Op-Ed: If Matters Go Wrong

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By David P Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

If matters go wrong in a free society, it is in the public interest that a free media exist to provide the public with information that the public has a right to know. This is particularly true in the case of young democracies like Jamaica.

Without a free press, a Westminster model of government might get away with cover-ups, theft, murder and other high crimes and misdemeanours. The Turks and Caicos’ media never abandoned their duties as watchdogs of the society. Now, four TCI ministers have been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation into corruption. The Rule of Law still governs in the Turks and Caicos.

Jamaican elections have traditionally been passionate, hostile, divisive and bitter. Some general elections have resulted in the acceptance or rejection of ideological tenets.

The 2011 general election offers no such opportunity. The issues this time are raw, bold and big: violence, hunger and justice.

The biggest consistent issue in Jamaica is the lack of economic opportunity. Many young men in their early 20s have never had a job, and know that they may never have a job if they vote for the Jamaica Labour Party. Some of them have turned to gang violence to support themselves.

Many of those who describe themselves as black urban Jamaica Labour Party supporters are themselves out of a job. Many look at their white and Chinese counterparts, who seem to be doing very well. Is the JLP still the party of the privileged few?

It must be said, however, that West Kingston residents will not forget the 2010 massacre of their young, unemployed urban residents. The flower of Tivoli youth lies dead in the May Pen cemetery. Who will argue their cases? The Coroner?

Without a free media we would not be able to make a record of these issues. The Jamaican public does have the right to know.

After ruling for four years, the JLP does not have an IMF deal in place. There is no money to do government business after the election. Is this pragmatic or catastrophic? Can a country striving to be ready for a post-colonial identity be so economically chained? Is the relatively free press properly articulating the debt burden issues to the electorate?

Urban violence is a fearsome prospect in Jamaica. In 2010 the JLP supported the interests of a narcotics strongman rather than extraditing him to the United States. Now the elections are being pushed through before he can be sentenced for the racketeering charges to which he has pled guilty.

The whole sordid Dudus affair has gravely affected the Jamaican political landscape.

Will Dudus affect the outcome of the election from his jail cell in New York?

David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.