It’s election time, or as Jamaicans call it, ‘silly season.’ For many, the election season brings the opportunity to ‘earn’ an extra $500 or to devour some curried goat. For others, it’s the time to tell Jamaica and the world that you are a ‘born’ Socialist or Labourite. Silly right? Am I to assume that there are special babies who, instead of crying at birth, simply chant ‘shower’ or ‘power’ and are accepted into the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or People’s National Party (PNP)?
This culture of assigning allegiance to a political party at birth has caused numerous Jamaicans to turn a blind eye to crucial events happening around them. The country’s current system allows individuals to vote for a Member of Parliament (MP) rather than the individual they believe best suited to lead the country. As a result of this, party leaders become what I like to describe as default Prime Ministers. A question to voters if I may. For those who have a MP who did absolutely nothing until the election date was announced, why exactly are you cheering this person on? Are you so faithful that you’ll allow them to be re-elected so they can do nothing again until the next general election? As for the challengers, you chose to remain in incognito mode for years, having little to no interaction with the Jamaican people; why then should they vote for you?
The 21st century has often been labelled as the technological era and the age of advancement, yet in the year 2016, there are Jamaican people living without running water or electricity. Quite a few of these individuals are the aforementioned special babies grown up, An unfortunate number of these diehard party supporters, those special individuals who were somehow born into a particular political party, turn a blind eye to the actions, or lack thereof, of Jamaican politicians.
Last November, the country’s two major political parties (the PNP and JLP) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that stated that they would have a series of debates. (RJR Online News) I saw the debates as an opportunity to see how well the leaders of both political parties could ‘handle themselves’. The New York Times perfectly sums up the purpose of political debates, “First, they are the only event during a… campaign at which the two candidates appear simultaneously, giving voters a unique opportunity to comparison shop. Second, they force overly choreographed candidates to go off-script — hence, the obsessive attention to preparation by candidates and their handlers. third, their dramatic nature ensures that… people will tune in. In an era of media stratification, debates retain the power to generate a collective national experience, one built not around athletic competition but around the future of the country.” With the importance of the debates highlighted, and the MOU signed, one would believe that it would be ‘smooth sailing.’
Sadly, on Wednesday, February 11, the PNP announced their decision not to participate in the national debates , to be held by the Jamaica Debates Commission. It would appear as though the governing party forgot about two things: 1. the undecided voters, and 2. the fact that they signed a legal document agreeing to participate in the national debates. The national debates provided an opportunity to ‘convince’ the Jamaican electorate to vote for the PNP.
In a series of events worthy of their place on a badly written American reality series, the People’s National Party disclosed their reasons for refusing to participate in the 2016 national debates. The reasons given are as pathetic and petty as you’d expect. Jamaica’s current governing party has refused to participate in the national debates ahead of the February 25 election as they require the full disclosure of Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness’ financial statements, particularly those pertaining to his mansion being built in the Kingston area. (http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/pnp-questions-holness%E2%80%99-integrity)
Despite the pettiness of it all, one particular question begs to be asked: why not take it to the debates? After all, you, the governing party were the ones who called the election date, meaning that you had ample to time to request all the information you seek, and by bringing it to the debates, Mr. Holness will not be able to skirt around the issues that seem to be plaguing the PNP. He will simply be forced to answer.
The PNP says they, “have facts that are yet to be proven”, but the last time I checked, facts are simply facts because they have been proven. So, if there is something that the Jamaican people need to know, please inform us.