Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unlocking garrisons to end a national disgrace

BY JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Observer Column | Monday, October 31, 2011

DURING the years that my widowed mother was a small shopkeeper in Savanna-la-mar, she would lend tables and lamps to both political representatives to hold their meetings by the fountain in front of the courthouse. Once, a disgruntled party faithful demanded to know why she helped out the other side and she replied, “You all buy at my shop: I can't support one and not the other.” They laughed it off, and all was well. Perhaps in another time or place, her shop would not have seen morning!

This is why we were heartened when Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared in his inaugural address, “It is time to end garrison politics… It is important that people living in these areas get to see other political representatives without the objection of enforcers. Let us start the process by getting the leaders to walk together in these areas of exclusion.”

Mr Holness wisely observed, “It is not only that the rest of Jamaica is locked out of these communities; I am concerned that the residents of these closed communities are locked off from the rest of Jamaica… Criminals must never be seen by the community as protectors. Once there is this integrated and shared national vision, garrisons will no longer be havens for criminals.”

Indeed, we must address the lukewarm response from young professionals to voter registration – they are disillusioned by this national disgrace of garrison politics. The PM referred to them as “casualties to the politics of exclusion”. Women in particular are intimidated by this kind of politics, and we have heard enough to know that sometimes those who venture out are given some of the most challenging constituencies that place them between “a rock and a hard place”. We will never forget that discussion at the Rose Leon Lecture Series when Olivia “Babsy” Grange and Jennifer Edwards (on behalf of Portia Simpson Miller) spoke of the abject conditions of their constituents and their uphill battles.

I surprised a group recently when I appealed to them to “find a politician to love”. I explained that there were indeed good, earnest Jamaicans who had entered politics and who were being demoralised by the negative labels we pin on them. If we try to identify and support them, we would send a strong signal to their negative counterparts.

When it comes to national issues, our business leaders have no difficulty in getting together to tackle them. This is the level of leadership which we should require from the two major political parties. The Partnership for Progress, which has been renamed the Partnership for Transformation (PFT), requires that both political parties join hands with major national stakeholders in business, labour and civil society for Jamaica's advancement. This seven-year effort has been stalled by “cute” politics – we must not allow this to happen again. No wonder productivity remains low while unemployment is skyrocketing!

I have been having interesting discussions with friends from either side of the political fence. They are well-meaning, but some are so fanatical that they are convinced they have the patent on our solutions. Come on now, time to unload the tribalist baggage. We enjoy the colourful chat – “loader man” did not faze us – but when it moves from banter to vitriol, remember the communities you leave to digest your messages, after you have packed up your handsome SUV and headed out. Did you leave behind thugs with cynical instructions? Did you sow discord that will split families asunder?

No true Jamaican can wish ill on an individual, family or community, in their quest for political power. That is not the dance of democracy: it is the dance of death.

We want to hear our politicians encouraging their followers to seize the day, rather than each other's democratic right. In reminding Jamaicans of their own power, we create a more governable society. Let us support those leaders who are stirring ambition in our people, versus those who are stoking division.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Unlocking-garrisons-to-end-a-national-disgrace#ixzz1cSopiJPN

Nejeeper KNG
@PL saying that you are neither with nor against the Security Force is illogical. Your explanation of a garrison is someone who is in denial. Statements like “The problem is not of such political, it’s more a social and economic problem” is laughable. Garrisons are enforced by area leaders/dons who will kill in their effort to control who people in the constituency votes for. I grew up in KGN 11, this is 1st hand account. Social and economic issues are a problem but it didn't create garrisons.
Nejeeper KNG
@PL BOGLE I grew up in Olympic Gardens; I remember when Keith 'Trinity' Gardner use to put on his full black suit. I know what police brutality is. Police brutality is an unfortunate state of affairs that affects countries worldwide not just JA that is why countries like Canada and the US has “Internal Affairs.” PL I cannot be against the police they need our support. I hope you are not condoning criminality and I hope that you will report crime for peace’s sake and our children’s sake.
@Nejeeper KNG. "PL BOGLE are you with or against the security force?" Neither! I'm with equal rights and justice. My friend I grew up in Olympic Gardens the same community that Mr. Holness is asking Portia Simpson Miller to walk with. So I’m speaking from personal experience. The problem is not of such political, it’s more a social and economic problem, if not addressed from the root cause, and then all efforts will be useless. Inequality and injustice that's embedded in the system is the root cause of garrison communities. Every man woman and child that’s living in these communities is exploited because of their social and economic status, by politicians, the security force and criminal elements.
Chipmunk L.
Great article!
Now is the time for Politicians to walk the walk in cleansing the Island of dirty folly-tricks and practice clean politics. Jamaicans are ready for positive actions which will change the dynamics within the Country.
The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition needs to clarify their goals for the betterment of life in Jamaica and whichever member does not want to toe the line should be booted out regardless of tenure or perceived clout.
Jamaica first ! Now and always.
Ruby Shim
It's obvious that some of our politicians do not want an end to garrisons - this is how they retain their seats in the house of parliament. They dont want to educate the people in these constituencies for fear that they might wise up to them and vote them out. Why wont the Opposition leader walk with the Prime Minister to demonstrate her willingness to end this garrison type politics.
Luv Quest
This article is so true. I'm surprise at the lack of comments to this emergency.
Nejeeper KNG
@Jean Lowrie-Chin thank you so much for this article, the title is a national emergency. There is an article today “we must do better on selecting party candidates.” The thing is in a garrison constituency electorates are not given the choice to evaluate a candidate’s ideology/policies and make a choice. The choice is made for them by area dons. Where is the legitimacy in our political system? Some of us are so accustom to this tribal politics that we accept this backwardness as the norm.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Unlocking-garrisons-to-end-a-national-disgrace#ixzz1cSovtLao

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