Interview with Jamaican Parliamentary Candidate Joan Gordon-Webley

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By Alexander Britell

Joan Gordon-Webley was born in Pell River, Hanover, Jamaica. She is the past president of Caribbean Women for Democracy, the Jamaica Women’s Freedom Movement, among other posts, and previously represented East Rural St Andrew in Jamaica’s Parliament in the 1980s. Most recently, Gordon-Webley was the executive director of the National Solid Waste Removal Association. Now, Gordon-Webley is one of 13 women who are candidates for the Jamaica Labour Party in the Dec. 29 election, running for the East Rural St Andrew seat against Damion Crawford. As part of a series looking at Jamaica’s election season and giving Jamaican candidates of all sides a chance to share their views, CJ Politics talked to Gordon-Webley about her campaign and the issues facing the country.

How has the campaign gone so far?

It has actually gone very well. We are now into the final stages, and we intend to notch up a point or two and we intend to take the seat home for the Jamaica Labour Party.

What is the biggest issue facing Jamaica in this election?

I would think that economic development and the creation of jobs, that would be the great issue. We have gone through and continue to go through a global economic crisis, and for a small country like ours, whenever anything like that happens, it affects us even more, because we have such little room in which to play. We haven’t been able to do as well as we had hoped, based on the fact that the economic downturn came at such a crucial time. But the hour came, and our policies are taking hold, and we believe that the electorate will see that when it comes to governments, the Jamaica Labour Party is the best party to choose at this time.

What can be done to improve the Jamaican economy?

One of the things we must do is we must deal with our debt problems. The Prime Minister has taken a lot of attention to the fact that we have to live within our own capabilities. You can’t just continue to borrow your way through, and, after a time, you’re not your own boss, because we spend so much of our time borrowing, and the money we spend within the country, most of that goes toward paying the debt. We are working really hard on streamlining our challenges, so that at the end of all of this we can come out a strong country.

How can the tourism sector be improved?

Well, everything has to do with money, as you can be well aware. We have a Minister of Tourism that has done a phenomenal job. With a situation that is a problem with the world, Jamaican tourism has been growing every year – so we are very proud of his achievement, but we also can’t just tie our entire economy on tourism, because when there is a fallout in the world as we have just had, it brings greater pressure to bear on us, and tourists stop traveling because they have to save their dollars. But all in all, our Minister of Tourism has done a phenomenal job, and tourism continues to grow from strength to strength.

After taking office, Prime Minister Holness said he wanted to dismantle so-called “garrisons” in Jamaica. What do you think about that notion and what should or should not be done in that regard?

There is no doubt that something must be done. You cannot allow any group to hold your country hostage. The Jamaica Labour Party is the only one that has taken this issue, and the Prime Minister [has done so] even in his own constituency, which is something that ought to be applauded. The opposition is now saying that there is no “garrison” [term], but it is well known that in many of the opposition stronghold, that is what pertains. But we do have an excellent person in our Commissioner of Police, and he has brought crime down from 40 percent, which is a big job that he has done with the Minister of National Security [Dwight Nelson]. And they continue to work hard at this, and if we can bring our crime down, and if we can up our tourism, it will argue very well for Jamaica, because Jamaica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The tourists will want to come, our returning residents will always want to be here, and this will argue well for the country.

How can Jamaican crime be addressed?

One of the ways crime has been addressed is through development, and also through education. We need to be able to get enough schools in the country, and we need to be able to get a system where the nation is tracked through the schools, so that they can think better and can help themselves even better. We have to come up with some short-term economic programmes so that persons are able to be employed, and we have to pay a lot of attention to small business – small business is the way to go, and if we can develop that industry, I am sure that in the long run we will reach exactly where we want to go.

How would you describe Jamaica’s progress on Caribbean integration?

I do not honestly believe that we have reached as far as we should have in Caribbean integration. Possibly it’s a matter of personalities, and everyone wants to hold on to their territories as such, and a number of persons don’t seem to be able to able to give as much as they ought to – because when one integrates, somewhere along the line, the power, the hold on certain things is not as great. It’s going to take a lot of work – we are nowhere near where we need to be. Passing policies is one thing, but enacting these policies in the various countries is another thing. We have really not gotten to where we want to go at this stage. It is my hope that big men and women will see that this needs to be done, and has to be done, and they will continue to work at it.

 

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