Governing beyond crime and the economy
THE EDITOR, Madam:
I did not imagine that this would need to be stated, but there’s more to running a country beyond managing crime and boosting the economy. I say this because of the recent suggestion that a conversation about whether Jamaica remains a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of England as our head of state or become a republic like our Caribbean sister, Barbados, should be reduced to questions about the impact it may have on crime or the economy.
It is reductive thinking and harmful, when we consider that there are other tangible and intangible reasons for making that shift.
Let me say from the outset that crime and our economy are major issues that require our Government’s utmost attention, and in many respects, most governance issues will have at least an indirect link to reducing our high rate of murders and criminality, or boosting our economic performance. However, when we address corruption, for example, we don’t do so primarily because we want to fix our national bottom line; we do it because it’s a public good that requires doing.
When our Charter of Rights was amended in 2011, we didn’t do it only because of whatever economic impact it may have, but because our citizens deserved better. There are certain things that are flat out just good to do, such as improving our education system, strengthening the healthcare system, and protecting the environment. The fact that these have a knock-on impact on our economy and crime statistics is ‘bratta’.
Ordinarily, I would not feel the need to articulate this, but I have got the sense, sometimes, that governance in Jamaica becomes squarely centred on the issues of crime and economy, and everything else takes a backburner, including low-hanging fruits like updating outdated laws or critical issues like providing stronger safety nets for our people.
VISION OF THE SPIRIT OF THE COUNTRY
In 2022, Jamaicans should have a head of state that looks like them, chosen by a process that includes them, rather than through monarchical birthright. I would go even further and suggest that we should have as our highest court, an institution staffed with persons who understand our context and that does not require a visa to a foreign country to access.
Whether the conversation is the need for anti-discrimination legislation, a national human-rights institution, stronger protections against corruption or a system for reviewing laws imposed through colonialism, these are issues that a post-Independence leader MUST grapple rather than sideline because of its relative low impact on crime or violence.
The vision for Jamaica of any leader must include a vision of the spirit of the country as expressed in the institutions that govern us.
Executive Director (Interim)
Equality for All Foundation