Month: September 2016

Simplify the words

Times are bad in Jamaica, and if they are to get better in the long run we will experience quite a bit of discomfort along with a bit of pain. This is something that quite a few have come to realise, either through slow evolution or a quick analysis, unfortunately that message along with quite a few others, seems to have missed the broader public.
That words have power is neither a new or surprising statement, how sentences are formed is crucial because that alone plays a major factor in  how people respond to a message. Take for example the situation surrounding free health and you will see why words and sentence structuring is so important.

We also see this in free education which in this sense means that a parent/guardian would not have to pay out of pocket at the school for his/her child’s education because it is state subsidised (hence the other less popular name state funded). Now when the average person hears free education, they automatically think that there is no cost to them, that they just receive and someone else pays. However when they hear state funded their whole outlook on it changes because the state funds things through taxes, which hit everyone (theoretically). Both statements mean the same thing, but give off a totally different vibe and politicians know this.

Oratory, the art of speaking is far more than sounding good. It is about getting people on your side, convincing them that you are right, or, crucially, obfuscating the true meaning of a policy. This is why from ancient Egypt, through to ancient  Greeks, to the Romans, to Machiavelli to Marcus Garvey put a premium on speaking, because words have power, they matter.

Jamaica is at a crucial crossroads, in a lot of ways more critical than in the mad era of the ’70s-’80s. With violence and the creators of violence no longer on the politicians leash, with multinationals and foreign powers keen to sclice us up, with international criminal interests flocking to Jamaica as they did before the arrest of Mr Coke and with politicians still with the same backwards thinking (for the most part), we can see how fragile our nation is. Most people see  this but can’t quite put their finger on the answer… and that is where words come into play.

Andrew Holness got the ball rolling in the ill fated campaign of 2011 when he stated bluntly that the nation would have to swallow bitter medicine before things got better. More however needs to be done in that vein.

Politicians and civil society must come out, and in plain english, with as little jargon as possible, tell the Jamaican people the truth. Tell us in plain english that the excrement is about to hit the fan, tell us that the nation is hanging on for dear life and tell us plainly that our very future and existence as we know is is at stake. But also tell us in the same plain language that there is hope. The future can be bright, that getting there won’t be easy and that most likely it will be our children who live to reap what we sowed. Tell us how it will be done and what it will take, level with the Jamaican people and we will not only listen, but actually respect you and follow through.

The Jamaican people are not dumb, we may not all be scholars or doctors of letters, but it you explain things to us in a way we understand, we have no limits to our potential (as seen by these kids who have not one day of schooling or apprenticeship but are making homemade guns). Level with us, talk to us in ways that we can understand, because to paraphrase Twins of Twins, it is our lives at stake and that is not a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So simplyfy speech in these formal discussions like the budget debates because if not people will misread things, and that hardly ever has a happy outcome.

Clinton bandwagon hides our demise

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections have us all captivated. Much like watching a car wreck one can’t help but to stare and wonder just how things got this bad. With the Republican party having nominateddDonald Trump as its candidate the majority of the world is howling with both laughter and fear at the Americans apparent utter stupidity. Donald Trump represents everything that the American progressive movement has been fighting against for almost a century, he is brash, un diplomatic, is not secure in his own policy, espousing racist rhetoric and the list goes on. One expects the majority of Americans to oppose Trump and vote for the alternative, it is even understandable that the American media glosses over his opponents faults because she is brilliant domestically, but I have a serious issue with the foreign media, namely in Jamaica, giving Clinton a bye because they don’t like Trump. No one does but that is no reason to not investigate Clinton because her presidency would spell ‘interesting times’ for the region and the world.

First off let me state that I have no beef with Mrs Clinton and believe that domestically she will be a world better than Trump. But I don’t live in America, it’s domestic policies don’t affect me, but it’s foreign policy does and that is where I take issue with her. Let me also state that I don’t care about the Republican ‘scandals’ leveled against her prior to her taking official office first as a senator and then as Secretary of state, those are the only timelines that concern me.

During that timeline, Mrs Clinton firstly voted for and then vocally championed the Iraq war. Yes folks, this darling of the American liberal establishment voted for a war that not only did the majority of world leaders, intelligence chiefs and common man stated was built on non existent facts and just plain lies. Now you may say, she was given faulty information during that vote, and that is accurate, but why then did it take her years to publicly condemn the war? Why did she for years continue along the line that while the information was faulty (made up) the war was justified? Lest we forget, the war was illegal, a war of open, naked aggression in order to secure mineral rights, in short it could and can never be justified and yet for years she did.

