Dare we begin to hope again?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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When prime ministers leave office, especially after prolonged tenures, what do they do with the vast experience they would have gathered during some of the most historic and momentous events in the life of their nation?

From their vantage point, they share a country's most intimate secrets, its deepest yearnings for betterment, its darkest deeds and its greatest hopes. Much of that, for obvious reasons, they cannot and must not divulge, certainly not publicly.

Leaders of countries like Jamaica have the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of greatness or lasting damage. There is no doubt in our mind that all Jamaican prime ministers have contributed immensely to the advancement and development of this country.

However, we are equally sanguine that some of them have contributed in their own way to the legacy of crime and violence that has been bequeathed to this country. It might be that they have never soiled their hands and their only crime is sheltering party toughs carrying out their dastardly deeds in the name of the party.

We are most likely never, ever going to determine who did what, and to what extent. Better that we should give thanks that we seem to be emerging out of the kind of tribal morass that gave us the political bloodletting of the past.

It is quite logical to assume that our leaders, upon demitting office, have the ability to share the wisdom they have amassed and articulate the perspective they have developed in ways they could not while in the throes of party politics and under the constraints of collective responsibility.

We are led to this reflection because of the suggestion from former prime ministers Mr Bruce Golding and and Mr P J Patterson that the ill-fated values and attitudes programme, first floated by Mr Patterson, can, with the support of all surviving four former prime ministers, be revived to take Jamaica forward.

We agree wholeheartedly with the two gentlemen. In fact, we believe that no idea, no matter how smart, well intended and clearly in the interest of the country, will be embraced nationally if it originated with a single politician from either party.

That is why Mr Patterson's Values and Attitudes programme did not gain any traction, although no one disputed its merits. Even when he put the highly respected Mr Burchell Whiteman in charge, he failed to move the needle.

But there is real prospect in a values-based programme embraced and energised by Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, Mr Edward Seaga, Mr Golding, and Mr Patterson and the two great parties they served.

This, certainly, is one sure way they could give one final gift to the nation, whether to make up for personal failures of the past or just out of heartfelt patriotism to help as their “last contribution to the national effort”, to use their own words.

We are in complete agreement that their combined vision would promote attitudinal change, social renewal across Jamaica, and extend guidance to parliamentarians on lessons learnt and the way forward for Jamaica.

Dare we begin to hope again?

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