Tag: corruption

Beware politicians bearing ‘change’

Beware politicians bearing ‘change’

Change is a word that is always on politician’s lips, change is something that most if not all politicians promise and it is so not just because politicians enjoy hearing themselves speak or are stuck in a loop, it is because most times a serious change is visibly needed for that political system. Politicians in Jamaica are not immune from this act and we have had our fair share of politicians who have claimed to be ‘agents of change’ or are here to bring in ‘a new style of politics’, we have had numerous politicians who have promised the moon and countless have insisted that they are here to change the system and yet for some reason we seem to be stuck even further in the mire.

While it is nice to hear a politician state boldly that he/she is going to shake up the system, in our case it has always been a case of ‘beware of politicians bearing change’ as the change in most instances locally almost always results in expensive stagnation or even retardation and regression. We live in a land where every election cycle is donned with political parties who criss-cross the island that they and they alone have ruled for sixty-six years insisting that they will change the damaging policies that they have wrought. This can be seen in elections and in governance, whether the politicians and party are new in forming the government or picking up where they left off, we hear constantly of change and yet things remain the same.

If we use the last three administrations we see where much talk of change was bandied about and yet, in the end, the nation and the people, for the most part, are worse off than a decade ago. Take for example the previous PNP government and the issue of ganja; here we had a party calling for a change, stating that the laws then were totally out of step with what was (is) the reality in Jamaica. However, the ‘change’ that they implemented was to simply decriminalise, in other words, the big change was to codify what the police were already doing and end it there. No ganja industry was/has been planned, the cost of licences such as R&D and other legitimate purposes are prohibitively expensive and as such the main players in the ganja industry remains the drug lord and his cultivator. This is a party that swept to power when we were on our knees economically and the citizens were asked to tighten their belts, the PNP while in office though burnt through money for ‘official’ things like an enlarged travelling entourage and new top of the line cars. There may have been a change in how the economy was run (they did somewhat right the ship), but there was no change in their attitude towards the people bearing austere measures as they flaunted luxuries in their faces.

The previous JLP administration (2007-2011) was ushered in on the back of change, it was (even with its slim majority) touted as the panacea to the PNP poison. Change varying from political reform, electoral reform, economic reform and a systematic separation of politics and crime were peddled to the people and they bought it. In the end, the changes that actually took place were that of the state violently opening up the garrison of Tivoli, something most thought they would never see (especially by a JLP administration). And even the gains from that tragic change have been flushed away by following administrations as the gangster now look to consolidate themselves in West Kingston and the all-important port. On the economic front, we were promised a change from the stagflation that marred the PNP era, a change from living on borrowed money and a change in how we ran our finances, the change we got was, in fact, being hard hit by the financial crisis despite us having due time to prepare and the workers continuing to bear the brunt of it.

This administration has been no different in promising the moon, in trying to sell the people anything to get and remain in office. The promises of this administration have been many and all across the board, in most instances borrowing from past administrations and in all cases failing to make a change for the better. The promise of a better economic future (near term) has been shown to be a lie, it is more of the same and has meant stagnation for the workers. Promises of a change in leadership style have only seen parties acting like it was the bad 90’s in reverse, now its the PNP who repulse and turn off people by their actions and words leaving the JLP to act like the sole cock amongst hens. We see a government that promised to do right by the workers now offering what can only be called a joke as it relates to a pay increase. We have a government that after promising that they would ‘change’ dishing out contracts pre-election like its nobody’s business.

These are but a few examples of Jamaican political parties promising change or to be agents of change and we all know that there are countless more examples. The question then becomes, if we the voters and citizens want to change politics and how it works and we know that most politicians who promise change really only mean a change of party in office, what do you do? What action can the voter and the average citizen take when he/she knows that continuing down the same path will lead to ruin and yet those who not only preach change but are entrusted to be ‘agents of change’, then go and do the same thing or worse?

