Jamaica – A Time To Heal

Jamaica – A Time To Heal

Kingston, Jamaica —

Jamaica is going through some very trying and difficult days, crime wave is unabating, State of Emergency areas are expanded and extending. There is just senseless violence that one cannot explain and everyone is scared or feels somehow insecure.

There is the constant drumbeat from Civil society for change and some are doing their best to effect these changes. Some are using their voices to bring some sanity and balance to the society.

The two major political parties are mature enough and equipped in large measure to keep the political apparatus going, sometimes with near term political gain of some sort or the other. The time has come to face the situation in the country in a bi-partisan or apolitical manner and come up with a plan that can be nationally supported with consensus building on this.

The Hon. PJ. Patterson, former Prime Minister, offered such a plan. It is a rework of the proposed “national strategy and program of action to promote attitudinal change and social renewal” of the 1990’s. The concept had value then and we certainly need some sense of direction for the country now.

In his speech to the Rotary Club recently, Mr. Patterson titled his speech “Rebuilding Community Spirit”; he said “As we seek to strengthen, equip and effectively deploy our security forces to lead the fight against vicious criminal elements, each of us should take a look at ourselves in the mirror and ask “What difference can I make”? “I believe we must begin by having a sense of respect for self, respect for our women, respect for our children and respect for our poor and elderly. That will result in reverence for human life, due regard for dignity for the human essence, without which no society can thrive or even survive.”

Mr. Patterson is articulating a vision for a better Jamaica rooted in the dignity of a people and convinced that each person can make a difference. He went on to this sense of human dignity, as he puts it will “stir our obedience to the Law. It will impel us to fashion and practice norms. We will have to change the mindset of those who believe they can exercise an individual freedom to do whatever they please, regardless of how it affects everyone else.”

Patterson talks about a non-partisan program, led by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition joining with the Churches, Schools, Trade Unions, Business Sector, NGO’s and Service Clubs all coming together. He said, “No matter what we call or name it, irrespective of how we package it, Jamaica needs now a crusade to restore the wholesome values and attitudes which are an important part of our historical legacy as a people, and essential to our progress. It is not to be seen as a partisan program. It has to become a national imperative which must be placed at the top of the country’s agenda”.

For many in Jamaica, there is the feeling that somehow, in spite of the strong national brand in several areas, as a country, we have lost our way. The criminals have sensed this and are frightening off the general population – fear is the expressed view. There needs to be some “centering” appeal that people can relate to; decency and law and order are not far- fetched goals that cannot be realized. PJ Patterson talks about “drawing on aspects of our heritage and focus on these retentions which will impact positively on our processes, values, and patterns of behavior.

When we do, we will find that they strengthen our human and social capacity, enhance our prospects for economic growth and our wellbeing as a nation.” The message of former Prime Minister Patterson is not one of doom and gloom but one to inspire action, appeal to the best in Jamaica and seek to take back control of our communities, to provide peace, harmony and growth and a source of pride to be spread all over the country.

This doctrine, whatever name it may go by, should appeal to the personal values of honesty, integrity, dignity, respect, courage, compassion etc., but it also involves the way business is conducted in fairness, honesty, respect for workers and consumers, integrity and corporate social responsibility. Greed and corruption can ruin a society.

We applaud former Prime Minister PJ Patterson for his well thought out and practical but also inspirational approach to the challenges facing the country and the position that we all can do something about it. No need to fold our arms in despair. Let us hope and urge the current political leaders to come together on an issue that all agree on; something must be done to get the best of the Jamaican society.