Her time as Secretary of State as it relates to America was a success. Mrs Clinton ensured that the world got the bad taste of G.W Bush out of there mouth, attempting with some success to repair America’s damaged reputation. However a hawk will always be a hawk as was plainly seen in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Back in 2009, poor Jamaica, a nation in so much debt that it isn’t funny scuppered a multi billion dollar deal to sell the port to the Chinese.

Rumors flew as to why the deal was scuppered, in the end thanks to wikileaks, we learned that the state department (Clinton’s realm) contacted our government and made it clear in no uncertain terms, that the Chinese should not acquire the port because it ‘harms the U.S. national security’. Now let that sink in for a minute, the woman who Jamaicans feel is a godsend has no problem letting Jamaica rot just to shore up American hegemony, good for America but bad for the world.

Then we get to the coup in Honduras. The farcical coup that ousted a democratically elected government always looked suspicious, but again, thanks to leaks, we get to understand that the state department (again Clinton’s realm) gave tacit approval for the coup and blessings to the coup plotters. Again a democratically elected, progressive minded government was ousted because they refused to play ball with the U.S. Now we have the typical Latin American dictatorship, with rights severely restricted, the environment raped and lest we forget, the wanton murder of key members of the indigenous population. Success for America in cementing hegemony, bad for the regiondas it looks like manifest destiny is back.

Those events at the state department could have been put down to having American interests superseding everything else, and while I don’t like it (because the state department policy directly affects me) I can understand it, all powers look to protect there sphere of influence, that is life. What can’t be, and still hasn’t been explained away, or even discussed deeply is the debacle that was Lybia.

Now one would have to be a good liar to convince the world that Gadaffi was an angel, or that he did not have despotic tendencies. However he was in control of his country. People were educated, people had health care, persons had jobs and persons with no job had a stipend. It is true that people were disappeared, but those who were snatched by government officials for a reason (usually dissention or being against Gadaffi) and persons hardly vanished without a reason (whether a good or bad reason, you knew why you were picked up).
All of that is gone now. The persons who had jobs are unemployed, persons with college degrees twiddle there thumbs for want of mental stimulation, the unemployed starve and persons are left to starve, on top of that there are warlords, two capitals and governments vying for power, in short it is a hot mess. 

The Lybian conflict shows the Clinton machine for what it is, uncaring to those deemed little or in the way of American interests. This was a prosperous nation, a recent convert to the U.S. gospel and a regional ally, toppled for reasons that to this day are not clear. The conflict was pushed by the state department and championed by Mrs Clinton as a sign of her toughness, Europe, which had an immigrant deal with Gadaffi’s Lybia may sing a different tune now but Hillary still believes the conflict was a noble and just war.

This is just a smattering of what she has done, we have not even spoken of the questionable (to put it politely) links between the Clinton state department and the Clinton foundation. This is a woman with a record and the record while good domestically looks pretty awful the further away you move from the states. She is a woman who believes in American exceptionalism and all the baggage that it carries, and quite frankly, in this global environment we simply don’t need that attitude.

So yes, Trump is an idiot, racist, sexist xenophobe man who is looking more like a fascist everyday, and yes he probably drag America back a few decades. But that is simply no reason to give this lady a free pass when it comes to media grillings. Many questions need to be asked of Madame Secretary, many things need explaining and her record needs a good and thorough going over, especially in the media that resides outside the United States. Foreign media needs to shine a brighter light on Mrs Clinton, not for any personal reasons or silly vendettas. They need to shine a light because this lady has a track record with foreign governments and will in all likelihood barring any massive kerfufles be the president of the United States, and that alone is reason enough to dig a bit deeper and ask the tough questions, especially those of us in foreign lands.

PNP folly

The dictionary describes pig headedness as willfully or perversely unyielding or being obstinate. One would be hard pressed to find a more apt description of the PNP and its leadership at this point in time. That is probably why Paul Burke made reference to the pig sty and squealing, because he knows subconsciously that the PNP has become a pig wallowing in muck.

Pig headed is a lovely appellation for the current opposition leader. What else does one call a leader who when reportedly asked for her plans in the event of an election loss said I am not a loser and ended it there, or a leader who when asked if she would step aside after leading her party to an embarrassing and unexpected defeat responds that she is not British. How else does one describe a leader who when faced with serious internal and external corruption allegations allows the hearsay and innuendo to fester like and open ulcer, waiting days to finally call for an enquiry that she then walks back on?