Finding the answer to this conundrum is simple, the implementation, however, is hard. One must elect politicians who have a record of positive change, individuals who have no linkages to the corrupted system that is Jamaican politics (there are quite a few individuals who fit the bill such as our former Contractor General). Elect persons who will and have done the hard lifting in our society, individuals from NGO’s and various charities whom we all know would ensure that a positive change takes place in the land. But as I said that is easy, we all know that is the answer, the implementation, however, will show if we really want a change. The action means writing, calling and speaking to individuals who fit the bill and pester them into entering the political arena, as many don’t want to because it entails the metaphorical selling of one’s soul.  Action means joining or forming a party so that those individuals can get on a ticket, it also means voting so that the individual can win. To see a change we need to hold our politicians accountable, vote them out when they mess up or deviate from the script the people have given them, we must ensure that they are answerable to the people in all there dealings.

Persons who want political change in this nation are a dime a dozen, everyone knows that things cant continue as they are. Everyone is grasping to or looking for something to be hopeful for, some positive change on the horizon and the politicians know this. They have had sixty plus years to make a change in the nation and if anything we have gone backwards. This current batch of politicians in both parties and youth wings are not agents of positive change, they are more of the same, that is so because the system they have designed makes them powerful and influential and changing it even in the slightest would be a major hindrance to that. If change is to come it will come outside of the two parties if a change is to come then the people of this nation will have to wise up and wise up quickly. We must learn fast that politicians bearing change are like Greeks bearing gifts, always to be viewed with suspicion and scepticism,

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Beating a dead horse (Why the crime bill won’t solve much)

Beating a dead horse (Why the crime bill won’t solve much)

Finally, after over a year of dilly-dallying the government has passed a bill aimed at ridding the nation of violence (mainly caused by gangs and inflicted by the gun). The bill sailed through the lower house with bi-partisan approval, and though the debate in the Senate went on for quite some time, it got passed again with bi-partisan support. The law as it is now and has been passed allows for the security forces (through the PM and his security council) can declare anywhere a zone of special operations. Some people look at the new law as a breath of fresh air which will see us being both ‘tough on crime while fixing the causes’, but though this bill may make some who reside in the affluent neighborhoods feel like something positive is being done the reality is that no lasting positive changes will be made by this bill while it opens the way for Jamaica to become a police state.

This bill, much like its failed predecessor the Suppression of Crime Act, will come to nothing more than poor people being taken advantage of while failing to actually address the root causes of crime. It is very backwards and in many ways puts the cart before the horse. The prime example being the ‘clear, hold, build’ model that they have been touting. Now it sounds good and that it is a straightforward fix, but ask yourself, where are these members of the social service who are to ‘build’ coming from? When last did you see an advert in the papers recruiting for this key job, this job that is at the heart of this plan? Are we to send in the already stretched CDA or some other underfunded, undermanned and overstretched agency?

While much talk and hot air has been wasted on the areas of crime, no one during this entire debate has looked at what is possibly the biggest thing stopping us from fighting crime, uptown and monied Jamaicans. It is no secret that certain persons who live in the rarefied areas like Cherry Gardens are the ones who finance the guns coming into the wharf to arm men in the ghetto who can’t even buy chicken back. We have seen where this model will lead us, we saw it in the 70’s=90’s, and for those of us too young to remember what that looked like, look no further than Brazil and Rio where even after a decade of ‘clear, hold and build’ for the Olympics and World Cup the favelas are still just as violent as before, only with more police brutality.

The law as written and passed is actually mind-boggling in parts, it strips us of our freedoms and liberties while putting far too much power in the hands of a notoriously corrupt constabulary, the army (which isn’t viewed in a much better light) and a small group of overreaching politicians. It gives the security forces such arbitrary powers under very vague circumstances that are open to abuse, take for example Objects of Act 3 (d): Empowers members of the Joint Force to search a person, vehicle or place without a warrant, within a zone, if they reasonably suspect that an offence has been, is being or is about to be committed.  That bit of legislation is so wide and expansive that it, in reality, will enable the Force to search anywhere in that zone because they have a hunch, no actual proof. A piece of legislation that opens the public up to arbitrary and unjustified stops and searches because a crime is being committed nearby, it is the lazy man’s police work.

Then we get into the fact that it opens the nation up to the rule of an executive PM as opposed to one who acts with the consent of and after consultation and agreement with his Cabinet. This can be seen in Zone of special operation, Declaration of Zone 4(1) The Prime Minister in Council, may, by order, declare any geographically defined area within a single continuous boundary in Jamaica, as a zone of special operations for a period not exceeding sixty days if the circumstances set out in subsection (2) exist.

