“Can’t take the slogans … no more sweet talk from the hypocrites”

Written by Ross Sheil

Were he alive today Bob Marley – who sang those lyrics – might have welcomed the ‘week of prayer and fasting/no campaigning’ announced by People’s National Party (PNP) President and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Announced at the same PNP rally on Sunday July 8 where Mrs. Simpson Miller revealed the election date of August 27 in Half-Way Tree, St. Andrew, the week runs from Tuesday July 31 to Monday August 6.

Just as she has attempted to associate closely with the Church, her predecessors Prime Minister, Michael Manley and Edward Seaga keenly received Marley’s invitation to come onstage and symbolically join hands with him at the One Love Peace Concert held in 1978 at the National Stadium, St. Andrew.

In that period, between the 1976 and 1980 election, political violence increased to a level that threatened to destabilise the country and led then Prime Minister Michael Manley to declare a state of emergency in 1976, when members of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were detained without charge.

Three decades later many of the politicians active at that time are running for office in this election. Again political violence has reared its ugly head. As before, it is supporters from poor inner city constituencies that that have been murdered - their political representatives do not pay the same cost.

In Jamaica as in many political systems the personal relations between rival politicians can be quite cordial, albeit less so at election time; but at grassroots level it remains unfortunately, and sometimes violently, not the same case.

“O well politics is just tings fi keep the people divided and foolish, an’ put your trust in men y’know when none o’ dem cant do nuttin’ for you, because if you nah have no life, you don’t have anything y’know,” Marley once lamented of the political culture.

It is regrettable that with Election Day four weeks away both main parties disagree on the formalities of holding peace talks; rather than when and how many.

Politicians still use incendiary language in their rhetoric. They would be facetious to deny that addressing supporters from the campaign stage as ‘warriors’ and ‘foot soldiers’ is unlikely to encourage peaceful behaviour from the Party faithful.

Politicians can always talk of peace. Yet when asked if they could take a step further and support a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ modeled on that of post-Apartheid South Africa, Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair replied that it is unrealistic, given the prevailing political culture which deters transparency.

Although the political culture may not change soon, prayers for peace might be a start. Pray that when the result is announced on Election Day the politicians will have already lived up to one promise, that of a peaceful election.

Also on YouTube: Marley, Manley and Seaga at the One Love Peace Concert

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