Category: Jamaica

Don’t blame China, blame local governments for the perceived bad deals

Jamaica has had a long history with colonialism and economic exploitation, be it slavery and the British or the neo-colonialism imposed by the US, Jamaica has had a horrid experience when dealing with outside powers. With that in mind, recently over the past decade, we have been hearing an ever-increasing warning that the Chinese who have been heavily investing in this country may have sinister motives and that we are blindly walking into a debt trap and neo-colonialism as seen in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

These seemingly paranoid persons have some sound arguments and in many ways are correct to sound the warning bell. The Chinese after all, do have deals in which part of the payment they receive is a parcel of prime land, and it is also true that in some cases where the host country can no longer manage the venture that the Chinese step in and legally seize the asset (be they ports or hydro-electric plants). The Chinese also as is readily evident have no problem making deals which are clearly one-sided or on the shady side but I think that these persons (who are doing a service by keeping us vigilant of a possible debt trap) are missing something which differentiates the Chinese and their practices from those of say the British in Argentina or the US in Central America.

The key thing here is that though the Chinese may negotiate one-sided deals if the chance arises, they will also re-negotiate said one-sided deal if the other nation so wishes. A matter of fact, most projects which are done by the Chinese are not borne out of the Chinese imagination but are simply funded and built by them. Example, the Chinese did not think up the proposed highway between Harbour View and Portland, but they are funding it and building it. If the highway is unprofitable or ends up being a white elephant that’s not on China, that is in fact on our local planners who would be responsible for China getting even more of our land as is the case in Sri Lanka.

Greece, while it was going through the depths of its economic trauma, sold many state assets (including ports) to foreigners, Chinese included. After SYRIZA swept to office their finance minister had a look at the contracts and realised that they were one-sided, and in a major way. After informing the Chinese counterparts that the deal was a no-go China re-negotiated the deal. Think about that, rather than sitting on a legal contract which gave them an unfair advantage in a key economic zone (economic imperialism) the Chinese chose to re-negotiate the deal to something more favourable to Greece.

That does not strike me as the kind of behaviour a budding empire would display, rather it would seem to be the kind of behaviour a businessman displays. You have something to sell, they want to buy it, let’s do a deal and if you don’t like it re-negotiate, that is a pattern seen in many countries where the Chinese have done business. The Chinese have renegotiated with Greece, Malaysia, Venezuela, Argentina, South Africa and literally dozens more nations, so if they are willing to renegotiate these deals and shy away from economic imperialism what really is the problem?

There are two problems so far as I can see and both are rather disappointing when one really thinks about it. The first is that China, the PRC, governed by the party which gave us Mao and Deng is more than happy to do deals which are blatantly one-sided and at times engage in shady deals. This is disappointing because I would expect China to behave better as many nations and persons look to it as a beacon of third-world rags to riches and revolution and this behaviour tarnishes that reputation. The second factor which is most disappointing (if it does indeed pan out) is that our government or any for that matter wouldn’t attempt to re-negotiate these deals especially in light of the other nations who have.

The problem on the Chinese side is both out of our hands and being dealt with by the Chinese authorities (see the heightened and extended crackdown taking place now), what we need to do on our side, the side of the person taking the money, good, service or infrastructure is to ensure that the deals are made in a transparent way void of pork belly, and actively push to renegotiate deals which are potentially more harmful than beneficial. If we go about making deals in that manner, then it would be extremely difficult to end up in unfair deals or fearful of the debt trap while also enjoying much needed foreign infrastructure investment.

With the MOF recently coming out and stating that the debt owed to the Chinese should be repaid within a decade one can only hope that the GOJ continues to strike balanced deals with what can thus far be called a most reliable partner. This news, while it should be welcomed by those who have consistently warned against the debt trap should not be the end of it. They should remain vigilant, continue to warn against the very real dangers of the debt trap and ask for transparency with ALL contracts and deals done with foreign governments and companies and demand renegotiations of the deals when/if they are found to be to our detriment.

So make the deals where we have to and ensure vigilance, that’s all we can and should be doing. Haranguing the Chinese for looking out for their own is pointless and condemning our government without demanding renegotiations is fruitless. Let’s aim for that as we seek to finally upgrade the country in ways it hasn’t been for some time.

