Winning Essay: Jamaica At 51 – A True Democracy?

Over the next three Mondays, we will be featuring the top three entries in our Independence/Back-to-School Essay Competition as our Monday Musings posts.  This week, we feature the 1st place essay from Danniel Brown, an upper sixth form student at the Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls. 

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Danniel Brown (left) collects her prize from Terri-Karelle Reid, Brand Manager – Gleaner Online

Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the liberated and equal practice of political freedom. Democracy has numerous categories; however, it has two main groupings: Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which people decide policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then decide policy initiatives (Wikipedia). Jamaican politics belongs in the category of a representative democracy. Some of the main principles of Jamaica’s democracy, as mentioned by a Harvard publication entitled Democracy in the Caribbean (Domínguez, 1993), are fair, free and competitive elections between multiple distinct, political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights and civil liberties for all persons.

Since the affirmation of independence in 1962, Jamaica has been a democratic country in which the government has strived to listen to the voices of its 2.7 million citizens, each with the right to share their opinions. Freedom of expression is essential for the development and strengthening of democracy. Freedom of expression includes the right of every person to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas of any kind (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2012).The Government responds to the demands, requests, and pleas of its people by amending current laws and initiating of new acts.  The chief element of democracy in Jamaica is elections, through which citizens exercise the right to freedom of speech, as it pertains to public and political decision-making. However, the one-day election every four years is not the only medium through which the voice of the Jamaican populace is heard. Within the island are numerous unions and agencies and media houses which listen to the numerous complaints of citizens, then broadcast or petition for a change, such as the Jamaica Trade Union and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, which has catalysed the initiation of more than 45 acts collectively.

The impediment of the freedom of speech is not taken likely either, as recently, the chairman of a major media house confiscated the tapes of two journalists and the constant criticisms from a plurality of people, as well as the Press Association of Jamaica led to his resignation (The Gleaner, August 26, 2013). Protests are also a useful medium through which the grievances of citizens are heard. This method is often used by civilians who do not have a specific agency to represent them, such as the members of the Hannah Town Drama Group which led a march after repeated reports of child abuse (diGJamaica.com, 2012).

After careful analysis, it can indeed be said that it is necessary for change to be initiated within this nation in order to strengthen and develop it. Change in this country is initiated by the people, for the people’s best interests.

*Note: Essay has been edited.