Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Garth Rattray | Leaders, choose Jamaica over politics

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2024 | 12:09 AM

On Sunday, June 9, Kay Osborne opined in the In Focus section of The Sunday Gleaner, “Andrew Holness and Mark Golding: Time to choose Jamaica”. On May 26, 2021, the appointment of the Prime Minister as a member of the Privy Council became effective. It was previously announced… “Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve that the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, PC, MP, Prime Minister of Jamaica, be appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.”

In that [solemn] oath taken by the Jamaican prime minister, he swore fealty and duty to the British monarchy… by Almighty God. We know that we are an independent nation that retains the trappings and framework of colonial legislation and governance, so, when taking his oath of office, as prime minister of Jamaica, he swore allegiance to the Jamaican people in accordance with our Constitution. It therefore begs the question, can our leaders serve two masters, the Jamaican people and the British Crown?

Recently, it was revealed that the leader of the Opposition is a citizen of Jamaica and a citizen of Britain. Mark you, his British citizenship was inherited from his parents. He probably sees it as convenient for travel, and not as a backup plan. Nonetheless, he has dual citizenship, and it does not bode well for his political aspirations. Imagine noticing the captain of an aircraft, the person responsible for the safety and survival of many souls, walking on to the plane with a parachute strapped to his back.

RELINQUISH

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson pointed out, no one in any sensitive position, and I would extrapolate, or in any position of authority or control of our country, should swear or owe any kind of allegiance to any other power. Foreign allegiances should be relinquished. Even those politicians with a Green Card (permanent resident status) should also give it up as an assurance to the people who have put every aspect of their lives in their hands, that they are in it “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”.

I am happy that we are moving with alacrity towards becoming a republic state. Our Constitution will require a lot of modification. With these recent revelations, I would expect that the framers of the modified Jamaican Constitution will take this [golden] opportunity to stipulate that anyone holding a sensitive and/or very responsible position within the government, must be required to relinquish any foreign citizenship, and give up their permanent residence status for any other country. And, if the individual wishes to become our [executive] president, or be in a position to act on behalf of the president, if necessary, that person should have been born in Jamaica.

But there is one more aspect to this ‘other allegiance’ thing. Representational politics is the vehicle by which our leaders are put into office (read ‘power’). But ostensibly, the politics does not end there; it continues to influence decisions and programmes that affect the entire country, now and in the future. For example, try as they may, no one can convince anybody that the optics of announcing or unveiling so many high-value projects close to the last local government elections was not politically motivated. The coincidence was too much to accept.

BECOMING WISE

The citizenry is becoming wise to the political shenanigans. The rapid completion of so many huge projects that just happen to be synchronised with the imminent local government elections did not impress or sway the electorate; the Opposition made massive gains at those polls despite this. I also believe that the ploy may have hurt the ruling political party because people are seeing through the stale manoeuvre. It insults the intelligence of our fellow countrymen.

Our political landscape has changed. No longer do the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party have differing ideologies. Unfortunately, what they share is the occult dependency syndrome that they promulgate through their actions in underprivileged communities. Both have failed to empower our disenfranchised citizens. Both have failed to invest heavily in community projects that will bear fruit in improved amenities, improved infrastructure, improved education, improved discipline, and the reduction in crime and violence.

The political parties also share corruption equivalence. Each can point fingers at the other until the great-great-great-great-grand calves of the cows come home; neither can deny their intrinsic problem with corruption. Sadly, for our nation, the more they evade, deny and defend themselves, the deeper corruption becomes entrenched within our culture until it incorporates itself into the nation’s DNA.

Keeping in mind the long-term societal damage caused by political rivalry, especially in the early years, both will do good by our people if they undergo a truth and reconciliation process. Politics was the root of acrimony and violence within our society. Until politicians admit their role in our societal problems, there will never be catharsis and therefore there can never be healing.

When it comes to governing our nation, politicians should not make decisions based on the political benefits and ramifications. They also need to stop giving contracts and other favours to their supporters and contributors. Politicians (here and in other jurisdictions) are serving two masters, their constituents and their political party. They need to make decisions for the immediate and long-term good of the nation, no matter the political fallout.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com