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JAMAICA NOT IMMUNE FROM THE FAR RIGHT

The past few years have seen a massive surge in support for far-right, crypto-fascist politicians and parties. Election results from India to The Philippines, from Germany to Italy and most notably the USA in 2016 have elevated candidates with reprehensible ideologies to the highest offices in their respective lands.

This trend has continued in Brazil as the Hitler-praising Bolsonaro resoundingly won the recent second round of elections in that nation. Such results have naturally caused many to ponder seriously what is going on in the world that could cause so many people to act in such a reactionary way, and locally the question on some persons’ lips is, could such a politician succeed here?

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IF WE MUST PRIVATISE…

Privatisation is a phrase which is not alien to Jamaicans, a phrase which seems to constantly sit on the tongues of our elected officials, especially ministers. It is an activity which has a deep history in this nation as JPS, Kingston Wharf, the airports, the sugar industry or even the transport sector can attest to. It is a word which is heavily loaded emotionally as it naturally means that the State loses control of an asset and one feels a serious dent in pride when a nation is forced to sell off its assets, especially prized ones. Now, I am no fan of privatisation. If things were my way the State would own outright or have a controlling stake in all major sectors (finance, mining, agriculture, transportation, telecommunications) but the economic realities of Jamaica are such that what I wish remains just that. Loss-making assets and assets which are bulky with their overheads and maintenance need to be shed at this point in time so that the ship which is the Jamaican state can be righted. I understand that fact and can grudgingly acquiesce to that dreaded action, but where I draw the line is when these entities are sold off solely to foreign companies…

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Hypersexualisation and rape, two different issues which must be tackled separately

The recent rape and murder of a fourteen (14) year-old girl in Kingston has again sparked heated discussion in Jamaica and the diaspora about what can only be called our epidemic of sexual violence. The actions against the minor have elicited the same outcries as others before, we have everyone condemning the perpetrator(s), demanding better protection for our children and reinstatement of the death penalty. Unfortunately, what has also been brought to the discussion table is the supposed issue of how the child may have been dressed and the provocative outfits worn by the current generation and how they (unwittingly) invite this kind of assault.

Unfortunately, as disgusting as it is, that talking point is a very prevalent one when discussing sexual assault/abuse, especially when involving children. It is a common touchstone, oftentimes reaching the heights of victim blaming, but it has no bearing in any sexual assault case and most especially one involving a child as the two are totally separate issues and should be talked about as such.

Rape and sexual abuse/assault are illegal actions, punishable offences which carry prison sentences, a child dressing in a belly-skin and batty-rider is a parenting matter, a woman wearing a see-through crop top is a dress matter. The last two have nothing to do with the first, one is a crime and the other is a societal matter regarding hypersexualisation; The two, though they may intersect, are totally separate matters.

There is no justification or excuse for rape and sexual assault/abuse regardless of the victim’s sobriety level, location during the act, or style of dress. There is no understanding, or another side when it comes to these matters, especially when a minor is involved and making such excuses and using such talking points is as I say is a form of victim blaming.

Let us not view the two as the same coin only different sides as they are not and if we tackle them as such then this madness will continue. The rape culture we have in this country (and don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have one) is based on many things. How our young men are raised, how they are raised to view women, how they are raised to deal with rejection and many more things. What it is not caused by is a teenager ‘acting sexily’ or a woman wearing a revealing outfit, the fault, blame and cause lie squarely at the feet of those who commit acts of sexual violence.

If we are to deal with this epidemic of rape and sexual abuse, then we must address how we raise our young men. We must teach them that no means no (even if it is during a passionate consensual embrace), we must teach them that just because a woman says no to you does not diminish you as a man. We must teach them that just because a woman dresses in revealing clothes or acts provocatively does not mean it’s a green light for sex. Until those issues and others like it are dealt with we will always be experiencing this trauma.

The issues surrounding the hyper-sexualisation of children and that of broader society, that is the dress norms of the day, fall strictly in the realm of the personal and the immediate family. How a person dresses, be they man, woman or child is not the business of society at large (baring the excesses such as public nudity), rather it is an issue to be dealt with within the confines of that person’s home. These personal choices have absolutely no bearing on if a person is sexually abused and should never be used as ways to reason away, make sense or justify what is a one-sided crime.

