The controversy swirling around the National Housing Trust and how it’s funds have been used to buy land in Trelawny that hosts the Outameni Experience is classic. Without going into the details, much of the discussion revolves around something very simple, but essential: national trust.
The many obvious plays on words that Outameni evokes are sadly ironic. Jamaica’s national motto, ‘Out of many, one people’ comes quickly to mind.
If national trust does not exist, the one people who could come out of many, must become divided.
We can all find elected and appointed officials wanting and disappointing in their individual or collective responsibilities. We get encouragement from their willingness to acknowledge that, and also deal with our questions as if they understand the reasonable need for answers. After all, we cannot have them sit with us regularly at breakfast or over a drink and just let loose on what they’ve done.
But defensiveness and obfuscation are more the norm than the exception. I remember making that point as a characteristic of public servants in Jamaica soon after I returned last year and hear the then public defender on local radio. It was too ironic that the public defender seemed so focused on his personal defence.
Much is wrong with politics in Jamaica. Voters have much power in their hands in that regard. But, the electorate does not appoint most public officials. Elected officials and other agencies are charged with keeping them in check. However, they often don’t and we all reap the whirlwind. Too many instances of lax oversight of appointed officials exist. We can rightly look to elected officials to correct that, but they are compromised because many such officials are ‘placements’, to suit political preferences and whims.
National trust is an asset, but like any asset, it can be wasted.