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Louis Moyston | Free thinking in a new and open Jamaican society

Published:Wednesday | April 3, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Louis Moyston
Kenyon Hemans Orette Fisher, former director of elections
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The article ‘No stomach for politics’ published by The Gleaner, March 10, 2019, is a most honest, brave and instructive political expression for the year. It provides a most glaring definition and description of the social and political characteristics of the Jamaican society, and the feature of party loyalty over meritocracy.

It is popular in the West and countries like Jamaica to point out the nature of totalitarian and other forms of political practices of non-democratic countries, in terms of lack of tolerance and lack of freedom, and not realising that those qualities of lack of tolerance and of restrictive feature of freedom.

The interview of Orrette Fisher, the former director of elections conducted by Erica Virtue, implicitly calls for an open society in Jamaica where free and independent thinking thrives in order to provide the creative types of critiques that inspire change.

The bravery and honesty associated with this explosive critique of the political order in Jamaica is expressed by Fisher’s ‘going out on a limb’ to expose the dangers of the two schools of thinking in Jamaica: one of ‘green’ and the other ‘orange,’ and by and large, all matters in society are discussed within these two ‘theoretical frameworks.’ This kind of thinking takes place at all levels of society: the uneducated, the educated and even those described as Christians, especially at the workplace. They all openly display their tribal nature.

Matters associated with politics and society ought to be discussed with the related evidence in a reasonable manner.

The issue of education, poverty and national development are not PNP or JLP issues.

They are national issues, belonging to all of us, and they must be treated objectively; let the evidence be the guide and reasonableness the vehicle. If persons like Fisher multiply their similar school of thought, new signs of pathways to change will begin to appear on the horizon.

‘Toeing the party line’

Another significant point made by Fisher is the idea of ‘toeing the party line’, and that independent- thinking public servants must allow themselves to be manipulated by politicians. I must add that this enforcement of party loyalty over merit contributed in part to the persistent poverty and underdevelopment.

It is clear that Mr Fisher’s departure from his job was not normal. Events in recent months, from the Petrojam events to the recent debacle at the Ministry of Education, help to understand the departure of Fisher from his job.

Many creative, professional and intelligent workers in this country have had major drawbacks in their lives and work experience when party loyalty is enforced; and serious professionals, those with the merit, are replaced with persons of less professional attributes. Some victimised persons migrate, and then we cry ‘brain drain’.

We must assert qualification and merit over loyalty for jobs in the public-sector. This practice must be terminated. For example, in recent years, one man was paid off millions of dollars to vacate his public sector executive position. Today, he is in another country working in an equal or even higher capacity.

I am hoping that this call of the importance for independent thinking in Jamaica, made by Fisher, will inspire the well thinking, hard-working and independent minded Jamaicans to develop, affirm, declare and champion new and disruptive narrative to put in place what was left out of the 1962 Constitution.

Politics of intolerance

Colonial politics was characterised by the politics of intolerance; this political quality and practice was continued after 1944, 1962 to the present. The politics of intolerance is also present inside of the political parties. ‘Toeing the party line’ is a serious thing; you either take it or leave it.

These qualities of the political parties in Jamaica prohibit change; making the process to develop new frontiers of change for a new society based on openness and independent thinking more difficult. The party of choice that you vote for is your personal business. The time has come for merit to displace party loyalty at the workplace.

Think about this: what if party loyalty was used to select participants for the national athletics team? Now you can see the national loss when independent thinking is not encouraged, and also when party loyalty, inside and outside of the political, take precedence over merit. A new space for the critical and independent thinker is required for Jamaica.

Louis E.A. Moyston, PhD. Email feedback to thearchives01@yahoo.com and columns@gleanerjm.com