Tag: JLP

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.

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Jamaican public-sector wage negotiations… we’ll all feel it

Jamaican public-sector wage negotiations… we’ll all feel it

The past decade has seen the public sector workers going through the ringer as it relates to pay. With the rate of inflation always in the back of one’s mind, the workers have had to endure a severe wage freeze or a wage increase so minuscule that when adjusted for inflation it is more like a loss of wages. The nurses, police officers, teachers etc have for the most part been rather patient and tame during these negotiations, apart from a few spasms (such as the nurses’ action) no incident of any real note has taken place, they had, for the most part, accepted it as for that decade we had to all ‘ban belly’ to ensure the economy stabilized and saw growth.

However with the economy now no longer in freefall (though it still is in choppy waters) and with a government speaking of prosperity we see where the public sector workers are no longer buying the ‘ban belly’ line and that the ruling class has fully regrouped as it relates to bashing the Jamaican worker. Dangerous things are happening and the Jamaican worker must be wary, they must understand that everything that was won from ’38 through to the 80’s was fought for, never guaranteed and always liable to be withdrawn and what is happening with the public sector workers is only the thin edge of the wedge.

The public sector workers are being asked (again) to take a pay rise that, when adjusted for inflation really looks like a loss or at best now breaking even financially. However, things get even touchier, for as the government looks to take the axe to the size of the public sector, the unions (albeit a bit late) are refusing to go along willingly to the slaughterhouse. This impasse coupled with the notoriously poor bargaining skills of the governing party has led to the public sector workers threatening to and in some cases actually taking some form of industrial action, something that has really taken people by surprise as the economy teeters along.

There are, in my opinion, two key things to be taken from this whole round of negotiations and public-sector reform. They are 1. that for the most part, the unions in this Island have no camaraderie, no inter-union linkages and 2. that the Jamaican worker is entering a whole new sea that is fraught with choppy waters. To the first point, it is important to note the trite but very true saying united we stand divided we fall. Our local trade unions need to understand how they (the industrialists) play the game and how they play them off one another. If union X demands a pay increase of 9% and the govt states it can only afford 5%, then that remaining 4% gets taken from another sector. Divide and rule is a tactic as old as time, but it is made all the easier when the parties involved don’t care if the other lives or dies.

That may sound a bit harsh, but that is what it really boils down to at the end of the day. If say the JTA demands a financial payout bigger than what has been budgeted for, then the difference will naturally be made up by other sectors (especially since we are not borrowing like before), that is a matter of life and death. This is not me saying that the unions or their officials should not ask for, nay demand any improvements on what they currently get, for the most part, remuneration in the public sector is a joke. What I am saying is demand smart and demand in unison. They should be demanding things such as housing benefits, benefits for their children, lobbying for sector transportation, more educational allowances and things of these types. If they were to demand these things while at the same time accepting the current wage offer, or even a lower one, then they the workers would still be the winners as they would no longer have to use wage increases (even a small one) for necessities and could then use it for more leisure.

The lack of inter-union solidarity is bad, and changes in how they operate are urgently needed if the workers are to meet the challenges that await us, the challenges are varied and on the face of it many of them seem childish and quartered to one sector, but they will affect all workers in a myriad of ways. Some of these insidious changes have already been mooted in the past and are being re-hashed again for the upcoming slashing of jobs. Take for example the topic of performance-based pay, this topic has always been bandied about, mainly with the teachers who have for the most part not had any of it (and for good reason), that thought and topic has now moved into the arena of the police wage negotiations (as was mooted by the PSOJ).

Now in spite of what one thinks of the teachers (and trust me there are quite a few who should be nowhere near an educational institution), that type of pay scale will do nothing to help the cause of increasing the quality of graduate, and if anything see an even greater spike in graduates who just don’t cut the mustard. Thinking about it logically, if we were to implement such a policy tomorrow for the teachers nothing would change except no teachers would be paid and it is not because they all suck at their jobs (though a shocking number do), it would be because the underlying reasons for the undereducation still exists (a lack of funds, no help outside of school etc). The same would apply to the entire public service (the underlying factors would still remain) and for nearly all public servants, up to and including civil servants who only execute ideas dreamed up by ministers.

The statements coming out regarding the actions taken by the police and also coming from the PSOJ are also troubling. Again I would never say that the police do an excellent job, or that all of them are do-gooders (quite a few are corrupt and the good ones need to be shamed till they expose the corrupt ones), but for us to state after they take industrial action that they should be censored then we have a problem. It is one thing to say that a certain critical sector should be barred from industrial action, that is understandable, but to call for the firing of these individuals and the censoring of the doctors who signed them off is beyond overkill and borders something seen in Latin American dictatorships of old. Even scarier is when the PSOJ suggested that the police be paid out of confiscated proceeds of crime. Such a suggestion while initially seemingly brilliant becomes more stupid and borderline insane when really thought out.

