Sunday, October 3, 2010

Root out 'bad-minded' politics

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column | 27 September 2010

It was good to see that the PNP pulled off a well-attended, well-organised annual conference. Jamaica continues to enjoy a strong two-party system, in addition to the few brave souls like Michael Williams of the NDM and Betty-Ann Blaine of the NNC, who dare to challenge the status quo.

As much as the "Big Two" fight and quarrel, they close ranks when an intruder comes near their revolving door. Never mind. Williams and Blaine have brought a refreshing frankness to the political arena, and even if they never win an election, they will certainly keep the big guys on their toes with some memorable observations.

Williams: "There are two major 'gangs' in Jamaica: the PNP and the JLP."

Blaine: "You guys want to give Jamaicans chicken-back government. You don't care for the poor."

We hope though, that in the interest of this democratic system that we say we love so well, the Opposition party will show respect for the will of the people who voted for the JLP to form the current government in 2007. Not long from now, in 2012, the PNP will have their turn to woo us in our next general election.

Trying to be "the worst nightmare" of the ruling JLP can spill over into international disgrace if we are not careful. Will motorists and pedestrians have to wear green before entering any of the roads and bridges that are to be built in the China-backed Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme? The media will surely be open to any complaints about the selection of the 6,700 Jamaicans to be employed in the project. As far as I am concerned, we just need to start fixing our roads - they are in a terrible state.

In the same breath, we remember the "boos" the PNP government got from the Opposition JLP over the excellent Highway 2000. We have to give them kudos also for spearheading the transformation of the Norman Manley International Airport into one of which we are mightily proud. See? Both parties have their showpieces and should be allowed to get on with the country's business, instead of being harangued every step of the way.

Professor Freddie Hickling commented on this deeply rooted "bad-minded" attitude in Jamaicans when he spoke at a forum to mark World Alzheimer's Day last Tuesday, saying that it is causing stress and anxiety in our society. He believes seniors may be mentally "checking out" when faced with the ridiculous recriminations of our politics. "When one is in power, the other has to fight it down," he observed. "We have to demand that we will not live that way."

Head of the local Alzheimer's support group, Dr Albert Chen, stunned us with the statistic that 30,000 Jamaicans now suffer from dementia. He was passionate in his appeal for the authorities to make dementia a health priority and to develop national plans to deal with the disorder. Now, how can we be expending so much energy on political one-upmanship when elders are suffering such neglect?

I remember two prominent politicians of blessed memory - one PNP and one JLP - who suffered from Alzheimer's in their final years. When will we ever learn? Leaders must lead from the front, and quit the back-stabbing.

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