For heaven’s sake, if the moral police have an issue with the way people (and by people, I mean women) dress then they should start petition groups and try to get laws enacted (good luck on that front). But to even think of conflating how a person, let alone a child dresses and why they have been abused is a disgusting red herring and must be called out.

If how a person dresses ‘invites’ sexual abuse if that is really the line which we are taking, then why are we not warning our men who wear saggy pants and also those who wear close fitting pants that they are potential victims of our imagined homosexual predators? We don’t do that because it is a stupid argument of victim blaming, coupled with the fact that we dislike gays whom we perceive to be molesters and rapists in the waiting. That is more proof that we don’t respect our women and have a serious problem when one thinks of rape and sexual abuse (if its gay then kill the abuser but if it is hetero you make excuses). It must stop and we all must recognise and accept that sexual abuse and rape are crimes and only the criminal can be blamed regardless of the victim’s age, how they were dressing or their sexuality and until we get that simple basic premise then this sick culture will only continue and become even more warped.

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF TOURISM PROFITS

Jamaica is a land with many riches and quite a few rich people. However, the country remains desperately poor. It is a land where the biggest net earner is probably the illegal drugs and black market trade followed by remittances, then tourism. We are a people who are, in short, dependent on the grace of others for our food.

This is made all the clearer when one gets to understand that the vast majority of the major hotels, which are the major money, see their profits going abroad as the majority stakeholders have no real ties to Jamaica (infrastructure excluded of course).

That is not a good place for any nation to find itself. It simply cannot continue as such without a massive breakdown, which would result in a state of living which we cannot even begin to fathom. Something has to give!…

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Cornwall Regional Hospital. It’s bigger than Chris

With the recent scandal at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), the nation is up in arms. Persons are foaming at the mouth, rightly so, wondering why individuals -doctors and patients- were forced to occupy a hospital which was in such a bad condition. Persons are incredulous and rightfully demand to know why the information (while made public) was not broadcasted better. There is amongst all of this the demand that the relevant minister (in this case Dr Tuffton) be reprimanded, fired even for what looks like a shocking dereliction of duty.

Now it is true that as the minister of health this debacle is his remit, it is also true that as MOH he would have had first-hand information as to just how bad things were at CRH; however I feel that persons who are calling for his head are failing to see a big picture and how this crisis could benefit us (the people) if used right.

The bigger picture in all of this is that of collective responsibility, one of the few good things which we have in our governance structure. Collective responsibility, or Cabinet collective responsibility, in simple terms means that while the individual minister may personally disagree with a cabinet proposal, once it is taken they must all show collective unity on the issue. Collective responsibility is supposed to be one of the safeguards of this Westminister system and yet we see it constantly ignored as seen in this issue (and countless others).

Collective responsibility means that instead of the PM going AWOL and leaving it to the object of the peoples hate, he would speak on the issue as he is not only a part of, but heads the cabinet. It would mean that the MOF would speak on the matter, not only because everything passes through that ministry, but also because he is a part of the cabinet. The fact is that something of this nature would have been brought to the entire cabinets notice (the papers show the MOH allocating funds from last year) and nothing was done. One is left to assume that they all agreed to just sit on the matter as none of them would be going there for treatment anytime soon.

This is a matter which is much bigger than Mr Tuffton in my opinion as it strikes at the heart of one of the things so wrong in Jamaica. This is a matter quite frankly bigger than simply the JLP, as too often we have had ‘youthful exuberance’ and millions of dollars wasted on non-existent bridges from both green and orange. Each time these things happen the leaders and remainder of the cabinet vanish and the minister is left as the scapegoat, that is a scenario begging for corruption. Either the entire cabinet was privy to what was going on -in which case they all need to answer starting with the PM- or Tuffton was withholding critical news from his team members and we should be told of this gross infraction (unlikely as the AG was in the loop).

Going after the health minister alone in this scenario would lead us down a path we recently trod with the Jubilee scandal. The minister apologises, takes his licks and is moved to a dead end ministry. We saw this played out during the Patterson administration and we saw it during the Golding/Holness administration, nothing has changed for the better in those two decades. This is so, in my opinion, because the cabinet (but mainly the PM) is safe in the knowledge that regardless of whatever happens, the relevant minister will fall on their sword to save the administration from the wrath and glare of the public (akin to throwing a dog off the scent).

