2nd Place Essay: Jamaica At 51 – A True Democracy?

In today’s Monday Musings, we feature the second of the top three entries in our Independence/Back-to-School Essay Competition as our  posts.  The 2nd place essay was written by Mickella Anderson, a lower sixth form student at the Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls. 

2nd-Mickella Anderson
Flanked by her teacher, Samuel Derby, 2nd place winner, Mickella Anderson, receives her prize from diGJamaica.com Content and Community Specialist, Tracey-Ann Wisdom

August 6, 1962, the National Stadium, Prime Minister Bustamante decked out in formal wear, 20,000 people looking on in much awe; this was the scene that marked the commencement of Jamaican independence and the movement from colonialism to self-government. For many of us, that moment when Union Jacks were lowered and the Jamaican flag unveiled for the first time symbolised new beginnings for our country. We became an independent nation, to be governed under a system of democracy in which the people had power to choose their leaders. Fifty-one years later, with the country is on the verge of political backlash, one may now question the faithfulness of Jamaica as a true democracy. Indeed, general elections are held in order to have the people put their leaders in power and our laws are in limits set by the constitution. However, other than election day, the voice of the Jamaican people remains very limited, acceptable action in regards to their plights is seldom taken by leaders and it seems the only way to be heard is to stage onerous protests and plead to the authorities.

The term ‘democracy’ is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually by periodic elections. How much of this is true of the Jamaican democracy? Certainly, the supreme power is in no way vested in the people. Yes, we are able to choose our leaders but what happens after the general elections, do we still have the supreme power? According to the official blog of diGjamaica.com, in an article entitled “Is Jamaica really a silent democracy?” posted in December of last year: “unless a referendum is called or a by-election is held, the voice of the masses is reduced to a whisper with the most vocal of us venting on the airwaves.”  The blogger then goes on to lament on the fact that our nightly news is laden with cries for justice, basic commodities or just a listening ear from the relevant authorities. In recent years we have seen Jamaicans march, block roads and even chain themselves together in Half Way Tree Square in demand of their right to be heard, a right which is essential for the formation of public opinion and is the cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests. Attention is only given to these plights when controversy strikes, which is in no way true of a democracy.

At 51 years old, our country is globally known for its undying dynamics of culture, beauty and people. We are a nation of greatness and under a system of democracy, the public voice ought not to be so often overlooked. Our leaders must now take a step forward into public intervention to ensure good governance and to safeguard the future of the Jamaican people.

*Note: Essay has been edited.