|Patrick Casserly (left) and Prof Trevor Munroe|
As we keep searching for a way out of the disillusionment of so many Jamaicans, there were encouraging signs last week from Professor Trevor Munroe and entrepreneur Ambassador Patrick Casserly.
Professor Munroe is the Executive Director of National Integrity Action (NIA) which is an affiliate of Transparency International (TI). In a speech to the joint meeting of the Rotary Club of Portmore and Trafalgar, New Heights, he reflected on Rotary’s “Four-Way Test” and a question asked by the test: “Is it fair to all concerned?” He concluded that Jamaicans were not being treated fairly in too many aspects of national life, citing situations which have left many horrified and frustrated.
He contemplated the fate of Mario Deane, who lost his life while being detained in a Montego Bay jail for possession of a ganja spliff. He decried the condition of our prisons, noting that “we and our representatives sat by while the 2013/2014 budget allocated a little over $110 million to maintain 70 lock ups for an entire year, while $54 million dollars this year and close to $100 last year was spent for a one-day grand gala. Is that prioritization of spending fair to all concerned?”
He also mentioned our political system in which “a Member of Parliament who may be a total non-performer enjoys absolute job security for five years – the very same as an MP who is working hard.”
He asked, “is it fair to all concerned that the non-performer cannot be fired even if he or she says nothing in the House for five years, does nothing for five years, people in the constituency don’t see him or her for five years while he or she may be looking out for themselves.”
In contrast, he pointed out that “every other Jamaican, from the highest Appeals Court Judge to the janitor or household help enjoys no such job security and can, after due process, be fired for misconduct, negligence or incompetence at any time.”
Referring to the right of recall existing in Belize and recently passed by the House in Trinidad, he expressed the hope that this would be introduced in Jamaica, “where the constituents as boss can fire the Member of Parliament, of course, following due process as any boss should be able to fire any employee.”
Despite his criticism, Professor Munroe hastened to remind his audience that for Jamaica, “failing is not really our destiny nor our basic nature”. He noted that the independence of our judiciary was in the top third of 148 countries according to the last Global Competitiveness Report, and similarly “in the strength of our auditing and reporting standards.”
“In health and wellness, believe it or not we rank above the United States (Social Progress Index 2014),” he continued, “and in Press Freedom we invariably top, not only the United States, but also Canada and the UK as well as other mature democracies.”
He also cited our political stability with “constitutionally mandated relatively free and fair elections” and reminded us that “we abolished slavery before the United States; achieved adult suffrage before any other predominantly black country in the world.”
On Cliff Hughes’ television programme “Impact” last Thursday, Ambassador Patrick Casserly, a wealthy Jamaican entrepreneur explained why he had decided to enter politics. It had been announced a few weeks ago that he and former track star and gym owner, Juliet Cuthbert, had joined the Jamaica Labour Party.
Fortunately, on listening to Ambassador Patrick Casserly one quickly realizes that he is no starry-eyed JLP tribalist. He cited the groundwork of both our political fathers Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley whose vision for Jamaica he believes has not been fulfilled.
“Curry goat politics is over,” declared Patrick Casserly. He said Jamaicans have become so turned off from politics that large numbers are not participating in the electoral process. He said that politics demanded a different conversation with the Jamaican people. When asked why he is making this move, he said “I intend to be a free man in my country – this is why I am participating.” He pointed out that it was hardly desirable to be living behind a 15-foot wall in one’s own country.
As Jamaica grapples with speculation around the honesty of politicians, as many are afraid to express themselves for fear of victimization, we have to be grateful to folks like Professor Munroe and Ambassador Casserly who are willing to stand up for the truth knowing that the brick-bats could very well follow. The realistic Ambassador Casserly admitted that he could not predict the length of his political career, but felt it was worth the try, reminding us that the Opposition is an important part of the Government. This is the conversation that Jamaica has been hoping for – let it begin.