and reinforced at home;
4) Our leaders separate their personal views from their public duty and allow evidence, and not emotion, to drive their policy designs;
5) We return to the civility of times past when the private lives of consenting adults were not publicly consumed or vilified with increasingly heated rhetoric;
6) We recapture the spirit of 'live and let live' that made us the preferred destination for tourists the world over; and
7) We fully embrace the human-rights agenda that led us to be the first country that imposed sanctions on a racist and oppressive regime in apartheid South Africa.
In short, when we return to the tolerance for diversity that characterised us as a country, before the importation of North American culture wars, THEN we will begin to see the sort of social and economic growth that heralded the promise of, and immediately followed our Independence. That is the dream for which our national heroes lived, and for which some bled and died.
Rejecting our motto, rejecting our founding principles, rejecting our culture of 'One Love' will only serve to drive marginalised and victimised groups, such as homosexuals, further underground, away from effective HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions.
We cannot allow the AIDS virus to exert a greater grip on Jamaica. Alas, international support to fight this dreaded threat to national development is shrinking fast, because our increasingly skewed income distribution has now cast us as a middle-income country, undeserving of the usual financial aid. We must act now to ensure the gains we have made in ridding our nation of this scourge are not undone through lack of vision.
For development's sake, for all our sakes, let us re-establish the Jamaican ethos that my dear mother speaks so glowingly about, when the project of nation building is seen as the birthright of ALL Jamaicans.
Let us involve every single Jamaican, regardless of sexual orientation, in planning for and building a free, healthy and inclusive society that would make our national heroes proud!
- MAURICE TOMLINSON
Legal Adviser, Marginalised Groups - AIDS-Free World