Now, regardless of how stringent the regulations of subsection (2) are (and they are actually pretty black and white), we have seen on a daily basis where persons from both parties both while in government and opposition frequently play fast and loose (or just being plain corrupt) with the law and freely associate with known criminals. We see where laws are implemented on certain persons or groups based on partisan loyalty and who can pay the most and that up to today has not changed, therefore asking us to accept the Prime Minister will have almost unchecked power as it relates to both when, where, how long and who leads these zones is utter insanity as we have seen where they can be (and are) so destructive with the limited amount of power that they have.

haggartfunerald20010508rb(Peter Phillips, Omar Davies and Karl Blythe at Willie Haggarts funeral)

With scamming now almost half of what tourism brings into the coffers of this nation (almost one billion dollars according to a VICE article) how do we expect to get these young men (and women) who have been inculcated with this get rich quick mentality? With the drug scene still prevalent (and really at its same monstrous heights since the deportation of Coke and Ramcharan) where are the plans that we should be putting in place to break the deadly underground and illegal triangular trade we have with the Colombians and the Mexicans (the Mexicans who now control some of our largest and most profitable illegal ganja fields)? Where is the plan to strengthen the border to stop criminals from foreign lands coming to our shores to assist in doing us so much harm, a simple walk to any bar on Water Lane in the vicinity of West Street downtown will have you hearing French creole (in the Haitian dialect) and Spanish (in the dialect of persons from the Dom Rep, Colombia and Mexico), without a safe border how will the crime and the importation of guns be stemmed?

drugRamcharan

With corruption permeating throughout all layers of the Jamaican government institutions just how exactly will this crime bill help stem crime long term? When a man can bribe the customs agent and security to turn a blind eye to guns coming into and narcotics exiting the nation how exactly will the crime end? Going back to ports of entry and exit, the airport is so lax that one has to wonder if we really do have a crime problem and all that it carries, especially when one realizes that a lot of the drugs are going through because there is a network of gang members working as security officers and the persons who check the bags that go into the cargo hold of the plane. This is common knowledge and has been for years yet we can’t (or don’t want to) even manage to crack that illegal ring of drug smugglers, yet we are to rest assured that the same men and women who can’t do the simplest of tasks relating to anti-corruption and crime prevention and fighting will solve the crime problem with a bill that strips us all (but really the poor) of all our legal rights and free to be treated like chattel.

With little to naught being done to tackle the root of crime (such as chronic poverty, a lack of education and little hope of finding a decent job and housing etc) coupled with the total lack of any agenda of tackling those who both finance and profit from the crime that has taken root in the nation then we can safely assume that this Zone of Special Operation will be a dud. It is nothing but a sick repetition of the Suppression Of Crime Act and the results will be the same, an abject failure coupled with the eventual spike in violent crime. Instead of aiming for the ‘silver bullet’ to forever eliminate crime (which doesn’t exist) let us instead roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of actually tackling crime. Let’s improve our education system, employ our people and ensure that poverty becomes a thing of the past, let’s aim to rid ourselves of the rats uptown so that they can stop offering spurious claims of get-rich quick schemes to the kids in the ghetto who only want to eat and see no way out, if not then lets give the keys of state to the army and police as this bill already leaves the door ajar for them to take it.

 

P.S. Read the Act here for further spine tingling revelations of just what is in store for us

Break the chains of classism and racism in our minds

Jamaica has a lovely motto ‘out of many one people’ which implies that despite our racial differences we have come together in a large melting pot creating the Jamaican culture. This mixed culture provided us with many things such as food, music and dance but this in many ways hid the outright racism that was inflicted on people not white at the time. Jamaica in many ways has gone past our early post-colonial state, we see where black and white persons are married and have children. So by all accounts Jamaica should be a perfect paradise where everyone is in one with nature.

Unfortunately that is not the case, for while outright  racism is less than before (though persons still harbour the racist thoughts) we see where classism has taken root deep in the heart of society. Classism interspersed with some good old fashioned racism is now the new norm in Jamaica, we have become a nation so blinded by the race to get at the top of the class (pun intended) that we treat our workers and those in the lower class like chattel.

