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Demonising leaders for political gain

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Forgetting our past errors makes us liable to repeating them. As a teenager of the 1980s, I was heartened by the paradigm shift in leadership offered by then Prime Minister Edward Seaga. What I recall was that he held his ministers accountable and ensured that he was aware of most of what was happening in his government.

This approach I believe helped to ensure that there was growth in the economy and a general sense that, as a country, we were moving forward. For me this was in stark contrast to the indignity that my mother suffered in the 1970s while trying to secure food to feed my siblings and me. For many, however, strong leadership was misunderstood and sold as "one-donmanship".

By the end of that decade, I looked forward to attending college, leaving and getting or creating employment; but then the change came. There re-entered Michael Manley, who by this time, only wanted to win the election, but had no real plan going forward. While he made some mistakes, especially in ministerial appointments, he stumbled along until retirement. P.J. Patterson took centre stage and then began the leadership of "slippery cool" and the now coined idea of "leaders not thinking aloud".

masked truth

While this approach may have been positive on the surface, it, however, masked the truth that there was little to no accountability from the political leadership of the country. This approach by Mr Patterson and company was simultaneously supported by Mr Seaga who had the temerity to say what he really believed. This provided enough ammunition for the People's National Party (PNP) to remind all Jamaica of the 'don' of the 1980s, thereby keeping him out of power.

The hypocrisy now stinks to high heaven when I hear the same people who helped demonise Mr Seaga now praising him as a visionary, among other positive attributes; yet they helped to rob Jamaica of the benefit that could accrue from his leadership.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and Portia Simpson Miller & Co continued the trend of lack of accountability. So now that the current prime minister, sometimes misguidedly so, seeks to present an air of being aware of what is happening in his Government, the current Opposition resorts to its old tactics of demonising the head.

borrowed system

Being familiar with the prime minister's question time in the UK (from which we borrowed a system), I expect the prime minister to be able to respond to a variety of issues. If he does not provide the finer details in precise language, while on the floor in Parliament and later indicates so, this should be regarded as acceptable. So will we be losing another opportunity to extract from Mr Golding whatever he has to offer by recasting him as a reincarnated Seaga?

Current issues such as the bus-fare increase are big news regarding "poor people", but juxtapose that against the free health and tuition, as a package, is this a better deal? Given the noise about other issues for which the full information is unavailable, the passage of the bill for the special prosecutor has gone unnoticed.

So the question is: will we once again miss gaining as much as possible from a leader because of an opposition's effort to create a national view of the leader?

I am, etc.,