Mr Joseph Patterson should be wary of history's contemptFriday, September 24, 2021
Back in 2016 when Mr Joseph Patterson and his United Independent Congress (UIC) contested the St Elizabeth North Eastern seat in the then parliamentary election, few had ever heard of them.
Mr Patterson, a chartered accountant who spent years in Canada, made headlines when he was invited to the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange prior to that election. There he told journalists of his commitment to the Jamaican nation and its people.
“I really could not live with myself if I do not do something to help my country,” he said then.
Mr Patterson told Observer journalists of his Christian principles and his vision of a revised constitution, which would include Jamaica's move away from the current monarchical system to republican status.
However, he believed that fundamental constitutional reform and other far-reaching changes, such as proposed for the contentious buggery law, should be put to the people's vote.
As it turned out, Mr Patterson and his UIC had no impact on the parliamentary election in 2016. He gained less than 100 votes in St Elizabeth North Eastern.
In recent times, Mr Patterson and his party have played lead roles in small protests against the authorities' perceived flawed handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Matters came to a head in downtown Kingston on Wednesday when Mr Patterson and supporters gathered at Ward Theatre and attempted to march on Gordon House, the parliament building on Duke Street. This was despite repeated warnings by police that no permission had been granted for such actions and that the law was being breached.
Mr Patterson and others were arrested, which, we suspect, they fully anticipated.
Mr Patterson and his followers have voiced concern that the authorities and the business community are intent on making it mandatory for all Jamaicans to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
We note, however, that while the pandemic — which has killed in excess of 4.5 million people globally — appears to be increasingly pushing some countries in that direction, that is not the current position of the Jamaican Government. Indeed, both Government and parliamentary Opposition appear to be at one, that making vaccines compulsory would be foolish at this time.
Fear that mandates are coming, fear of vaccines and the unknown, religious beliefs, and the numerous negative stories about vaccines are clearly motivating those supporting Mr Patterson.
Yet, he will be well aware of the preponderance of evidence that vaccines have hugely reduced the incidence of sickness and death among people who have contracted COVID-19. Countries with high levels of vaccinations are reopening their economies and getting closer to pre-COVID-19 behaviour even as they maintain protective protocols.
Jamaica, which now has more than 1,800 deaths from COVID-19 since March last year, needs to get to a high vaccination ratio as quickly as possible in order to ease our extreme socio-economic crisis.
Mr Patterson said Wednesday that he and his supporters “are not anti-vaccination or pro-vaccination; we are pro-choice [seeking] to defend the rights and freedom of all Jamaicans…”
The trouble is, his actions could be read to mean he is merely a political opportunist seeking to further his ambitions on the backs of poor, ill-informed people. If Mr Patterson is not careful that's how he will be remembered.