Current Affairs

Current Affairs




'One Jamaica' is PM's priority

By Lynford Simpson, Staff Reporter
Jamaica Gleaner
Thursday, October 31, 2002

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at work in his office just before an interview with Gleaner reporters on Tuesday. - Rudolph Brown/Staff Photographer

THE UNIFICATION of Jamaica has been listed by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson as his No. 1 priority before he demits office during the current People's National Party administration.

Also, he wants to be remembered as a person who "helped to contribute to the building of a single nation that is united, peaceful, prosperous, living in social harmony, enlightened, educated and well-equipped to hold its own as a nation in the global environment".

The Prime Minister made the comments on Tuesday at Jamaica House, while speaking with senior editors and reporters of The Gleaner, his first public interview since the October 16 general election which saw the PNP returned to office for a fourth consecutive five-year term.

Said Mr. Patterson: "The most important thing for me right now is how do we bring together all the people of Jamaica Government and Opposition, private sector and public sector, elected representatives and non-government organisations, community and religious leaders."

The aim, he said, was to have a "unity of purpose" and to remove "all the sources of social and political tension that have managed to impede our progress".

He emphasised: "I believe very strongly that the most formidable challenge right now is that of creating one Jamaica that spans the divide of politics, of class and of colour".

The Prime Minister stressed that as a democracy, the Government was not seeking unity in terms of the democratic contents that were necessary, but in the "strategies and policies around which any nation in our situation must have a cohesive and coherent approach".

He said his quest to create one Jamaica had already started. Apart from a summit meeting with Opposition Leader Edward Seaga this Friday to discuss important matters of national importance, he had already begun to schedule a series of meetings with various groups, including the churches, trade unions and the private sector.

Special emphasis will be placed on the "Values and Attitudes" programme which he launched several years ago but which had faltered in recent times. He stressed that while the campaign was not as obvious in the last few years as at the beginning, the programme was never abandoned. He explained that he had sought to pursue the programme through several initiatives such as the National Youth Service, the social justice programmes and Operation PRIDE which were natural spin-offs.

Mr. Patterson argued that Values and Attitudes Programme was "bitterly attacked" and discredited politically when it was launched, and pointed out that the whole country had to unite around the message. Burchell Whiteman, the new Minister of Information, who will operate from the Office of the Prime Minister, has been placed in charge of the programme. Additionally, each minister will have a special role to play in the unification effort, through the series of "Live-and-Direct" meetings which were previously spearheaded by Mr. Patterson.

"I have said to all my Cabinet ministers that there are a whole range of issues in which we have to not just tell the people what we are doing but to involve them in the whole process.

"And as we look at matters like Constitutional reform, governance, issues pertaining to greater autonomy for the community I see us in a more consultative exercise than hitherto," the Prime Minister said.