We can see the racism cum classism in how we dress and carry ourselves. Persons are constantly bombarded with images of “true beauty’and images that the majority of the viewers cant hope to attain. We then cuss these same persons in the lower class when they aim to be like their ‘social superiors’ and purchase the weave and fancy outfits, all while praising the rich for using (more expensive) weaves and wearing outfits whose cost would make those who we chastise blush with embarrassment. How can we chastise persons who only wish to emulate those who appear in the social pages of the local papers who just happen to be of a fairer skin complexion?

we see the classism again raising its head when it comes to domestic workers (helpers). Very often helpers are treated like lepers, forced to shy away from people if company, forced to uses the ‘wuttless’ utensils and given only the worst handmedowns. This is just another form of classism that has taken a deep root in our society. We hear horror stories of helpers being abused and molested and no one believes them simply because the alleged is a society big wig while the helper is viewed as a nobody.

The classism is rife in this nation, it is so rife in the nation that we don’t realize that that s the way the society operates. It can be found to be most prevalent in our language and how we speak to each other. The local dialect (patois) is shunned and relegated to that of second-class status, even though there is a vast swath of persons who only speak patios. That in my opinion is where the classism meets our subconscious  racism. The vast majority that speak patois are black (hardly a coincidence, and they are relegated to the status of higgglers and handymen while those who speak the queens English cam be found to inhabit the upper  echelons of society and are of a light complexion.

The specter of classism also rears its ugly head when it comes to education. We see this with the tuition free education that  is now the law of the land. Now as decent, noble  as this, this will only help widen the divide between the haves and have-nots. The have nots will be left to wander the school system while the school crumbles around them because the increased  government is still not enough to fulfill the needs of the school and parents have been led to believe that they don’t need to partake financially in the school and curriculum development. All while those who attend the traditional high-schools will go on to greater things as the child in the traditional school will have access to not only government aid but also a healthy alumni cache that will only lead to them (the schools) being even more successful in terms of academia (the one thing that is truly the great equalizer .

The insidious classism rises up and shows itself even when it comes to health and healthcare. One only needs to look at the ‘free medical service’ that is on offer in this country. While those who are at the top of society can afford the care that is offered at UHWI, that is normally as far as they would go to being in a public hospital. While the monied class aims to stay away from places like KPH and Jubilee, places that would have them interact with their ‘lower class’brethren even though KPH has one of the best trauma wards in this hemisphere.

The legal system finally is the most raw and open wound of classism in this nation. The class divide in the legal system is so abhorrent that one cant believe that we wish to rise up as a nation out of the mire. In this legal system we see kids being dragged off to jail over some petty crime while the child who has the silver spoon in their mouths will never be accosted by the security forces. The police (who are the vanguard of the upper class) constantly arrest the poor for some trivial matter like a spliff or over two ounces of weed and as seen in the Mario Dean case where the mentally impaired man was left with violent criminals and subsequently died. The short fact is that the class you were born into really decides who succeeds and who does not when we look at the Jamaica case. The rich can go gun-toting as seen at the recent carnival and yet they are still allowed to go on living an uninterrupted life while those on the lower end of the social scale are forced to look over their shoulders as society has a target on their back.

Classism in Jamaica can become a thing of the past, however it will require some hard work. Let us hope that we break the chains of classism and instead embrace our rich culture and start living up to what our national motto says because the only way that this country will get better is if we all acknowledge that in spite of our racial and class differences we are out of many one people.

The curious case of Phillip Paulwell

Philip Paulwell has been around the block politically, he is a veteran what with his five stars and counting (electoral victories) and has always been chummy with those at the centre of power since the days when P.J Patterson brought him in as a young buck. Paulwell has soared through the ranks of the PNP and a minister since his days as an unelected thirty-something-year-old senator and has always been considered by some within the party as a possible party leader.

Sadly for Paulwell, he seems to be cursed with the Devils luck, always seemingly mired in some controversy, inevitably cleared but with his public political image in a worse and irreparable state than before the controversy. Be it youthful exuberance as Mr Patterson quipped as an excuse for a scandal, Kern Spencer who eventually took the fall politically (only to be freed by the courts) or even the ensuing Caricel drama, he always seems to be three degrees separated from scandal.

That has, however, never stopped him politically, from being an influential P.J acolyte, he transitioned smoothly to becoming one of Portia’s lead henchmen, to seamlessly backing dr Phillips in the farce of a coronation in replacing the incumbent leader of the party Portia. He seems to the outsider anyway, to be untouchable (scandal-wise) and has a habit of never really owning his mistakes (to give it a polite term).