Pig headed best describes an MP and aspiring party leader who even after allegations of serious corruption, siphoning of party money and basic petty backstabbing (thoughh his name has never been mentioned in scandal) sees clearly and speaks knowingly of enemies of the party who wish to destroy it from within by chatting too much? Would the former finance minister then not report the corruption to the police if he were party leader, as he hopes to be? And pray tell are the enemies the ones making information public or the ones committing these alleged crimes?

Pig headed is an apt description for the PNP officer corps at this point in time as well. How else can one describe a group of people who allow for not one, but two massive corruption allegations to go un investigated? How else does one describe an officer corps that allows its leader to be totally uninformed about these allegations before speaking to the media (giving Portia the benefit of the doubt)? How else does one describe an officer corps that allows the party to become a by word for corruption and graft? Pig headed describes them perfectly.

The stubborn PNP chooses to pause the investigation before it begins as opposed to working in tandem with the OCG and MOCA and expects the nation to be pleased with that even though we as a nation are demanding more accountability, is that not pig headed? 

The PNP, as it currently exists is tainted goods, run by pig headed people who believe that Jamaica would die without it. It is a party of persons who you wouldn’t trust with a red cent let alone the government coffers. Trafigura was no one off, that much is clear now, what is also clear is that the PNP, the party of the people, do not love the people, only the money and positions of authority that they can wring from them. The PNP, the party of firsts, massive achievements and lofty goals has been battered and bruised by persons who have no notion of either patriotism or party loyalty they will do anything to stay alive even eat there young like the swine that they are.

The party of Fairclough and Manley is gone, instead replaced by a poor imitation run by persons not fit enough to lace there boots. That it is dead is sad indeed, sad because of the hope it represented and encapsulated right up until ’92, but we must realise that it is gone and act accordingly. Party rank and file members who have been taken for fools must demand root and branch change in the party, from leader to speech writer. It will be painful, it will mean a long spell on the opposition benches, however when the alternative is the total implosion of the party and the forming of a brand new party to contest elections (we all know how those stories end) it suddenly doesn’t look that bad. Hopefully, for Jamaica’s sake they can make it out of this quagmire, it would be a shame for such a rich legacy to be wasted and more importantly we need a stable and viable opposition, because if the ’90s taught us anything, it’s that Jamaica simply can’t function without a credible opposition to keep government on there toes. 

The PNP scandal, the catalyst for reform?

Mr Norman Horne the treasurer of the PNP has stated in a report leaked to the media that during the last election campaign, not only were there multiple campaign HQ’s but also quite a few senior party members and officials who received money did not turn it in. In other words, funds were stolen from the party during the most critical time. Now that some funds were stolen is unfortunately not surprising nor news worthy as most Jamaicans are of the view that politicians are crooked. What is newsworthy however is that the missing money could have been the difference between another term of government and there current status as opposition and more importantly that the party members have regards for nothing or anyone.

The PNP was formed in 1938 by leading intellectuals, scholars, social activists and political agitators for the benefit of the people and the party was seen as being accountable to the people as a whole. The party gained a reputation of both social upliftment and walking the straight and narrow even to it’s detriment as seen in the referendum and the subsequent pre independence election and the brutal dismissal of the four H’s despite there immense popularity within the party. Even during those mad decades of the 70’s-80’s the PNP retained the respect of the populace even if they did not like there politics, because they were honourable people who had a vision for the country, and that cemented Jamaica as PNP country.

That public goodwill and affection is gone, frittered away by corrupt politicians and there greed. This is no longer PNP country, nor is it JLP country… this is a country at a crossroads and time is running short. The public do not trust politicians, any of them, and this scandal though borne out of the PNP reflects badly on all politicians and aspiring politicians. And while the JLP may want to, and probably should gloat, it shouldn’t gloat for long because while people are willing to give Andrew a chance, they are not sold, for all the love he has, no citizen is willing to give any politician the kind of leeway that Manley through to Patterson enjoyed. In the event that he does blunder (knock on wood) Jamaica could very well implode and become the next Haiti, a fear that many persons including a former national security minister share.

