Better expected from the Opposition
The Editor, Sir:
The country seems to be on tenterhooks. The increase in the cost of living, coupled with the loss of jobs, has made many people nervous. Then there is the rise in violent crimes. The explanation that half of them are gang related is not particularly helpful partly because this is doubtful.
Many of the murders we hear about are of persons spraying bullets into crowds or groups and speeding away in cars. A more sophisticated analysis of this could help us to understand who stands to benefit from these random shootings, which are just making everybody nervous.
Added to this is the frequent complaints about government activity from the Opposition which are contributing in no small way to the tension we are experiencing. The real problem with these is that they are very often proven not to be based in fact.
Last year, the Opposition 'heard' that $62 million. was being spent to refurbish the residence of a minister. The Government - which seems to have a death wish - remained silent while its detractors milked this story for all it was worth. Weeks later, when the anger and resentment toward the Government, in general, and the Minister, in particular were well and truly established, it was announced that the property belonged to someone else and the owner - who was doing the refurbishing - said the cost was nowhere near $62 million.
More recently, shadow energy minister Phillip Paulwell put us in a militant mood again when he informed us that he 'heard' that customers of the Jamaica Public Service would be taxed retroactively, and hauled the Government over the coals accusing it of "incompetence and bungling". But the corporate communications manager at the JPS was reported in the media as saying, "no discussions have taken place regarding the retroactive application of GCT on electricity".
The nation had hardly settled down when the screaming started again. This time we were told that the Bank of Jamaica was printing money and warned of the soaring inflation that was to follow. I did my own checks and could only identify some temporary advances, which were not uncommon during the Opposition's tenure in government. As the charges grew louder, the governor had to make an announcement that nothing that could be seen as printing was taking place or even contemplated.
What I want to know, is there another way for the Opposition to do its work? For example, One 'hears' that a hospital is to be closed. Is it too much to ask, or is it too much work simply to call the relevant minister for a statement? If the answer is 'yes', and one thinks there is a better alternative, bring your concern - along with your alternative - to the people. But to disrupt work at the hospital and cause two senior ministers to abandon their schedules, journey out of town and spend the day convincing citizens that there is absolutely no truth to the story, seems to border, quite narrowly, on irresponsible behaviour. I am beginning to wonder how much time the Government spends refuting these duppy stories?
Supporters of the Government should not, however, lose sight of the fact that a responsible opposition is indispensable to the functioning of parliamentary political systems. I can see no other way to ensure that the force of public opinion is brought to bear on the legislative process. So, Her Majesty's loyal Opposition must be allowed to fearlessly perform its functions.
We need them to prevent the shortcuts through the democratic procedure that governments are wont to make. It's just that when my Opposition tells me something, I want to be able to 'run wid it'. We do not want them to just oppose, oppose, oppose, but constructively hold the Government to account. I would also like to remind them that one of their roles is to provide support to Government when a unified stance is in the best interest of the country.
I am, etc.,