There is no reason why they can not or should not uphold something as crucial yet simple as this. It is, after all, not a concept alien to anyone in either of our two dominating parties both of whom practice some variant of democratic centralism. Is it a case where party rules and norms trump that of governmental/cabinet regulations?

That, in my opinion, is what we are facing in the big picture and what must be fought against. We must not let our raw emotions rule us and go solely after Dr Tuffton (though he does deserve special treatment), we must ask the administration the tough questions. Who knew what, and when did they know it? We must demand not only the health minister fall on his sword but other high flying cabinet members who must have or should have known.

To call for the fall of the administration is a bit too harsh, even for me, everyone should be given some scope to grow (or hang themselves). To insist that more than the MOH be pilloried is not, however, and much precedent has been set it all of our Commonwealth and Westminister brethren. It is high time that our governing elites realize that they have responsibilities, and one of them is that they all must be on the same page as it relates to policy and actions taken. They must also realize that failure to live up to those responsibilities have real and serious consequences, for all of them. If we fail to hold them all to account now for this then we can expect the next administration to continue along the same path, a path that is clearly leading nowhere.

Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Jamaica is falling apart, anyone who has eyes can see this. If one looks past the high-rises, BPO centres and car-marts (all shiny new things) you get to see roads in desperate need of repair, sewage mains no longer functioning and buildings in general disrepair. For example, when it rains roads flood and people have to swim in the business district of this nation, the state can’t afford to purchase cars for the police and as seen over the past few years the hospitals cant even get funding to ensure patients and medical staff aren’t exposed to dangerous conditions.

It is normal, almost reflexive in these situations to blame the government (or in our case the two incompetent parties). It is normal to cry for blood and demand that something is done about the injustice. It is normal and even correct to say that the decades of mismanagement by both parties (though one party did have a longer time at the wicket) have led to the nation being at the breaking point where even the bare basics now seem to be failing us. It is normal to feel this way and demand justice but we must understand that today, the persons who really have control over what is done is not the governing JLP, it is instead the IMF.

Let us be honest, politicians may be liars, they may be thieves and they may say asinine things, but they do enjoy being elected. So how is it that the party which was swept into office with the help of the scandal at Jubilee and all of the ills which face the nation, and still continue to do (or not do) the same things as the last administration which was embarrassed at the polls? This is so because, in spite of what the PM may want to have us believe, he does not run the country he simply takes directives from the IMF.

The facts are that since at least the last administration tax revenues have exceeded initial projections. The facts are that since the last administration we have had a budget surplus of at least 7% and sometimes higher. The fact also is that we cant spend that money, not because we don’t want to, not because we have nowhere to practically spend it, but because the IMF has stated that those monies be used to pay off our debt (a debt which almost all agree we cant hope to pay off).

This piece is not here to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the IMF or to say that Jamaica’s politicians have always been hindered by this institution. If one wishes to criticize IMF policies and where they lead one can look at the pieces written on the Philippines and Indonesia (both of which are still crippled by their IMF flirtations), and if one wishes to look at how local politicians have sold us out and raped us (financially) they can read the numerous volumes in UWI and Gleaner archives.

However, the situation today is that even if our politicians wanted to change their ways from that of rapacious highwaymen to nation builders and lay some social groundworks they couldn’t, because the IMF regulations are so stringent and limiting in their room for manoeuvre.

Social groups who are lambasting the government for underfunding institutions though well-intentioned are barking up the wrong tree. Persons and movements which demand money be put aside for housing and other areas are looking to wrong people. And the opposition which says they will do more for the people in these areas speak lies as they know that the boss won’t allow for it. The situation in which we find ourselves in today in this nation is that of two parties who do basically the same thing ( implementing austerity measures), and even if we were to get a party who wanted to invest heavily in the state couldn’t because of outside forces.

It is a Greek-like situation, where national politicians are simply enforcing rules passed on from their financial (and therefore political) masters. We simply must get rid of the IMF as a force in this nation if we truly want to advance the country. Only then will we begin to have a government truly accountable to the people and therefore (in theory anyway) able to properly invest in the nation. Then politicians will no longer have the excuse of saying ‘the surplus cant be touched’ as hospitals are evacuated for want of maintenance and upkeep. Then we will actually be able to discuss things such as what to do with the currency without the heavy hand of the IMF and its single-minded mission (that of neo-liberalism) barking in your ear.

