Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Friday | January 2, 2009
Home : Commentary
The honeymoon is over

This is the second new year under the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government, but so far there has been very little that is really new.

Even the most rabid pro-government person would have to admit that the performance of the new government in its first 485 days has been less than remarkable, even allowing for the international financial crisis and the global oil crisis. If we just look at two key sectors of the Government we can see the lack of performance.

The new JLP Government has been no better at dealing with crime and violence than the previous one; if anything, there has been an increase in murder and mayhem, and they have truly become endemic in this land.

Willing to break link

This Government seems no more willing than the last to break the link between politics and crime; and if Gravel Heights is anything to go by, the garrisons are as strong as ever!

Indeed, since it was the JLP which started the garrison system, some might argue that that party will be unable to abolish it without radically transforming itself, and that, so far, they seem unwilling to do.

Still, there does appear to be some progress in tackling police corruption. One thing I abhorred about the previous regime was how shameless they were about corruption. Scandal after scandal would break, but it would be like water off a duck's back; no heads rolled, and no one seemed particularly perturbed. News of corruption in this new government is now emerging, and so far, they seem to possess the potential for shame, although no heads have rolled here either. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and if this government turns out to be just as soft on corruption as the last, then Jamaica's corner is truly dark.

Education system

One of the major factors holding back Jamaica's progress since the abolition of slavery is our dysfunctional education system. There is no doubt that much of the problem resides within the present system, which needs to be transformed, but I don't know how much progress is being made with that. The so-called 'Education Transformation Project' when it was created was located in the Office of the Prime Minister, because it was recognised that the system had to be reformed from outside. But after a while, the Ministry of Education howled in protest, and the project was transferred into its clutches, whereupon it was transformed into an infrastructure project, and our dysfunctional education system resumed its direction with course unchanged.

When are we going to liberate our education system from the control of the canepiece? Maybe only when we get rid of the canepiece, which is, I guess, what the Government is trying hard to do.

The teachers are another big part of the problem, but the system as currently designed, is run by activists from the teachers' union who have been promoted to become education officers, and they will resist any effort to demand top performance from their fellows. Real progress requires the breaking of eggs, but I don't know whether either of these two parties which created our dysfunctional system, has the cojones to do the job! It may turn out that any hope we have may be misplaced.

Weakness in our democracy

Speaking about shamelessness, I don't know how the PNP in opposition can be so strident at criticising the JLP's efforts - feeble or otherwise - after failing so dismally in their 18 years at bat. One of the weaknesses in our version of democracy is that it is in the interest of the Opposition for the Government to fail, and they will do everything in their power to make it happen. And in the meantime, Jah kingdom goes to waste!

Still, the JLP must realise that the patience of the public is wearing thin, and any 'honeymoon' period they might have been given is close to an end.

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and a Roman Catholic deacon.

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