Month: July 2016

He who fights and runs away

The dust has settled, just as it did ten years ago the situation finds Mamma P as the last contender left standing. That is not to knock Dr Karl’s attempt to wrestle the presidency from Portia, it would be great if he won and implemented the plan that he has. It would add vim to the party and allow for a frank.discussion on ideology which the party desperately needs 

However as things stand Portia looks set to hold on to the presidential pulpit one can’t help but feel truly let down by the young Turks and sensible elders who the party desperately needs.

That Peter Bunting would not run this time around because of ‘party unity’ is total hogwash. That he a former senior cabinet member and minister, a former General Secretary of the party should essentially hand the presidency to ms Simpson-Miller because he is not sure he can get the delegates shows that he puts party brownie points above the nations interests. Peter Bunting has been shown to be nothing more than an opportunist who is willing to let the nation go without a credible opposition because he can’t read the party tea leaves and foresee a guaranteed victory.

The Turks who made up who made up the quasi rebellion against the establishment have also been a letdown. That they could so eloquently state that the party is in danger of becoming a farce and is ideologically bankrupt and then sit back an allow almost all the party ‘stalwarts’ retention of there posts is just sad. That they too, a group that has age on its side politically would not at least try and shake things up is yet more conformation that the youth waiting in the wings to takeover politically are just as bankrupt as there elders, although kudos must go to the Patriots and some of the Y.O who are calling for an almost wholesale reform.

The public will not forget this, the public will also act. To retain not just Portia but also the rotten old guard makes any victory at the polls unlikely, without a clear and coherent ideology and plan for the state and people they will remain in opposition. The PNP should take note of recent history and the JLP from 89-07 and remember, even if the government is incompetent, if they do not like the opposition then that hands victory to the incumbent. The PNP would do well to learn from that as they could well slip into the same rut and with the times we are living in it would be a Herculean task to get out. 

As things stand the competition is over for now, but when the time comes when Portia rides off into the sunset the Turks will find it harder to sell themselves as having the mettle for the job, they ran away, and cowards never win in politics just ask the NDM.

The slow death of Europe

For the past eight years Europe has been in crisis mode, by Europe I mean all of continental Europe and do not solely mean the EU. Europe has seen serious economic crisis’, political upheaval and serious violence and basic social unrest. With all of this going on can the Europe that we know of today remain as it looks to be tearing apart at the seams.

The Europe that we know of today is historically an anomaly, with no major wars for seventy years Europe has enjoyed one of the longest periods of peace in memory, mainly because of the U.S. backed NATO. This however seems to be changing as NATO nations such as Turkey openly saber rattle, shooting down Russian planes and engaging openly with nefarious characters in the Syrian-Iraqi conflict. The recent attempted coup will also lead to a purge of the military and leave it ultimately more in the hands of a leader who looks like he is drunk on power to put it mildly However NATO is not the only shady actor when it comes to military actions that threaten current European existence.

Russia over the same period has been flexing its military muscle, be it cyberwarfare in Estonia, routing Georgian forces or the land grab that was the Crimean incident it is clear that Russia is back to being a major player when it comes to the military. Some may say that the Russian incidents were all reactions to NATO and US intervention in the Russians backyard but that is the point. Even if they were reactions to provocations (which some clearly were) that shows us that Europe is a gunshot away from a major calamity, that is made all the more realistic when one remembers NATO is about collective defence, if a Turkish jet is shot down by Russia we can realistically expect a NATO and thus a European reaction.

Europe as a society is also splitting apart at the seams. With a migration crisis of there own making and with an economy that is tanking (taking into account the eurozone) we are seeing groups popping up everywhere demanding independence. The Scots are testing the waters as it relates to independence after the brexit, the Catalans are also demanding a referendum on independence in Spain and if they get it the Basques will surely demand one too thus killing off Spain as we know it.

We also see a deep societal split amongst both the people and there governments, but also regionally (western standards as compared to the standards in the old Soviet bloc) and has given rise to extremist groups and far right neo fascist groups all the way from Holland to Poland. The rise of the far right especially in a European context is always a harbinger of doom and destruction and history backs that up.