For those who are paranoid that the state may once again go back to its old wasteful fiscal days, being rid of the IMF would actually be the test. It would show if we did, in fact, learn, because if we haven’t learned how to manage our economy do we really deserve independence (as being under IMF programs is basically signing up to be a protectorate).

Right now whenever we complain and moan about our politicians, whenever we demand that they actually use the cash they have on the nation it is akin to the burning of effigies. Nothing has ever come from burning effigies (or for my Christian friends sacrificing to idols), for a real change I say again we must start with the removal of the IMF. We must be debating on alternative forms of international finance, we must be debating on serious land reform, a housing program and the nationalising of key industries. All of those can only be successfully tackled and debated in a realistic manner, but only if we are rid of this behemoth which currently dictates just how much can be spent (thus greatly limiting the number of programs which can be implemented or institutions refurbished).

The world today is not the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, finance and means of getting funds are no longer solely bound by the Washington consensus of the IMF and World Bank. With the BRICS Bank now up and running and with the Chinese AIDB also underway one can see where, with creative policy, we could actually fix infrastructure and implement the long overdue social policies. There are ways in which we can get out of this mess without tightening our belts to the point of disfigurement, avenues we could force our politicians down, but we cant do that with the IMF calling the shots. If we really are to stand any chance of changing this country for the better then we must begin by calling for the exit of the IMF.

Low voter turnout – A real opening for third parties

Low voter turnout – A real opening for third parties

Jamaica is built on the Westminster system of governance with a first past the post model of elections, it is a system of governance which, in spite of its attractions has many flaws and drawbacks, the chief one being the fact that it seems to always end up with two parties monopolizing power while strangling third parties. This can be seen in our politics and its domination by the two ‘grand’ old parties, the PNP and JLP respectively which have made up our governments since ’44 while destroying anyone or thing that could even hint at subverting their party dominance. Both parties predate Jamaican independence (very important note), the PNP, in fact, is so old that it even predates universal adult suffrage in the island, these parties are so woven into the national fabric, synonymous with historic events in the country that it seems almost impossible to dislodge them, but I keep maintaining that the time is now more favourable to a third party than ever before.

It is true that in many ways, whether by deliberate design or by shortsightedness, the Westminster system is highly disadvantageous to third parties, evidence of this can be seen in almost every country which uses this model. However, it is my opinion that the door is wide open for any third-party which is strong, organised and coming with answers to the pressing questions facing the nation. The third party can become a viable option in the Westminster model, this is evidenced in Canada, Australia and even the UK. These nations are home to traditional parties who usually take the premiership, but they have third parties so strong that there have been times (in the very recent past in some cases) where these third-parties have formed the government either in coalition or in whole.

The UK, the home of this parliamentary model has a history saturated with third parties, the most famous of which is the Labour Party, which went from a minor irritant in the 1890s to the running of the government (albeit briefly) in the 1920s. In more recent times the UK has seen the resurgence of the Liberal party (ousted historically by Labour) which was in a coalition government with the Conservatives and the SNP (Scottish National Party) which has overthrown the Labour party in its traditional home of Scotland. These parties, though differing in policies and influence have one key thing in common, they all emerged as viable contenders by offering actual alternatives.

Canada is much the same, home to two traditional parties who ruled the roost (Conservative and Liberal) it has a thriving third party (as seen in the last general election) which was formed and continues to gain momentum (and lose momentum at times) and votes of the disillusioned elector who felt that the traditional two parties no longer represent them and their needs. The same pattern is seen in Australia and to some extent New Zealand, we see where third parties have come from seemingly nowhere to become real power brokers and have the ability to craft policy which the people require/request.

All of these cases though different in major cases all have one common point, the third parties which were successful and long in life (at the ballot box) managed to successfully exploit disillusioned voters. In the UK the Liberal party was re-born as the party of kind capitalism to successfully whittle away the voters who were disgusted with what was then seen to be a ‘radical’ Labour party and a Conservative party which was in constant turmoil. In Canada, the New Democratic Party has managed to retain a sizeable voter bloc by scooping up the left-leaning voters who have found no home in the two major parties.

