Por LLOYD B SMITH
Using the popular expression with much gusto, we could all say to independent Jamaica, at 51, “You have come a long way, baby!” But have we? And are we truly independent?
Today, even as we mark this momentous occasion in song and dance, beyond the grand spectacle is the harsh reality of Jamaica’s sovereignty being compromised by its almost forced relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). I well recall the pained expression on the face of Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips during a debate in Parliament when he alluded to the fact that by adhering to the dictates of the IMF we may well have ceded our sovereignty to that body.
Ironically, even as the governing People’s National Party (PNP) celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is being haunted, but hopefully inspired, by that mandate left by one of its founding fathers, National Hero Norman Washington Manley, in his final speech to the party, which declared that while his generation had seen to the achievement of political independence, it was up to the succeeding generation to ensure that Jamaica attains economic independence.
However, the ball has been dropped over and over again, and it may well be that this nation is now at the final crossroads where it must either sink or float economically and otherwise.
It is in this context that we need to revisit the whole business of Independence. Has it really worked for us? Or have we taken it for granted? In real terms, it may well be argued that the 50 years of Independence can be best described as “how politics underdeveloped Jamaica”. This may sound cynical and perhaps self-defeating coming from a politician and elected representative, but I am all for calling a spade a spade. It is no secret that rampant corruption, social inequities, a lack of big ideas, and an unwillingness to make unpopular decisions that in the long run would have benefited the country tremendously have led to an anaemic economy with the resultant rise in crime and violence, a deleterious brain drain as well as the flight of capital.
Many well-thinking and concerned Jamaicans, in a last-ditch effort to save this country from perpetual economic stagnation, have been suggesting that there should be a coalition Government or some form of national consensus. This is in line with the proposed establishment of a social contract. The Government, private sector, trade unions, and civil society recently signed what is being seen as an historic Social Partnership Agreement which is intended to create national dialogue and consensus on issues relating to economic growth and development. Unfortunately, the Andrew Holness-led Opposition Jamaica Labour Party shunned this exercise, refusing to sign the document. This move does not augur well for the way forward. And the fact that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who earlier on played a meaningful role in the fashioning of this “magna carta” was in attendance would suggest that the JLP is behaving like a spoilt child, taking up its marbles and staying on the periphery because it cannot have its own way. My advice to Mr Holness and his team is that they should stop coming across as the party of negativity and begin to embrace a positive way forward.
It is becoming increasingly clear that if Jamaica is to survive both the PNP and the JLP must find ways to work together for the greater good which is the essence of politics in any language or dispensation. Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, at the signing ceremony, hit the nail on the head when he said: “Our nation needs to free itself from the corrosive tribalism which has impeded a unified attack on our ingrained socio-economic problems.” He went on to state that “all leaders, in all sectors, must liberate the genius which is within them to craft and implement policies and programmes for the long-term good of the country regardless of the impact on the ballot box, membership loyalty or the short-term bottom line”. Enough said!
Against this challenging background, Jamaicans and their leadership must begin to embrace the concept of interdependence. What is interdependence? The dictionary definition states that interdependence is a reciprocal relation between interdependent entities. Says one writer, “The idea that two parties in a conflict need each other to complete their own tasks” is what it is all about. “Resolving a conflict becomes more important for both parties if they are interdependent.” And Jacqueline Grennan Wexler puts it best: “Today, the mission of one institution can be accomplished only by recognising that it lives in an interdependent world with conflicts and overlapping interests.”
The PNP and the JLP had better wake up and smell the coffee. Independence, whether from a partisan or nationalistic standpoint, signifies nothing worthwhile in the final analysis. Indeed, the pursuit of interdependence should have seen Jamaica asserting its full sovereignty by relinquishing its last vestige of colonialism, that of still having “Missis Queen” as our head of State. It should also see us parting company with the British Privy Council and embracing the Caribbean Court of Appeal. It would see a greater level of collaboration among all key stakeholders with respect to promoting, developing and sustaining Brand Jamaica which has become a worldwide phenomenon.
That great visionary Mahatma Gandhi made this observation in 1929: “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realise his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove to himself on the touchstone of reality.”
The Jamaican experience can be likened to human existence. When a child is born, for several years he is dependent on his parents; then when he attains adulthood he is supposed to become independent. However, in his later years, as he gets older, his very existence will depend on his having an interdependent relationship. Jamaica has now matured at 51, and the only way forward that will not take us backward and downhill must be a spirit of interdependence. Let this be the new buzz word, the mantra as we desperately seek to reach the Promised Land.
Lloyd B Smith is a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The views he expresses are his own and are not those of either the People’s National Party or the Government of Jamaica.