Here are some qualities I would love to see to a greater extent in our political leaders.
1. Leaders who can see through their orange and green coloured glasses that not everybody criticizing them belongs to a rival political party. Some of us just disagree with your policies or direction. Full stop. Hell, with barely 50% voter turn-out in the last election, there’s a 50-50 chance that whoever is criticizing you isn’t voting for any of you, anyway.
2. Leaders who take the time to understand the criticism aimed at them. When Jamaicans complain about your pay or perks, it is coming from years of disillusionment at what politicians have done to our beloved country. You may not have been personally involved, but don’t ever forget that for the sake of power, politicians have torn Jamaica apart with political tribalism and killed our children, our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends with political violence. Whatever you have or have not done individually, memories of the havoc wreaked by your fellows are still fresh.
In addition, you have failed to deliver even moderate sustained prosperity to our nation and you have spectacularly failed to deliver an equitable education system. When people complain about what seems to you to be a measly sum of, say $4 million, it is coming from Jamaicans, many of whom are struggling to find lunch money or bus fare, who have no option but to use the under-resourced and over-crowded hospitals you have given us while you fly off to Miami for treatment. Some of your critics have to send children to the ill-equipped schools which is your legacy to us, and many of our children leave school as illiterate and innumerate as the day they started. So instead of responding with arrogance and disdain, how about listening carefully to what people are really saying, and answering in a tone of respect and understanding with a real and empathetic attempt to explain your (sometimes reasonable) position.
3. Leaders with a vision for Jamaica. Vision 2030 or not, very few of us have a sense that there is a targeted vision for Jamaica, that a clear direction has been charted and that we are moving with steady determination towards a real goal. We have no real hope that in our lifetimes, Jamaica will see an economic turnaround that will bring real benefits to all society, not just your friends the rich businessmen. Have you ever really, really listened to I-Octane’s “My Story?”
“Respect to all who sell bag juice
Who sell it to help dem youth
A whole heap a hell dem go through…
Man a suffer too long
Yeh man a suffer too long
Live in a di ghetto too long
Man a suffer too long.”
Listen to it again. One more time. That’s why we need a vision and visionary leaders.
4. Leaders who do real work in Parliament. Our Parliaments have been singularly unimpressive. Many in the Lower House are efficient only at warming benches. There is scant attention given to careful scrutiny of the Bills that are brought to the House. Debates are stunningly superficial and often lacking much evidence of research and thought (save for a very few speakers), and the desk-thumping that passes for participation apparently serves only to wake up the somnolent. I must note that the Upper House has traditionally been light years ahead of the Lower House in this regard. This is why it has been so disappointing to have seen over the years Senate appointments made on the basis of party loyalty only, resulting in Senators who bring little in the way of intellectual rigour to the Upper House. Which brings me to Number 5.
5. Leaders who put Jamaica before party. No, we don’t think all of you do this. In fact, we are sure you don’t put Jamaica first when we see ill-advised appointments, clueless Cabinet ministers, the constant and costly re-invention of the wheel just so that you can say such and such a programme was all yours, the dithering on matters of national importance, the refusal to make hard decisions that will cost you at the polls. So while you spend decades and generations thumping desks in Gordon House, our beloved Jamaica becomes choked with garbage, squatter communities mired in poverty abound, stray dogs roam the streets and our beautiful, bright children lose their way permanently.
There are some politicians whom I think have some or all of these qualities. However, they are usually not the ones in the most senior positions of leadership. But there is some hope. What do you think? What kind of political leaders do you want to see? Who gives you hope?