These examples and points I feel should be looked at very closely not just by ones who create third parties but also the media houses which have long abandoned the idea that our two major parties are capable of salvation.

Ones who create third parties must realise that they are either in for the long haul or they shouldn’t play the game. Modern third parties which are of any merit all come from humble but deep roots. The Liberal party of the UK after being wiped out by Labour never lost itself as an entity. They simply moved from active politics (representative politics) to agitating and campaigning, keeping their name in the voters’ mind through active boots on the ground, pamphleting and visiting local councils. The New Democratic Party in Canada is even more interesting as it can trace its origins to both the Canadian labour movement (which has always been strong) and the provincial Labour-Farmer-Socialist parties (which actually held the provincial legislature at times).

With a voter turnout continually declining and with MPs getting majorities with a quarter of the eligible vote one sees where the door is wide open for any party which seeks to represent the people. These parties and persons who gravitate to them must understand and accept that they are playing a long game, and that benefits and electoral gains will not be immediate. They must understand that the elevation to political office may take decades but they must slog on regardless.

The openings are there and are many as the state has failed its people in so many ways. Communities are for example left to rot and forge their own paths as most local councillors seek to simply draw a cheque and reap the perks which come with local governance. Aspiring political parties could, for instance, provide the voice which the communities have been lacking. They could visit communities and provide them with a political education (grounding sessions), they could lend the communities assistance in creating functioning organisations which can interact with their local councillors and MPs and they can engage in school feeding programs. These groups can even engage in community building the Muslim Brotherhood model, which was most successful in cementing them as the most popular individual party, of school feeding, education, job sourcing and community beautification.

All of these avenues are open in this nation, a nation I repeat, where voter turnout is in the low 50s, where the major parties no longer have anything resembling a good reputation and where the state has literally abandoned certain citizens. All of this is fertile ground for any third party, but they must put in the work and play the long game.

With a people who are literally disgusted with politicians and anything remotely attached to politics, third parties must expect rebuffs and rebukes. They must expect to be greeted with scepticism and questions of how they will use them (the voters) and they must press on anyway. People will be cautious and sceptical of something new, only when the aspiring party has proved itself to the persons that matter, the people, that they are serious about their concerns. But when the acceptance comes electoral victory is in sight because you will have what the major parties seriously lack, and that is the trust and belief of the people. The possibility of third-party success is there, it is just for the patient and dedicated to grasp for it now.

The continued state of emergency. Is it another waste of time?

Crime in Jamaica, especially violent crime has reached a fever pitch. It has gotten so bad that the (slim and always fleeting) gains made after the Tivoli debacle, that is to say, the drastic reduction in murders, have been lost. We see this year on year, and it reached near its maddening heights last year by going over 1,300 murdered. Things have gotten so anarchic that the criminals are able to freely murder in midday, in a crowded street and walk off. As a result, the people are naturally terrified, and the government always looking forward to the next election have now found it wise to call a state of emergency.

Some citizens see this as a blessing, they say that killing these brutes and thugs is the only way to bring peace to this nation. It is an understandable reaction as people are scared and feel that they may very well be the next victim, but the implementing of this SOE, at this point in time and in that particular place (St James) seems to me like a massive waste of time, and that is putting it in oh so polite terms. Many questions need to be asked, and these questions I fear are not being asked because we all want to have a quick (and preferably sexy) end to this crime problem.

The first obvious question is why St James as opposed to Clarendon or Westmoreland? The official line is that St James recorded (and looked like it may break it again) the most murders in the nation last year (which is true), but so does Clarendon (which recorded 168 murders last year). The truth which we all know, and really are a bit ashamed to admit is, St James was chosen because the government could hardly let the golden goose (the tourist industry) feel the pain.

The second question is why just St James, why not extend the state of emergency? When I look at a map of Jamaica, I see porous borders in the parish of St James, I see parishes (St Ann, Hannover) which already have a high crime rate and who rely on the same crime. The logical thing in my point of view (if you have to go that route) would have been an SOE for Cornwall, that at the least would have cauterized the outflow of criminals (who I am very sure have buggered off a-la Tivoli and ZOSO). The criminals who have managed to flee the dragnet will go on and continue to scam and traffic drugs, they will continue to be a blight on the nation. This is so because persons have a vested interest in looking like they are taking a stance against the criminals and going no further, they aim to protect the tourist industry and the crime bosses.

