An edited speech given by Opposition spokesman on national security, Dr Peter D. Phillips, at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston and published in the Jamaica Daily Gleaner on Sunday February 24 2008 should elicit some astonishment. It appears that when a political party serves as the opposition they can with profound clarity diagnose the country’s problems and even correctly prescribes workable the solutions. However, it seems this wisdom becomes lost in the transition phase from opposition to governance.
Even more intriguing is the fact that the former minister of security only recently demitted office less than a year ago after his party formed the government for almost two decades. Even more amusing is that he argued that Jamaicans should be proud of two specific achievements; 45th anniversary of independence and 70th anniversary of adult suffrage. This is of some concern, not because we should not be proud of those events which took place many decades ago, but that we have not achieved anything of equal significance since.
While Mr. Phillip’s reference to Norman Manley’s address to the annual PNP conference in 1969 is accurate, the complete quote is necessary to understand the context. Mr. Manley said, “I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica.”
He did not end there as later in his speech he asked a relevant question that we have not yet fulfilled. He asked, “And what is the mission of this generation? It is reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica “. The challenge appears to be more important even today than the declaration.
t is quite puzzling that we continue to analyze the increased crime rates since the 1970s. That is four decades of rampant crime and disorder that continues to plague Jamaicans without any relief in sight. Crime has sentenced the majority of Jamaicans to lost opportunities and continual flight of those who could add value to the country’s economy and social order. While Minister of Security, I would have hoped that Mr. Phillip had done more to restore the confidence of citizens in the justice and security apparatus as now mob killing is an accepted means of administering justice.
We cannot still find happiness in Independence when Jamaicans are forced to live in steel cages while productivity continues to decline. If we are serious about nation building, it is time to place political posturing aside and implement the needed institutional and constitutional reforms towards restoring national confidence. While I cannot blame Mr. Phillip or the PNP for the 45 years of poverty resulting from corruption, mismanagement, bureaucracy, crime, high tax rates and general decline, he should accept some responsibility.
While he can easily switch gears from politicking to journalism, the majority of Jamaicans continue to grow more despondent and dependent on remittances, charity and an informal economy. What will this generation do to fulfill Norman Manley’s dream of delivering economic freedom to Jamaicans?