Many comments have been made recently about the Prime Minister’s relative disengagement from speaking to the public. So, I was pleased to read yesterday that Mrs. Simpson-Miller will resume holding community meetings. As reported, the meetings will be organized by the Social Development Commission, and are ‘aimed at bringing members of the executive to the public to hear their concerns and respond’. I think much damage, though incalculable, has been done by the PM’s deafening silence on some major concerns in the country. A clear vacuum has been created in terms of popular expectation and public policy guidance. People–whether they voted or not–who are citizens of a country, have an expectation that leaders will lead–by action and words. Many people cannot see the ‘work’ (action) that politicians do, so need to hear from them to get a better understanding. Silence, therefore, is not golden when it comes in response to ‘cries’ of severe need.
When it is broken by remarks such as “I know that our economic programme, …has in some instances been hard on you. I feel your pain. I go to the supermarket, I know what is happening to prices”, in a New Year message, I think people just shake their heads.
For many people, I think that the long silence has been interpreted by a lack of concern.
I think many people would not have been surprised if the PM had one day said something like:
“You know, I am a total loss to understand what is going on in Jamaica. I cannot understand why so many people are being killed by guns or in road accidents.”
That would make many people feel that at least she was aware of two things that trouble many, if not most Jamaicans. There is no pretence of having some magic wand to deal with them. It implies also a need for ideas, and an openness to receive them.
Had she said something like:
“All of the money that the government has borrowed over the years has not been used to produce economic gains that are clear in terms of better roads, schools, health, more jobs, or a cleaner environment. Our inability to use that money wisely means that we owe more than the income we have every year and it’s crippling us at every turn.”
That would have suggested that she saw the seemingly intractable problem that many Jamaicans have to witness and live with on a daily basis. Wasted or inefficient spending, at every turn. Inadequate decisions at every turn. Despair, at every turn. The PM would have shown a consciousness of what is Jamaica’s economic albatross.
The comments demonstrate a recognition of problems, for which solutions have to be found, but are taxing all of our minds. They do not seek to apportion blame. However, by not saying things like that, many people have felt lost and abandoned.
Those two comments, or similar, would have meant a lot more than many of the vacuous and cliché-riddled offerings that have been flying around by other politicians.
I cannot believe that her reluctance comes from what I see often with children who wont speak when they are faced with certain problems: they are terrified and almost take the view that if they do not address the fears they will disappear.
But, maybe, I’m wrong.