Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Farrakhan damns tribal politics - Rise above party politics and start thinking about Jamaica, he says
CASSANDRA BRENTON, Observer staff reporter
Monday, March 25, 2002



Farrakhan speaking at a public rally inside the National Arena in Kingston yesterday. (Photo: John Nicholson)

NATION of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, yesterday damned the tribal nature of Jamaican politics and urged the island's people to overhaul the character of governance in the country.

Farrakhan, in a public speech at the National Arena on the final day of a five-day visit to the island, made clear that the job of reform was not only for politicians but for all Jamaicans.

"The most important part of my presence here is the people -- the masses," the Black Muslim leader told the hundreds who turned up at the arena to hear his 90-minute speech. "Because what you need in Jamaica is the message that causes you to rise above party politics.... It's time you started thinking about the nation."

Farrakhan, whose father was Jamaican, is on his sixth visit to the island and his speech displayed a clear grasp of the social and political issues in the country, including the sharp -- even if increasingly less intense -- divide between the ruling People's National Party and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). He was also aware of the violence that is often associated with Jamaican politics, especially at elections.

Farrakhan rejected this idea of politics.

Said he: "The art of governance is the art of preservation and evolution and nurturing of human life. So when political parties want power so bad that life is surrendered in the process, something is wrong with our politics.

"When politics becomes so divisive that it divides a husband and a wife and divides children and parents, there is something wrong with that politics.

"Government is established for the purpose of the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and when government is not able to do that, then we have to examine the fundamental principles upon which our government is based and restructure it because now, Jamaica, you are more tribes than a nation."

Farrakhan during his visit held meetings with Prime Minister P J Patterson and JLP leader Edward Seaga, touching on some of the issues he raised publicly in speeches Friday night and yesterday.

His theme would have also taken added significance coming as the country prepares for general election this year and the regular quarrels between the parties over the partisan distribution of benefits.

"If you are the party in power you can't only do good for those who are in your party," Farrakhan declared. "You have to do good for the nation, otherwise you are nothing more than a tribal chief and time has outgrown tribal chiefs."

Drawing the words of the National Anthem as a backdrop from which to the attempt to goad Jamaicans into change for the better, Farrakhan said: "You sing, 'Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love'. Really!

"If you really love this land then you would not be doing, or allow what is happening to this land. You cannot love Jamaica and think of party over nation."

It would be a mistake, the Nation of Islam leader argued, for Jamaicans to believe that any government they put in office, in the current environment, could satisfy their needs. "And it's no use the politicians promising to you what they cannot deliver," he said.

Farrakhan's Jamaican visit also had a significance outside his public remarks about the island's politics.

He has, in the past, been accused of being an anti-Semitic, but on Saturday he joined Jamaican Jews at their synagogue on Duke Street in Kingston -- a development that is likely to have been noted in the United States.

Farrakhan told the Jewish congregation that there had been great misunderstanding and mis-representations of attitudes on the part of Jewish leaders in the United States.

"For 18 years I have tried to resolve the conflict between us and the Jewish community in America," he said. "Never have I wanted to see done to the Jewish people what Hitler did to the Jews."

But in overwhelmingly Christian Jamaica, religion did not escape his criticism.

"Here in Jamaica religion has failed. We have failed. I man knocking the church. Most of us are preaching for entertainment and money, but God will destroy big buildings," he said.

He also called on the Jamaican government -- with the support of the private sector -- to place great store on education and for teaching to also focus on providing people with information required to build self-esteem and self-reliance.

"Poor people can't pay for education," he said, "but government has a responsibility, with the business sector, to make sure that every Jamaican child is educated to the best of the government and the business sector's ability to produce it. This is a must."