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Perceptions of political bias plague civil society - Tufton

Published:Thursday | September 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Co-Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute Dr Chris Tufton says critical areas of Jamaica's civil society and professional organisations risk losing credibility in public policy discourse due to perceptions of political bias.

Tufton said the lingering perception has created a culture of intolerance in the country for opposing views as there is a feeling that if the messenger is not credible then the message is subject to bias or undue influence.

Admitting that he has had to cope with that concern as someone aligned to a political party and later to a professional organisation, Tufton called for these groups to take care to discourage these perceptions as they are bad for the future of Jamaica's democracy, and the important role that civil society has to play in guiding public policy debate.

Distrust and suspicion

Speaking during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Portmore this week, Tufton identified a number of organisations he said, unfortunately, have "at least a hint of stigma of political preference".

He said though he personally feels there is no uniformity of thought in these organisations along political lines, the perceptions are strong enough to generate distrust and suspicion of intent.

Tufton said the perceptions are born perhaps out of how political parties have taken policy positions in the past or managed relationships with these sectors or special interest groups over time.

He admitted that while each Jamaican has a right to decide on issues in their best interests, organisations representing civil society should avoid siding with political entities but rather discuss and debate critical issues in the national interest, irrespective of the political consequences.