Best News & Current Affairs Blog (2011 & 2012) and Jamaican Blogger of the Year (2011) at The Jamaica Blog Awards.

Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future


Editor’s Note : The views expressed below are not my own. Javed Jaghai returns to Veritas with his take on Jamaica’s current political realities. Read. Reflect. Comment.

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Jamaican politicians may be terrible leaders, but they are masters of political strategy. They understand our culture very well. They know how to appease us, they know how to mistreat us (and get away with it), and they know that we are familiar enough with each other to privilege loyalty and character over intellect and effectiveness.

Our past and present politicians must be held responsible for the state of Jamaica today. By the time the stalwarts who have served since my birth die, their obituaries will tell of how long they served and how dedicated they were to public service but will say nothing of how poorly they governed.

Jamaica is a very small island with a correspondingly small population. The interconnected webs of social and familial ties breeds familiarity, which, I believe, violates and degrades traditional means of guaranteeing accountability. We trust our elected representatives and we continue ‘fi gi dem a bly’ even though their record of accomplishment speaks volumes to their incompetency. When they consistently perform less than satisfactorily and especially when they fuck up, we excuse their ineptitude with superficial considerations like their so-called ‘good moral character’ and ‘commitment to the community’.

I believe this is why Jamaican politicians maintain such strong relations with the church. The illusion of moral uprightness provides cover for their transgressions. “Him a good man who care bout di community so mi ago vote fi him again,” his constituents will say. So he’s a good man. Who gives a shit? Is he effective as a representative of your district in the house of parliament? Did he fulfill his duties as a minister and advance national development? Whenever the answer is no, elected representatives should never be rewarded with a second, third or fourth term in office. The fact that we continue to elect the same impotent bunch over and over illustrates the perverse nature of the political system that we contend with today.

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When it comes to politics in Jamaica, I am decidedly non-partisan. My parents were indifferent to politics and so I was never fed even a moderate dose of orange or green Koolaid. In America, I would belong to the much-touted constituency of ‘independents’, but there’s no such category in Jamaica because we don’t vote on issues, we vote for personalities. If I should vote, I would be helping to sustain a system that I believe is rotten at its core and which does not serve the interests of the majority of Jamaican people.

I sometimes get the feeling that our politicians think governing Jamaica is a game. The fact that we allow them the chance to try their hand at fixing Jamaica every five years, despite evidence that they are incapable of doing so, affirms this notion. But we are not fictional characters. And no you cannot simply start over each time you fail the same level because we have high-level needs. At least, you shouldn’t be able to.

We need to start holding our politicians accountable and when they fail to live up to our expectations they need to know that there will be consequences. Some might say, “But dem know how wi feel. We complain all the time and demand better leadership!” Sure, but complaining is not the same as taking action and holding someone accountable.

What do I mean?

When you murmur your disappointment with the performance of the government, they can’t hear you. When you scream and rant on Twitter and Facebook, yeah, they still can’t hear you. I find that the political culture which nurtures our politicians supports egotism. They almost never accept fault graciously and there is no limit to the errors they can make with impunity. You can write letters to the press until the Lord comes, they are too assured of their invincibility to give a fuck about what you think.

The frustration I feel is a collective frustration. Yet, our exasperation isn’t being felt in Gordon House. I don’t think our elected representatives understand the OUTRAGE I feel when I think on the reality that my country cannot learn to grow itself out of this abyss of mediocrity. Until we make our concerns real by literally screaming so loudly that they can no longer ignore us, we will continue to think we are powerless.

All of us must take responsibility for having allowed successive governments to violate the implicit contract between citizens and elected representatives.

Supporters of the PNP mostly fall into one of two categories: they are either mum on political matters to assuage their guilt or they are cheerleaders for the PNP, forever urging the rest of us to come together and rally behind every wishy-washy policy or intervention the government proposes. You will often see them tweet or post that they are “disappointed in Portia”—never outraged. They lament the performance of the party they voted for but console themselves with the convenient thought that things would probably be worse with JLP leadership.