Finally we come to the violence, the open and obvious area of the slow demise of modern Europe. With a violent attack almost every month in a European city we see the nations respond by hunkering down and militarising the streets. We see them rightly or wrongly cracking down hard on certain religious groups and ethnic minorities as diverse as arab to African. The militarising of the police and the state as a response to the violence as opposed to common sense approaches (such as travel bans for suspected terrorist sympathizers, re schooling them in Islam and the Quran, stop taking advantage of the middle east) is only hampering them in the ‘war on radical Islam’ but is also a threat to European security. 

With many nations still having historical grievances against each other, and with the rise in the far right, nationalist rhetoric and the splintering of the eu it is I believe only a matter of time before Europe gets involved in some major internal conflict. Some may say it it too farfetched an idea, but so was WWI at the time, though with hindsight we can see the fault lines. The same is happening here, and be it a NATO shot, Russian shot or Kosovon shot, Europe will see a violent change and will look radically different when the dust settles. 

The devil and the deep blue

Refill your popcorn and find a comfortable position to sit in, election season is not over yet. With Europe and the Caribbean all doing it and giving us surprises we now have the humdinger we have all been waiting for, the US presidential elections.

The primaries are over and we have our presumptive nominees, and boy what a choice the Americans have. In the republican corner we have real estate mogul Donald Trump. Now what can be said about the Donald that hasn’t already been said, he is boorish, brash, poorly educated on foreign relations, belligerent and could be slightly insane, and that is without him stating any real policy.

The fact that he has won the republican nomination is both a surprise and expected. A surprise because who could have thought that in today’s politically correct world that a man espousing such open vitriol could get the  nomination? However it was expected at some point in time, the republicans have long planted the seed of hate and divisiveness and it was expected to bite them in the rear, I just didn’t see the Donald coming and giving it legs.

While the republican option is bad, the democratic nominee is not really any better. Step forth Hillary Clinton a woman who has more scandal than a supermarket, a woman who broke the law then lied for months about it, a woman who has never met a war she didn’t like, a woman who is way too cozy with big business and a woman whose foreign policy led the US to further destabilize north Africa and beyond. 

That is a lot to chew on, but that is what America and by extension the world have as it relates to choices for the US presidency. The two most unpopular candidates, the choice is the devil and the deep blue.

It is sad because the election up there will affect the world. Trump for all his bluster is an unknown, he could be doveish if he maintains his isolationist stance, but then his bluster and saber rattling could lead us into WWIII. His open racism and disdain for immigrants could have an acute effect on the Caribbean. Hilary on the other hand is a known candidate, she is a hawk and buys wholeheartedly into the ‘do it at all costs and damn the consequences’. She is not afraid to lend weight to coups and threatening activists either as her ‘masterstroke’ in Honduras shows.

This election provides two terrible options for the region on a whole, with Trumps anti immigrant posture and isolationism, if he is elected we can expect a wave of returning residents who have made the U.S. home. If Clinton is elected we can expect more pressure from the white house to tow the American line with our abandoned port deal with the Chinese.

America this is what you, we have. A man who at the very least is an ultra nationalist versus the very embodiment of the political system that is eating away at your democracy and the worlds safety by extension. Regardless of who wins the world loses and we will slip ever closer to a new dark age, this time with nuclear weapons, we may not see light for some time to come.

Banana republic

The Caribbean has a long and cherished tradition of democracy and the peaceful change of government. Apart from Grenada with the Bishop government which overthrew the mad Giary, Jamaica in 1980 and the attempted coup in Trinidad things have been smooth. Even Guyana saw a somewhat peaceful transition to democracy after the death of Burnham, it is a tradition we hold dear especially as so many commonwealth nations were affected by ‘ravenous dictators’.
Things and times change however and the noises coming out of the current administration leaves one wondering if we are to become a banana republic?

The recent utterances by minister Montague has one wondering what he was thinking. As far as I can tell a case of manslaughter is an example of a non capital offence whether or not a gun is involved. However if the minister gets his way then manslaughter with a gun would be a capital offence while manslaughter with a knife would still be non capital.

That is just the main glaring hole in minister Montagues plan, the other holes are, is it constitutional and then will parliament amend the existing laws? 

That alone would be tolerable to a public that is scared of the drastic rise in murder, but then the attorney general saying that rights will have to be infringed along with governments stated commitment to give the police any and everything ‘needed to fight murder’ you have to wonder if we aren’t cruising towards the stereotypical banana republic?