The party needs to implement a probe and fast, the party must be held accountable. It is heartening to hear Simpson-Miller finally call for a probe (even if it is days late) and that the investigators can call on outside help, that will add a lot to the transparency and likelihood that this will not be a whitewash. However a probe is not enough, when complete the party leader and it’s hierarchy must resign, or at least make public there timetable. That a party goes from seemingly running smoothly for eighteen and a half years (strictly electorally speaking) to then imploding in the span of three elections is insane. That the party twice got caught up in corruption charges is unimaginable and blame must be laid squarely at the feet of the party leader and all of the officer corps who are either complicit to the corruption or have totally abdicated any responsibility in party matters. That may, I repeat may save the party from total destruction.

However more than a report is the need for the report, at all stages, to be made public.

The party need to have full public disclosure and an independent auditor must have a look at there donations book, because this is no longer a PNP matter. This stoped being a PNP matter the second PNP General Secretary Paul Burke made allegations of bribery when contracts were being finalised, and lest we forget, bribery is still a crime, no matter how common place it is. The fact of the matter is one of our largest loaners, China, is highly embarrassed by this because Jamaica is at the center of there Caribbean push and any negative noises here will affect them regionally. More importantly however the world will be watching. The world will be watching to see if we have the stomach to make our people pay if they break the law, and they will be watching us closely.

It is clear that the PNP in it’s current state is rotten to the core and riddled with internal conflict, it makes the JLP of the 90’s look like a sound and functioning machine. It is clear that Trafigura was no accident now, and the party has some serious questions to answer from both the public and there party members who have been made to look like fools and burkes (pun intended) by association. Renewal is no longer a maybe, it is a must and it will begin one way or another, starting with this. The PNP will face quite a backlash and possibly a long exile, they should use this as a tool to change from within because if they don’t they will become more than the joke they currently are, they will become irrelevant.

Prison woes

Jamaica has two major prisons, one, the Tower Street Correctional Facility (G.P) in downtown Kingston, and the Spanish Town prison in St Catherine. Both prisons are over one hundred years old and look the part. They are pest riddled, overcrowded, dilapidated and filled with inhumane facilities like the infamous bucket latrine. They are in short not fit for purpose.

Not fit for purpose. We keep hearing that, but what is the true purpose of a prison? Some think, and truly believe that prisons sole purpose is to keep the bad guys away from the good guys, to be a warehouse for criminals where they are either forgotten about or treated in ways that would be unimaginable on the outside. That however is not the purpose of prisons, not in the sense that we know it and it hasn’t been viewed that way for some time. Prisons are there yes to house criminals, but not so that they can be forgotten, but instead so that they can be rehabilitated and made fit for society and able to meet it’s demands upon there release.

We in Jamaica currently have the backwards view on prisons, and we have the prisons to show it. We however act surprised when persons who enter prison for minor charges but are generally decent persons end up leaving prison as learned criminals with a heart hardened to the state, authority and those who he perceives to have allowed him to suffer such conditions. In short we are surprised at the fruit that is bearing, the shame is that it is we as a society who planted the poisonous seed that has now been blossoming.

Prison instead of being a holding cell for societies unwanted and undesirables who are treated like dogs should be a rehabilitation center. What that means is that in the prison, a man who for example is in there for paradeal larceny, should be taught to farm. It means that persons who enter prison with no subjects should be educated so that when they leave they can make an honest living. Rehabilitation means that persons are taught skills such as welding, construction, tile laying and plumbing so that they don’t have to rely on crime to survive on the outside. Rehabilitation means that prisoners are given constant counseling and pych evaluations to see why they are so angry and how they can better control it, counseling so that they understand why they are in prison and that what they did was wrong.

Jamaica desperately needs new prisons to meet the demands of our local criminals and for the hundreds of deportees who, statistics tell us, will commit crimes. Unfortunately the state is skint and the party that currently forms the government scoffed at the prison deal that the British were touting. They should, if they really care about Jamaica and wish to make a lasting dent in crime should along with the opposition sound out the private sector for funds.

Jamaica’s private sector may not like to admit it, but they are awash with capital. Jamaican companies make up some of the wealthiest in the Caribbean and are in sectors that could be utilised in the rehabilitation program. The Jamaican private sector may be more than willing to listen, especially since they seem to have woken up in the past fifteen years and realize that crime has a negative effect on the economy.

Whatever the answer to the prison question, it is one that should be high up on the agenda of any political party that wishes to form or currently is in government. Crime is far too high, and while catching criminals is good and prevention is better, keeping people caged in conditions that most upper St Andrew persons wouldn’t keep there dog only makes the few and the caught even more dangerous, and that my friends is counterproductive, not rehabilitation and leaves us in our current state.