Jamaica First: Commentary on 2016 general Elections
On Election Day, one of our daily national newspapers published a picture of JLP and PNP supporters from Wakefield in Northern Trelawny. It showed them having fun together in a jolly mood. The picture, taken and published before the election results were announced, sends the right message: “We can have different political affiliations and affections and still live in peace and love.”
My hope and prayer, for Jamaica’s sake, is that such a spirit will prevail throughout the country now that the elections are over. Indeed, there are positive signs in that regard; the police have reported that Election Day was peaceful and largely incident free.
Jamaican People Have Spoken
The elections are over! The Jamaican people have spoken! They have spoken by voting PNP, JLP, or by not voting at all. They have spoken! These elections have made a few things clear, among them:
1. Approximately 50% of the voting public is evenly split between the two major political parties. This is evident from the seat count as well as the margins of victory in the individual races.
2. Almost one half of eligible voters did not exercise their right to vote. That of itself speaks volumes and is worthy of serious study.
The above facts make it crystal clear that neither political party has a lock on Jamaica. Jamaica is not a “Powah” country neither is it a “showah” country.
Jamaica is a beautiful country that is blessed with great geographical location, wonderful natural resources, and populated by people that are resilient and resourceful; we are a people who are gifted artistically, athletically, and intellectually. Our beloved nation and culture have made a huge impact on the world. We have produced world leaders in almost every field. Yet, as a nation we are straining to keep our head above water.
No Clear Mandate
The winning JLP should not delude itself into thinking that it has received a clear mandate to radically change the course of the country. Instead, it should use this opportunity to strengthen the country and promote citizenship over partisanship.
The time has come for our political leaders to come together as statesmen and say together: “Jamaica First.” The elections are over! The Prime Minister Elect should soon take the initiative to invite the current Prime Minister and other leaders to meet with him and leaders of the JLP about a way forward.
Suggestions for a Better Jamaica
They should form a bi-partisan group comprised of the best, brightest, and most patriotic minds from each party, business and industry, academia, the church, and civil service. That team should do an objective SWOT analysis of our country region by region, and nationally. Based on that analysis, they should set realistic goals to improve our nation and develop tangible strategies to attain those goals.
The goals and strategies should be aimed at maximizing and attaining the potential of our nation and improving the quality of life for all Jamaicans. That plan should be published and promoted so that the citizenry can buy in. That will help to create a united, focused, and disciplined approach to improve Jamaica and the life of all its citizens. The world is waiting on Jamaica to attain its potential and take its rightful place in the world.
Role of the Ruling Party
With this type of an approach, the ruling party’s objective and role cannot be to keep power by corruption, deceit, and craftiness while enriching itself and its supporters. It will have to be to provide leadership and manage the country’s resources in a manner that facilitates the nation’s objectives.
Role of the Opposition
The role of the opposition cannot be mere obstructionism and fostering negativity while awaiting its next turn at the feeding trough. Instead, it must be to cooperate in framing legislation that facilitates progress. It must hold the governing party accountable, make constructive criticism, and alert the nation when the governing party begins to abandon the nation’s agenda and is not operating in the best interests of the country.
Put Jamaica First
In 5 years, the Jamaican people will again have an opportunity to decide which party can better manage the affairs of the country. In the meantime, let us all put Jamaica first by building on the gains of the recent past while seeking to learn from our mistakes thus strengthening our nation and building a better future for all Jamaicans. Jamaica first! One love!
Written by Don Hall
Don Hall is a proud citizen of Jamaica, born and raised in Falmouth, who serves in the US as a pastor and an educator.