If I had more than five minutes to type and think before my girl needs me, as well as some political theory literature, I would argue that the People’s National Party, as led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, is morally, ethically, constitutionally and even legally (although the latter two are probably a stretch) obligated to participate in nationally televised debates. How is that for a thesis?
Instead, the Prime Minister is refusing to debate until Opposition Leader and Jamaica Labour Party President Andrew Holness apologizes for “disgusting and disgraceful” references to herself. To borrow a term coined with regards to feminist theory, this is truly making the personal political.
The refusal is being regarded as an act of fear, with people speculating that the Prime Minister is too scared to debate the Opposition Leader. She has long defended herself from the stigma of being from a poor and uneducated background. But she last week dismissed those claims, stating that she has participated in the National Political Debate before.
In any case, this seems like petty politics. The people have a right to be as well-informed as possible. They have a right to know where their leaders stand. They have a right to see how their leaders perform under pressure. They have a right to see them think on their feet. They also have an obligation to participate in and encourage a healthy democracy by exercising their right to vote. This is all a Platonic ideal, of course. In fact, only about half of Jamaica’s population votes in national elections, despite what you see on the streets during rallies.
The Press Association of Jamaica is calling for the Prime Minister to participate, as is the opposition. And the people of Jamaica should too, as well.