Supporters of the JLP are equally hilarious. Of course, they always knew ‘Portia and the PMP’ would mash up the country. They’re the most vocal critics of the PNP and they almost always have a smug ‘I told you so’ tone that is rather self-serving. They lament that Jamaica is ‘PNP country’ and affirm that they simply must win the next election to put Jamaica back on track. They are usually the first to expose the transgressions of the PNP, which should be a good ting, yet you get the sense that in doing so they are trying to legitimize their leadership potential and increase their chances at winning the next general election. Their constructive feedback is usually preceded by bitter criticism that is not in the spirit of bipartisan collaboration. Merely demanding better leadership from the overlords of Jamaica’s government bureaucracy—that they themselves are part of—for the sake of our collective welfare would asking for too much.

I belong to the third group that doesn’t vote in elections and has only a passing interest in the political affairs of the country. Last election cycle we were about 50% of the electorate. We literally have NO faith in what we see as a broken political system and culture ‘weh tek people fi eediat.’ We curiously observe the back and forth between JLP and PNP aficionados while furthering our disillusionment with politics. We are the people on the Titanic who knew the ship was sinking, that there weren’t enough lifeboats to deliver everyone to safety, and so cuddled under their bedsheets  and waited to drown in the rising seawater.

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Who amongst us then is holding the government accountable? Who are the ones who have had enough and will march on Gordon House every day until our elected representatives and their minions remember that they are not our masters but our servants? There are a few prominent voices in civil society who consistently speak out against government excesses and ineptitude, but they do not speak for the population at large and we aren’t rushing to join them in what seems like a futile attempt to instigate change.

Whatever your misgivings about the PNP, despite your disillusionment, and in spite of your tribalistic urge to heap adulations onto and withhold criticism of the PNP, every Jamaican should be outraged that despite having a stable democracy for the last three decades, our country is stagnating. The profligate excesses of our inefficient government will continue if we do not act decisively. Civil disobedience is our only recourse—literally, nothing short of a revolution will do—but we are too cowardly for that. We are the slaves who grew accustomed to a life of servitude and who, fearing punishment, couldn’t bother to challenge their assumed masters.

To those who will cynically tell me the government can’t do everything: STOP finding excuses for the government. Yes the private sector, civil society and citizenry have a part to play, but we must work in tandem with our elected representatives, not in spite of them.

To the members of the intelligentsia who support these corrupt, power-hungry political parties: you are holding Jamaica back. I understand you are the beneficiaries of government contracts, waivers and concessions. I understand that you are the ones who fill the numerous public sector political positions. I get why you are so invested in preserving the status quo. But the way we do politics in Jamaica is untenable. It does not serve the interests of the vast majority of Jamaicans. Those of us who understand this truth must voice it incessantly and loudly.

Half the voting age population kyaahn bada. Wi done. We have ZERO faith in the system. We are the people who’ve crawled our way out of the JLP-PNP whirlpool of oppression. It is we who will have to rise up and demand better leaders who understand their obligation to the citizenry.

I know my vision is an ambitious one given our apathy, self-interested natures, and doubts about whether we have what it takes to achieve meaningful change in Jamaica. Nevertheless, I’ll settle for being the crazy guy who truly believes that the next generation deserves better. I remain convinced that if ‘mi naa lik out gainst di sistim’ then I’m helping to sustain it. I don’t want that burden on my conscience. Do you?

This year I turn twenty-four. The only Jamaica I have ever known is mired in poverty, crime and held hostage by poor governance. When it becomes painfully obvious that the Vision 2030 National Development Plan is a pipe dream, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) will release Vision 2050 and ask us to continue dreaming. I am tired of dreaming; I am ready to live and fight for the future of my country. While we bicker about whether to trust the JLP or the PNP, our politicians carry on with business as usual and the country hurtles toward failed-state status.

