Monday, October 22, 2012

Burning issues for PM's town-hall meetings

 by Jean Lowrie-Chin | from Jamaica Observer | 22 OCT 2012

President Barack Obama worked hard in last Tuesday's second presidential debate to reclaim ground lost to an impressive Governor Mitt Romney in the polls. He was quick to point out inaccuracies in Mr Romney's offerings and scored a coup when Candy Crowley confirmed that he had indeed termed the deadly attack on the Benghazi “an act of terror”. We appreciated the sheer theatre of the encounter, a celebration of democracy.

This is the democracy we have preserved well in Jamaica. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has embarked on a series of town-hall meetings throughout the island, giving the public and the media opportunities to get answers to some burning national issues. We need to find out why anti-gang legislation is not being fast-tracked and must agree with fellow columnist Franklin Johnston that we are wasting too much productive time on those drawn-out parliamentary tributes. We are not seeing the deep concern our leaders should be having with crime spiralling and the dollar sliding.

May we suggest that PM Simpson Miller introduce a series of themes for her town-hall meetings and invite some of the experts in the various ministries to give us hard facts? We need to hear the steps her government is taking to fight the monstrous crimes that are making headlines here and via the internet around the world. We are disturbed by attacks on our innocent children  – imagine, the body of a teenager found bound and burning in bushes and so many missing!

We have been warned that a food security crisis is on the horizon.  How is the nation preparing for this? What are the various government ministries doing to protect the Jamaican people, especially the very young and the elderly? Tell us, not in long speeches, but in what you have delivered and what you will deliver within a stated timeline. In the private sector, this is our daily drill and we should expect the same from the public sector funded by our hard-earned taxes.

Could some of the town-hall meetings take the form of debates? Sachin Mitra, the bright son of my friend Rita Mitra, is part of a group of graduates from the London School of Economics (LSE) who have embarked on a worldwide programme called “Debate Mate” involving high school students in various countries, including Jamaica.

Rita sent me a link to YouTube –  – which shows a young inner-city Jamaican boy, Rockwell, finding his peace in debating. The children learn a reasonable way to air their opinions and settle their differences. LSE grads travel a long way from England to reach out in Jamaica. Surely, the Social Development Commission should show the young British volunteers that Jamaicans care as deeply about our own as they do.  

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