This coupled with the budget for national security becoming need to know, and only cabinet will need to know according to the statement, will mean that the police and military will have the potential to be above the law, especially since a state security officer (army or politics) who kills someone in the line of duty faces a non capital charge.

Now I am not saying that the JLP wants to lead us down this path, I believe that like all previous administrations they are overwhelmed by the size of the crime and murder issue and are scurrying like hell to find what sticks.

That they are looking for solutions is noble, but once we do this there is no going back. If we infringe on peoples rights now then it will be easier for someone to do it for malevolent reasons. If we give the army and police special powers and continue with it, then somewhere down the line the dog will wag the tail and some ambitious group of officers attempts to seize power.

We have seen this game played elsewhere in the region and it always ends badly.

The answer to the crime problem is simple yet difficult. Get the guns, get the criminals, a less congested court system, committed social outreach are things that can be done without infringing on peoples rights if the people set there mind to it. All it requires is some backbone by the people to tell the police what they know and for the state to reform the police force so that people trust them.

The route the government are talking about could very well solve the crime problem but that again would be a hollow victory. The die would have been cast and the precedent would have been set and that would leave us open to bad actors and persons who wish to use the state for nefarious purposes. Crime needs to be corralled yes, but it will take time to fix as it took time to create, hopefully those in charge will have cooler heads outside parliament. If not we will look back on these days when personal liberty was sacrificed for security and mourn.

Are we mature enough to do a Singapore?

Everyone in Jamaica loves to compare us to Singapore. With roughly the same size population we got independence at roughly the same time as well, Jamaica however differed in that our economy was more stable and diverse than that of Singapore. Now the roles have reversed and the Jamaican economy is in the tank, we hear people talking about the Singapore model, but I ask, do we really have the mindset for that?

Singapore may at first glance seem like a paradise, an orderly place, almost a utopia where differing races and ethnicities reside in harmony. But that is a facade, and one that not even the government of Singapore believes.
Singapore as we know it was born out of a tumultuous marriage with Malaysia. Always more important than the rest of the country what with it (Singapore) being one of the gateways to Asia since the British ruled the waves, Singapore sought  a way out of what was a love less marriage.

Singapore however had a few problems, with such a small nation, reliant on one business and bringing together so many differing ethnic groups those that ran the newly independent Singapore knew that they had there work cut out steadying the ship.

What they did while not pretty was effective. The two main parties merged to form one and for the next fifty years the nation was for all intents and purposes a one party state. Discipline was also the order of the day, with minor infractions being met with stiff and severe punishment (up to recently Singapore rigidly imposed a no chewing gum policy). With such a wide array of persons from different ethnicities the state found it best to become a quasi police state in order to keep a lid on what had in the past been a strained relationship between the people.

Education was also given a shot in the arm. As a trading nation and one with limited resources the state decided to maximize what it had most of, its people and provided them with a world class education that they now reap the benefits of.

Long spoken of is the delegation visit to Jamaica. Yes that visit sparked the imagination in Singapore but what they did was amazing. No longer just a trading behemoth they are now also a financial hub, an educational mecca and a tourist hotspot, all this mainly because they invested in education strongly and provided avenues for business growth.

Another genius move was forward thinking as it relates to investment. The Singapore leaders knew that those who spend beyond there means are rarely wealthy let alone successful and that a state can’t run smoothly without proper infrastructure. As a result of a state spending wisely, saving where it can, investing in infrastructure and insisting that persons save persons in Singapore now enjoy a first world standard of living.

Corruption is also something that is taken seriously in that nation, and is dealt with harshly. That is not to say that there is no corruption in Singapore, far from it, but instead of dealing with it as a nine day wonder they prosecute and follow up. All of that work now sees Singapore as one of the least corrupt places and with that ranking comes more foreign investments.

What I have mentioned barely scratches the surface, Singapore is successful for many reasons. However with the reasons listed above one has to ask, do we as a nation have the discipline to do that? Can we as a nation accept hardship today for our children’s future? Will our political leaders humble themselves and acknowledge they can’t do it alone? Will we aim to curb indiscipline and lawlessness or will we allow it to reign supreme?

It can be done, Singapore shows it. It wont be easy, nothing is, and many will complain. But if Singapore, with no natural resources can rise from a strategic swamp harbour to a first world Asian powerhouse with under four million people we have no excuse. As the tasteful saying goes, it’s time to get off the pot or piss, time is short.