Lambert Brown, Guest Columnist
TODAY WILL mark the tenth full day since the inauguration of Portia Simpson Miller as the seventh Prime Minister of Jamaica. Already her critics have taken out the long knives, they are examining and assessing every single word that comes from her mouth. They are even prepared to quote statements out of context if such will support their point that she is not competent to be the leader of our country. No other prime minister has ever faced such scrutiny in such a short time. Yet, Portia faces life, undaunted by her critics, while gaining greater support among the people. It seems that for each unjust criticism made against her, she gains an overwhelming amount of goodwill among the general population of Jamaica even without campaigning for the same.
Last week, I attended the Rehoboth Apostolic Church in Portmore. It was a service of thanksgiving for the 35th anniversary of the University and Allied Workers' Union (UAWU). Prime Minister Simpson Miller was present and gave a stirring appeal for co-operation and partnership by the churches, employers and trade unions to help her tackle the problems of crime, unemployment and other social ills facing the country. In that speech she also stated that she was not perfect and that she will make mistakes, however every morning and every night she prays to her God for guidance. Even at that moment on Sunday she was clearly declaring that she is but a mere mortal like all those present and hearing her speak.
Such humility on the part of one clothed with the enormous power of a Jamaican Prime Minister was admired and earned her great respect among the congregation. Not so, however, from some of the opinion makers of Jamaica who did not hear the full speech, and did not bother to ask someone who did, what was said and in what context?
In Jamaica, facts and research do not seem to count for much among some people. Many opinion makers seem to be part of the herd, following blindly without making their own independent evaluation of situations. Just think, if Jesus had walked on water in this time of sensational media reporting, what would the headlines and talk shows be reporting? I suggest rather than extolling the positive and the strength of walking on water, the headline would be "Jesus Can't swim". Thereby the media would be choosing to see the negative side which is always present in any situation. Thankfully, Matthew in the Bible chose to report on the positive nature of that experience, despite the presence of the naysayers.
I well recall how I was condemned about a speech I made at Goodyear about a decade ago. No one sought to determine the context or impact. The herd mentality took over then. Research and facts went through the window. It made good theatre, but in the end, was much ado about nothing. I survived the unjust criticisms and my social stocks nationally have increase many fold. Even some of those who condemned me then, now hold me in high esteem. Yet, I have not changed.
The unfortunate thing is that our opinion leaders have not learnt the lesson that a lack of balance in criticism is more a reflection of their own ignorance rather than the perceived stupidity of the persons being criticised. Just as good steel is tempered by the intense heat, so too I believe Mrs. Portia Simpson Miller will be tempered and made stronger by the hot criticism, constructive or otherwise. She showed that during her party's presidential race. These first ten days have therefore been good for her.
Every day, each of us is faced with choices whether we realise them or not. Keeping our mouths shut instead of sharing with the police information that could reduce crime is a choice we make. That little nine-year-old girl in Hanover who, along with an adult were shot because they made an alarm against men seen setting fire to a church made the right choice. For that, she paid the price of being shot and possibly crippled for the rest of her life. All of us in this country owe her an eternal debt of gratitude. She has shown us courage. We must, as a nation, turn her into our little hero in the fight against criminal marauders who have law-abiding citizens cowering in fear every minute of the day. Lets us take care of her and make sure she gets the best medical attention available anywhere in the world. She is like the little boy who kept his finger in the leaking dyke to save his village. Lets us all be like her, making the right choices, speaking out against wrongs and seeking for the righteous path.
How do we make choices in this country? Do we count the personal cost and do the wrong thing still or should we do what is right no matter who gets upset? The latter approach is the one that I think is best for our country. I detect in her first 10 days that the new Prime Minister is embarking on that road. This is what I see in the effort to name religious personalities to government boards. I read in that an attempt to tackle the corrosive problem of corruption. She seems to be willing to take action where others prefer to talk and gripe about problems. Too, how many of us prefer to forget the problems and curse and condemn those willing to make solutions their goal.
CHANGE IN THE MOOD
In the last two weeks, I am detecting a change in the mood of the country. There is a great willingness on the part of many of our citizens to be positive, and more so, to participate in finding solutions to the chronic social problems ailing our society. They are clamouring to be given a chance to be part of the new and better Jamaica that they have hoped so long for. It is on those wings of hope and positive vibrations that Portia Simpson Miller has soared in her historic turn at the control during the first the days. Many see in her the potential of changing the 'old bus', just as Mikhail Gorbachev took the wheels of a decrepit bus in the Soviet Union and liberated that country from a stale and entrenched party hierarchy. People know that a good leader can make a world of a difference. The coming days and months will reveal to what extent their dreams will become reality. The last ten days confirm that the people are waking, waiting and willing to work with their expected empowerment.
Lambert Brown is President of the University and Allied Workers Union, and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.