My people, wake the fuck up.

Javed maintains the blog Son of St. Mary (http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/). You can find him on Twitter: @chatimout (https://twitter.com/Chatimout)

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12 responses

  1. Do I have your permission (and Javed’s) to reblog this? These are views he has regularly expressed on Twitter and with which I have totally concurred over the past few months, and I am glad he has put them together into an article. I would like to share with my readers, especially the overseas ones (who are more numerous than those in Jamaica)… Thanks.

    April 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    • I have no problem with you reblogging it at all, and I’m sure Javed wouldn’t mind. Go ahead Emma.

      April 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm

  2. Thanks very much!

    April 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm

  3. Reblogged this on Petchary's Blog and commented:
    This article is written by Javed Jaghai, a young Jamaican whom I have gotten to know over the past year or so. I follow his tweets (@chatimout) avidly and we often share thoughts. This is the plain, unvarnished truth, stripping away the hypocrisy. It is a young man’s clear-eyed view of the current state of Jamaican society. Please read and share! And THANK YOU, Javed. I am proud to know you.

    April 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm

  4. Well written. I agree totally! Jamaicans are too gravitated towards emotion when voting. I think Jamaicans are too caught up with being ‘orange’ or ‘green’ aligned without looking at the bigger issues.

    April 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  5. My people, wake the fuck up.

    And then what? Magic away the high light bills! Use psychic power to make the SLB interest rates fall? Call on Jesus to make the un/der-employment go away? These are the same old cliches that I have been hearing for about 10 years. Political Parties in Jamaica have been irrelevant since FINSAC.

    Jamaica has shifted from a garrison, political party system to one based on multi-polar special interests that ruthless represent their own interest. Groups like the Used Car dealers of Jamaica, PetroJam, the various unions that represent the nurses, police and teachers, underground economies that import Grabba, Rizzlas and cigarettes below cost illegally, and so on. People attach themselves to these groups and battle the other groups at the expense of ordinary Jamaicans.

    The doctors go on strike, the nurses complain, but the patients suffer. The Manufacturers Association cannot afford electricity , so they bridge current, and everyone else light bill goes up. And so on.

    Now, this weeks homework assignment is to come up with 3 solutions for the high electricty bills, underemployment, and high student debt burden. I’ll check back for your answers in a few.

    April 28, 2013 at 6:12 am

  6. kingpatch

    Superb article. Well written and thought constructed. Your views beckon fewer critical eyes and more concerned ears; preach on my friend, preach on.

    April 28, 2013 at 7:15 am

    • leon

      Jahved I share your and I assure you that that there are those of us who share the same sentiments,

      April 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

  7. Carl-Anthony

    I applaud you taking the time to plainly voice what many of us have been feeling, and something my grandmother felt that made her quit the “inked finger habit”…I hope for change as ardently as you, but from my vantage point of the constituency of our “esteemed prime minister” for the many who will act, there are many ready to counteract, and you would be surprised from where… until the revolution, when we’re brothers in arms, I leave you with what my grandmother did me when she handed me George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “…Donkeys live a long time”.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

  8. Anthony

    I believe the only way “those” Jamaicans can see this is to read about these blogs on the television after news or so but we know that won’t happen, so in the end there still all gonna be blind…

    April 29, 2013 at 3:57 pm

  9. I reach the end of this article and, while understanding and agreeing with its contents, I simply wonder. What must I do to play my part in all this. What first, second and third step must a take to become a part of a voice loud enough to echo these statements in plain and simple terms to the rest of Jamaica, to the media? Proposing that someone does something isn’t the same as saying what they should do – give us a call to action.

    May 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

  10. An excellent examination of the current JA political system. I found it, as a foreigner, enlightening. I think many of the issues are true, anywhere…however they may be more prevalent in a country (like Jamaica) that is still ‘maturing’ as a nation. Thanks for your well reasoned commentary.

    May 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm

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