EDITORIAL – Pledge and reality for PM Holness
THINK GARRISON CONSTITUENCIES and what readily comes to mind – to anyone familiar with the political culture of Jamaica – is a stifling scenario of high levels of poverty and criminal violence giving rise to the “occupation” centres of drug-trafficking dons and armed gangs.
This has been a very distressing feature of Jamaica, a founding member of our Caribbean Community and a nation that has otherwise made this region quite proud with its creative arts and passionate commitment – against the odds – to parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
At the same time, partisan politicking in the competition for control of state power has contributed to the contradictory nurturing of a vicious circle of violence, fed by the poverty that narco-trafficking dons have routinely exploited in such communities.
Both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP), the traditional major political forces that have dominated the country’s parliamentary politics prior to, and since independence in 1962, have been scarred by a dangerous connivance with the culture of violence associated with the kingpins of drug-trafficking in the garrison constituencies.
It is, therefore, quite significant that Jamaica’s ninth prime minister, Andrew Holness, the 39-year-old former education minister, should have found it necessary to pledge – in taking the oath on Sunday – to end the garrisonization of the nation’s political culture.
Truth is, Mr Holness would know, that in offering that brave commitment, he was saying what some of his predecessors had also done, in and out of Jamaica’s parliament. Among them would be the politician he has just succeeded and whom he will shortly replace as leader of the incumbent JLP, Bruce Golding.
Indeed, it was the horrible violence between the security forces and the leaders of the illicit trade in drugs and guns in Tivoli Gardens – in which notorious don Christopher Dudus Coke loomed large – that was to prove politically fatal for Golding remaining as head of the government and leader of the JLP.
The rest is history.
The harsh reality facing Jamaica at this post-Golding phase, as it moves towards an expected snap general election, is to give meaning to soothing words about ending garrison-type politics with the pursuit of practical bipartisan initiatives.
Taking action could help win hearts and minds away from a political culture that has for far too long besmirched the reputation of that nation and its people, whose creative skills have so greatly contributed to what distinguishes our Caribbean region as a microcosm of peoples and cultures of the world.
Congratulations, Prime Minister Holness. We wish you well as you strive to cope with inherited social, cultural, economic and political challenges.