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Former Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson Criticizes Western Concept of Democracy

BALTIMORE, Maryland Former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has lashed out at the concept of democracy as practiced through the self-serving prism of the West, “where the litmus test of a democratic society is determined by whether the leader, who is chosen in free and fair elections, is acceptable to Western eyes or subscribes to the precepts of a capitalist state.”

He was delivering the keynote address Wednesday at the opening of the four-day State of the Black World conference at the Baltimore Convention centre in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference is being held under the theme “Global Africans Rising: Empowerment, Repatriation and Healing.”

PJ Patterson and Dr Julius Garvey
Honorary chair of the State of the Black World Conference, Dr. Julius Garvey, a son of Jamaica’s first national hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, greets the Jamaican former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. (Photo Derrick Scott)

The former Jamaican Prime Minister argued that reliance on the Western scorecard would allow the perpetrators of the most reprehensible atrocities to “colt the game rather than permit our full examination of the past to be used in creating a realistic understanding of the huge obstacles which we in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America must remove to exercise our full sovereignty in the only planet which all mankind must share.”

In a wide-ranging address, the former Prime Minister told the more than three hundred delegates from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States, that “sound judgment is based on what you practice: not by what you preach.

“Where is the firm commitment to democracy by the powers that proclaim it, when Patrice Lumumba in the Congo or Salvador Allende in Chile, freely elected by their citizens, is assassinated by covert intelligence and replaced by brutal dictators who immediately gain endorsement and material support from the metropolitan powers?” Patterson asked.

In a clear reference to alleged efforts concerning black voters, Mr. Patterson lamented: “We find it incompatible with the assertion that in a true democracy every vote should have equal weight when legislatures in the Southern states of the U.S.A. – which still control their separate electoral systems – distort the popular will by the delineation of boundaries and the configuration of the voting process to effectively disenfranchise or disempower huge swathes of the population based on race, colour and class.

“Democracy cannot thrive where the rule of law does not exist,” Mr. Patterson declared.

A former legislator and internationally respected senior counsel at the Bar, Patterson bemoaned that “We are bewildered by the confusing signals on the “rule of law” and the independence of judges within the “separation of powers,” when we observe the exercise of the right to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and Federal Courts of Appeal, drawn exclusively from an ideological list compiled by an avowedly partisan group.”

Observing that “one President during a single term can appoint a majority to the Supreme Court and reverse decisions hallowed by precedent while his predecessor is blocked by the Senate from exercising the right to fill vacancies during his tenure?”

While pointing out that “We all regard the protection of fundamental human rights as sacred to any democracy,” the former legislator was quick to note that “we do not, however, concede that any country elsewhere can arrogate the right to unilaterally index their application within our domestic borders, in order to use its considerable voting power within international lending agencies to approve loans or funding projects for our development.

“Police brutality and murders can never be justified – it still was somewhat of a seismic shock to read that my country’s rating was being reviewed ‘because of the numerous reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings and complaints of abuse by the Police.’ – So, what of the United States?”  Patterson questioned.

While noting that he was deeply perturbed at this and severely deplored it he asked that instead of pontifications, the United States should instead “help us instead to prevent this.  Gun violence is now a public health crisis which breeds gangs and organized crime that threaten the security of the nation-state itself.”

He pointed out that Global Africa cannot remain silent or indifferent whenever there is a threat to the democratic process for its children or any impediment to their full development no matter where they reside – on the Continent, in the Caribbean, the United States or Brazil. “The 54 countries which comprise the African Union and the 14 nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have had their fill of the arrogant sermons that others know better what is good for us.”

He said “Global Africa must entail the full inclusion of the Diaspora and evoke the call of Marcus Garvey in 1920 to organize as one for the anti-colonial and civil rights struggles we face, no matter where we reside.  That is what this Conference is all about.  For us, as the legendary Peter Tosh reminded us – “Anywhere you come from – if you are a black man, you are an African,” Patterson concluded.

Among other persons scheduled to speak at the State of the Black World conference are Grenada’s Prime Dickon Mitchell, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey.

Legacy Award Recipients

On Saturday night, former Prime Minister Patterson, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, US Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee and Barbara Lee, as well as Jamaican-born former state senator from Maryland Shirley Nathan Pulliam, are among nine persons who will receive the organization’s Legacy Award.


South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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