We also have to ask what the follow through will be, are we going after the business communities, politicians and security officials who fund and protect these gangsters (who are after all pawns in the grand scheme of things)? Will those who have knowingly done business with criminals (the lawyers, money traders and jewellers) be held to account for their wrongdoings and crime by-proxy? The answer after a couple of months is no, it is simply a roundup of the usual suspects, the footsoldiers, runners and of course innocent people at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In other words, it is poor people who have been rounded up and pushed into lockups in such numbers that they have to be sending some to Kingston to ease the burden. The imposition of the state of emergency in St James has been a waste of time just as the ZOSO was a waste of time (though the ZOSO idea does have some merit if implemented properly) and the proof of this is borne out in both the ever-increasing murder rate and the extension of the state of emergency into North St Catherine.

Everyone knows that Jamaica’s problems took decades to reach this height, it did not happen overnight. Years of politicians funding and benefiting from gangs, years of businessmen funding and benefiting from gangs have placed us in this situation. Decades of the state abdicating its position as guarantor of security, failing to provide an environment for decent jobs and a reneging on the promise of education have led to criminals filling the void and extricating them will not be an easy or short feat.

Tackling crime will mean many things, some sexy and some boring but all aspects are important. It means having a fully trained social service so that the neediest are assisted instead of falling through the cracks. It means taking restorative justice seriously, training the people and providing the buildings from which they can work. It means locking up the scoundrels in high places who continually fund and benefit from crime. It means providing decent education, housing and prospects of a job. Those are the hard, boring bits which need to be done if we are to truly curtail crime, implementing a state of emergency, though sexy, is only useful insofar as it allows the state to provide the remedy unimpeded.

I fear that the state and the people are not ready for the hard work, they still dream of a quick fix and the yearning for Adams coupled with the partial state of emergency in St Catherine shows this. Until the hard work is done in tackling crime these grand actions will always be a painkiller trying to cure cancer. We will get there eventually, more and more people are coming to realize that harsh measures alone won’t cut the muster, the question as always remains how many more will have to die before we do the hard work?

Jamaica, marching to rebellion

Jamaica is in dire straits, with an economy that barely has a pulse, violent crime touching almost everyone, corruption rife and the people’s morale low, we can see where this island is looking into the eye of a hurricane. Things are made worse by the fact that we have two political parties which can ill afford to change a system which sees them directly benefit from the violent crime and the rampant corruption. Something has to give, something will give, but the question is what will take its place when the dust has settled?

Jamaica, whether we admit it or not has planted and lovingly grown a tree of anarchy, we are living in a state where rules don’t apply and those unfortunate fools who do follow the rules get buried. The people’s morale is at an all-time low and that now leaves them open and willing to accept any and everything (as seen with the JLP admin and its policies), they are desperate. They will be all the more desperate when the policies of this admin have their impact on them and then a nation that is both desperate and low on morale will be open to rebellion.

This is not wishy-washy talk, nor is this yearning for some ‘glorious and beautiful revolution’. The historical steps taken by this nation are in lock-step with others who have only wound up at revolution, the fact is that if things keep going as they are then it will happen. The odds are it probably will not be tomorrow, but the grass is dry and there are many sparks. As it relates to ‘glorious revolutions’ there is no such thing, one could fill many a tome with quotations stating things such as ‘a revolution is not a dinner-party’. They are violent, messy and pits man against man, however, it is necessary and it is where we are heading.

The evidence of us heading down this route are all around us and they have in fact intensified over the past few decades. Take for example the political and social elite of this country who are (and have been for some time) totally out of touch with the masses and their everyday realities. This is a group that has been living high on the hog for the past fifteen years while the average citizen has had to face what can only be called austere measures. This group which consists of bankers, manufacturers, large farm holders and politicians have all during the past decade and a half been getting fat at the trough while the unemployment rate in the nation gallops along. The lack of understanding is so lacking that the economy is seen to be doing well because of the opening of some BMW dealerships while the residents who live a stone’s throw away can ill afford the light bill. In a land where the most pressing issue at hand in the houses of the elite is if they will have issues going to the US on their Jamaican passports (as they are dual citizens) while the poverty rate creeps back to the 20% rate one can safely say that the seeds of rebellion have been planted.