Yes within the party he is an untouchable and seemingly immovable being, but he has never had the wide popular support of the general public like say a Dr Phillips and the PNP would do well to take note of that.

Yes, he is popular within the party but to the general public, he is considered to be either incompetent or just plain corrupt, neither of which are good options. He is viewed as at best hype man, all chat and no action (as seen with the LNG debacle) and at his worst when the action does come it is almost always shrouded with suspicion and conspiracy such as the Cuban light bulb scandal and Netserv.

Paulwell whether he is actually corrupt or incompetent perfectly embodies all that is wrong with Jamaican politics generally and with the PNP specifically. He has risen to the heights that he has because he was a decent attorney (at a time when they swelled the chambers), a great brown-noser and a genius when it comes to controlling delegates. He has no natural political talent to speak of (he is neither diplomatic, a long-term thinker or partial to constituency redevelopment) and the people know this, and while they may, in the end, become disillusioned with the Jlp if they dilly dally and break promises, the PNP will not see power again and in a long-term fashion unless it jettisons persons like Paulwell.

Jamaica needs a new breed of politicians and age really is no factor here as Paulwell is only a sprightly 54, we need honest persons, people who are actually talented and offer something through public service (government etc) and who can leave a positive mark on the nation. Let us, in short, be rid of acolytes and lackeys and instead promote and hold on to those who can make moves without the public constantly and with reason looking suspiciously at them.

A history of politics and sports

Politics and sports are like chalk and cheese and must never mix, sports which is pure and true must never be tainted by association with politics. That is the line held by all major sporting governing bodies such as Fifa and the IOC, but try as they might politics has and will always find its way into the sphere of sports, just as a rat finds its way to a meal.

Political action and agitation through sports is not a new concept as I am sure we all know. We have all grown up with tales of Jessie Owens at Berlin 36 putting a damper on what was then the largest attempt at the melding of the political and sporting, just as we all live with stories of Mexico City 68 and the strength and solidarity shown in the clenched fist on the winners podium. But those events as political as they were, and as condemned as they were were far from isolated then and is going on still.

We see this in the first two Italian victories at the World Cup where in order to show off the impressiveness and superiority of fascism the referees and oposition were routinely threatened or bribed as the Italians copped the jueles remmet consecutively. We then have the last massive post war extravaganza which is Berlin 36 where even Mr Owens own getting on the Olympics team was a fight against the American political machinery (Jessie won by the way), a black man representing a country where it’s very leagues were segregated, where the best teams (financially speaking anyway) were exclusively white and where blacks were just treated like inferiors, his rise to the top to shatter Hitler’s dreams was born of race politics but is seldom mentioned.

Mexico City 68 is also shrouded in more politics than we care to admit. Everyone knows the story of how they got on the podium and even how they got the gloves that represent so much, but few recall the dictatorship then in power in Mexico mowing down people with bullets as they protested prior to and on the opening day. Few recall the cavern separating the haves from the have nots in Mexico, how the poor tended to be majority brown, how the middle class became agitated and how the dictatorship could not afford to have its image tarnished.

Argentina 78 we see more politics merging with sports. The junta was pretty embedded and the dirty war was in full swing and the world cup was in town. From the mini riots in the streets when a young diego maradona was left out to the questionable win over the much fancied Peruvians we witness a sporting event laced with politics.

Moscow 80 was the same thing, the socialist world showing off a ‘workers paradise’ and the political west led by the US boycotted the event (the Afghan intervention being the premise for the boycott) and the Olympics in Barcelona in 92 were all about white washing a fascists past. We see this still in Sochi which was to be used to herald a new vibrant russia.

However politics in sports runs through many channels and avenues. Take for example rugby, if one plays league one is usually a northern englishman who votes labour, while if you play union you are usually a southerner who votes tory with a high chance that you are an OXBRIDGE graduate.

We see lord Coe who is an ex tory mp running the IAAF, locally we have mp’s and councilors who lead football clubs and who use it by extension to cement there parochial base.

Sports in politics will always be an issue, but politics will always find its way into sports, and not because politics it better or that politicians are clever. No, it will always be there because it like sports encompasses humanities hopes dreams and aspirations, not to mention the fact that a captive audience is more receptive to ideas and propaganda.

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.