Mon | Dec 4, 2023

Letter of the Day | Constitutional reforms critical to equality in Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2023 | 12:21 AM


I have been receiving calls from friends in the United States who want to know that is happening in their home country. The recent spate of criminal and corrupt activities, especially of financial institutions, is the main discussion.

One of the discussions is that the general political leadership in the country appeared to have turned a blind eye to corruption. The failure of the agencies with responsibility to deal with corruption and integrity. The combined neglect and lack of will by the leaders, my friends argue, sends the wrong message; and that some people may get the impression that corruption is a good thing. From another perspective, if corruption is so bad, why not do something about it?

The sad thing when politicians discuss corruptionit is about trading blows as to who is more corrupt instead of drawing a line in the sand indicating a war against this moral pollution. This is a complex matter because the new values and attitudes associated with the post-1980 rise of new conservatism have produced a generation with the “What is in it for me?” mentality. There are too many lies, deception, and secrets in the society that protect some people in high places.

There are also discussions around political and white-collar criminals. The question is, are there laws to deal with them? The perception is that the laws were not made for them. The laws were made to protect them from the poor people. The laws are about controlling the masses from the post-slavery period to date. The police force was imported from Northern Ireland in the post-1865 period to serve and protect the monarchy and the white elite of colonial Jamaica.

The 1962 Constitution has flogging on the books as a form of punishment for crimes by poor people. This is why constitutional reform is important, and the process must not be left to the People’s National Party, the Jamaica Labour Party, and the private sector as in the case of 1962. People in their communities must begin to understand the importance of their participation in this round of constitutional debate.

Educational institutions must develop approaches to lead the community awareness on matters concerning the Constitution. They should talk about the importance of seeking to construct a new Constitution that is emancipative; one that ensures that all people are equal before the law. Constitutional changes are important to the idea of rethinking Jamaican politics in terms of morality and the enduring principle of equality.