Another harbinger of revolt is the total apathy of the people, and in Jamaica, we have a people who are bathed in apathy. This is a nation where murder no longer shakes us, it has to be dramatic, medieval for us to get talking about it. We are not surprised by corruption, it takes $200 million going astray for us to sit up. We are no longer shocked by police brutality, it now takes a pregnant woman being shot for us to talk about it. The apathy is a deadly harbinger because it shows a people with no hope, and if you have no hope its only a matter of time before you realise that you have nothing to lose and that something must change. A person in that situation who feels powerless and oppressed by a harsh system is always open to the idea of rebellion.

The spectre of rebellion is in the air, one only need look at the elections to see that the nation is in a deep state of unrest. The last two general elections have seen the PNP being elected in what could only be described as a rout on the promise of reform and then proceeded to lose in the most drastic way to the JLP who also campaigned on wholesale reform. Though the outcomes of those two elections were different (one with a supermajority and one with razor-thin lead), both were notable for their low voter turnout. The low voter turnout was made all the more interesting by the fact that in those elections some ‘die-hard’ seats, not garrisons, changed hands showing that even the dyed in the wool voters were switching allegiances. Such actions are always the sign of a restless and desperate people, and such people always rebel and revolt. If such anaemic turnouts coupled with the apathy of the people continue then that creates a situation ready for any charismatic strongman who claims that they can reform the system.

If one looks at the security forces one also sees where rebellion, again while not imminent, punctuates the air. The new NSC with Chief of Defense Staff and the proposed powers to be vested in the revamped JCF are alarm bells in a nation where a large portion of the people already feel that if the armed forces were in charge we would have some semblance of discipline. Things become even more touchy Officers (for altruistic reasons) are moved into the civil arena, they either become enamoured with the corruption and are just as bad, or become disgusted and act. This becomes a more dire situation when ex-army and policemen even in anger/jest float that possibility as an avenue out of the madness we currently find ourselves in.

The citizenry (outside of the regular voters) are also speaking in terms that are usually followed up by upheaval. Many are the individuals who have absolutely given up on the state and are going it alone, many are the individuals who, while not criminals, do react riotously to state intervention. They may be considered ‘vagabonds’, ‘squatters’ or ‘homesteaders’, whichever label you give them, these ‘poor unwashed masses’ are the perfect breeding ground for actions and activities that may very well rend the state apart. They can be seen in the small cliques and communities, some religious and some secular but these groups which have such a sceptical view of the state already should be worrying to those who fear for further instability in the land.

The clergy can also be seen as playing a crucial role in the ever-increasing rise of the rebellious fervour in the nation. The church has long been of the opinion that our leaders need to ‘come together and sing kumbayah’ so that we can right the wrongs of the nation, but in recent years we have moved past that stage as even the church is waking up to the fact that the system is inherently rotten. We hear them now no longer praying for our leaders to be divinely touched, rather they now call for full-fledged divine intervention. Divine intervention is no joke, it is a call of a desperate people who realise (or rather feel) that the prevailing system is so oppressive and strong that a mere mortal cant end the madness, only a God can stop the corruption. This is always a ringing bell for rebellion because it only then becomes a matter of time that a fanatic whips the people up into some zealous/righteous fervour a-la Iran, or the people flip the pages of the bible and see that God only helps those who help themselves. When a desperate people find knowledge such as that, that is when one knows that the barricades will be manned shortly.

Rebellions and revolutions are usually begun by some innocuous thing, an action which the heads don’t think will result in any massive sea change. Who would have thought that a man’s simple self-immolation would lead to the toppling (directly or indirectly) of four governments? Who would have thought that a relative few troublemakers on the streets of would lead to seven years of civil war? Desperate persons do desperate things and are more often than not spurred to action by a seemingly simple action. The state and powers that be have had ample time (two decades) to stem the ever-increasing tide of rebelliousness in the people and they have all failed. The people are cowed, scared and undereducated, some would say that that is a recipe for continued stagnation, but all people have a breaking point and it is clear to anyone who has eyes that our breaking point is fast being reached, what the aftermath will look like is anyone’s guess.