The longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Jamaica (1992 – 2006), Percival James (PJ) Patterson has called for a new kind of leadership for the current era
Speaking virtually on a panel at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2020, Patterson read from his book titled “My Political Journey” saying: “The older order, the closed, distant and authoritarian systems of governance is being forced to give way to a structure, which is inclusive, responsible and accountable.”
Patterson was expressing the need to find a new paradigm for governance in the 21st- century Caribbean space.
He argued that there is a myth that society has adopted, that insists on ministers determining policy and public servants implementing. However, Patterson said: “I don’t know of any policy that has ever been developed within a ministry after the elections, where the staff of that ministry is not somehow involved in the evolution of the policy for that particular ministry.”
Patterson declared that if it is insisted upon that public servants implement without being apart of the formation of the polices, the execution process of rolling out such policies would be “subject to abject failure.”
According to Patterson, society is in search for the building of what he would like to call a “participatory democracy.” He described this type of system as one where the relationships between people and their government is not one that occurs only at election time.
The former Jamaican PM continued: “You must have a willingness to listen, to hear, to understand what people are saying and not always the telling them what they should do or what they shouldn’t do because unless there is an acceptance in the country which subscribes to a democratic society, you are going to find failure in the acceptance and execution of important policy guidelines.”
However, when considering the historical colonial influence on the leadership style of the Caribbean authorities, Patterson contended that when he revisits history, he realised that the extent to which Caribbean people were influenced and subject to an outside persuasion in their own development – this has cultivated what Caribbean leaders and people can do for themselves to a considerable extent.
Patterson also advocated for leaders who would take the time to from meaningful friendships with other leaders, noting that it was the failure of such a relationship between Eric Williams, Grantley Adams and Norman Manley that led to the failure of the federation.
Also speaking on the panel with Patterson, was Alissa Trotz, Professor of Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto and the Director of Women and Gender Studies. Trotz agreed with Patterson’s remarks concerning the power of leaders that listen, noting that it is “something that we seem to have lost in the Caribbean, we have a lot of, what we call in Guyana ‘hard earsness’ going on right now.”
Trotz also contended that the leadership paradigm in the Caribbean is deformed. She argued: “We are still dealing with the legacy of a deformed model of a heirarchical relationship between the rulers and the ruled and the leaders and led and even saying it in that way should sort of ask us to take a closer look at what it means to be Caribbean in the contemporary world today.”
Meanwhile, adding to the panel discussion was the former Attorney General of Belize Godfrey Smith who echoed the importance of Patterson’s comments on leaders cultivating relationships.
Speaking about this in light of the relationship with Maurice Bishop (former Grenadian PM) and Bernard Coard (former Grenadian deputy PM who shot Bishop), Smith said that when communication and trust deteriorates it “leads to abject disaster.”
Smith said in the past, the Caribbean saw an emergence of truly transformative leadership – he referenced, Manley as a political figure that displayed this type of leadership.
He noted that this transformational leadership came from the leader’s desire to transform the society in which they were domiciled to make it better for all people.