A cursory glance to the US where many areas have implemented such a policy will see where the police have become nothing short of bandits. Persons being arrested on trumped-up charges and their property confiscated, especially out of towners, should be a worry to us. When one really thinks about it, the PSOJ is suggesting that the police, which is already notoriously corrupt, be allowed to seize and profit from peoples property and goods, that is endorsing theft and also pitting one sector (the police) against the others as the members of the force do desperately need the cash. When actually looked at and analysed this whole wage negotiation statement from the PSOJ smacks of a group that is more than content to partially feed one sector by starving off another.

The negotiations will be concluded most likely with the unions caving in, we have witnessed them caving for almost twenty years (accelerated in the last ten) and the union heads who coincidentally get fatter while rank and file members get thinner, will claim it as some success. The private sector may very well get its way and the way we deal with employment in this nation will no longer look the same. When the inevitable bleed over happens, when it is the private sector employees who will have to face the chopping block (and that time is coming) we can look back at these wage negotiations for what to expect and hopefully we will actually fight it in a united way this time.

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,

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”: May I have your PIN?

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”: May I have your PIN?

The debate recently about NIDS (The National Identification and Registration Act, if I am to give it its proper name) is now done and dusted after doing the rounds in both parliament and the media, it has (naturally) been met with strong support for it along with an equal amount of dissent. The majority of supporters say that the bill is of the utmost necessity (even with the amendments exceeding that of the ZOSO bill) as the nation faces the dual threats of crime and corruption which are (and always have been) eating away at the nation. They also say that the law (even though they admit it is heavily flawed) is a must because the state has serious issues when it comes to identifying its citizenry because things like the driver’s license can be easily and cheaply falsified and obtained.

These vocal supporters chide the critics as being deliberately obstructionist, hoping that this new tool in the state arsenal fails, painted as plain old badmind or as being PNP sympathizers. However, an increasing (and very dangerous) grenade that is being thrown by the supporters of NIDS if ‘if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear’, a statement that 1. acknowledges the bills massive and blatant flaw, and 2. the statement shows just how ignorant most are of history, even recent history.

Now I openly acknowledge that we need a good ID system and one that is easily accessible (to the state and its various arms), but is everything in this law really necessary? Again, I can see the relevance of fingerprints, very necessary to capture someone’s identification. But when coupled with palmprints, foot and toeprints, retina and vein mapping and blood type along with the normal i.d. things (such as address etc), one is forced to ask ‘are we also waging a war against radical Islam?’. I am not a religious man but as a student of Jesuits, and as someone who reads a lot of religious literature, I personally struggle to see the Christian fundamentalists easily accepting this as it looks very ‘mark of the beastish’. I love but poo-poo a lot of sci-fi but does this not read like some sick John Wyndham/Issac Asimov novel?

I do not put my trust in sci-fi and religion, I do however put my trust in history, both distant and recent, as that is a very good way to gauge how something in the present will pan out and frankly, history is saying that this policy, however well intended will eventually fail. Fail in this instance does not mean that it does not meet its objective (assisting the state in identifying the citizens), instead, it means that it will eventually be abused by persons and actors with ugly motives. The Netherlands, for example, had in the early to mid-1900 ‘s an excellent (albeit a bit intrusive) ID and census system, inclusive of religion.

Now no one can say that the Dutch authorities (internally at least as the practices changed radically in the colonies) were a repressive and oppressive regime, it was a byword for liberalism, a stable constitutional monarchy and home of the Hague (whose name has graced so many important European liberal milestones) , so nothing to fear, no issue. But when the Axis invaded, that intrusive and well-recorded identification and census information was gobbled up and readily utilized in its final solution i.e. the Holocaust.  Now I do apologize for the WWII reference as I am sure most have grown weary of hearing them, but I and others keep bringing that war and its atrocities up because we as a species seem to constantly repeat and actually refine them.

The genocides in both Rwanda and Burundi were made childishly easy by an intrusive (by the standards of the day) census and id system, as is the genocide and ethnic cleansing that has been going on in Myanmar/Burma (most notably against the Rohingya) for the past fifty years. With a track record and trail bathed in blood, why exactly would we want, let alone rush into this type of scheme without a serious discussion about the pros and cons?

These types of systems (with all of its intrusive elements) if, placed in the wrong hands could most certainly be used as it relates to divvying up the spoils of political conquest. This type of legislation is laughable, for heaven’s sake, one won’t be able to access anything sate related without this identification and something like that just is asking for and breeds corruption and pork belly politics. That means no PATH, no access to KPH, no access to schools, no access (or rather use of) places like the RGD and Companies Office, that is a system begging to be abused by politicians and others who know nothing but practising corruption.

Imagine for a minute if you will the dystopia that we would be living in if the creators of what are today’s monster garrisons had access to such an awesome (potential) power such as this that is found in this system? Hell, how would our current MP’s use this power when they already know and use the ‘unknowable’ such as the names of the persons who voted in their constituency during elections? Do we, as a nation really believe that the parties which gave us Tivoli and Arnett Gardens, the ones that gave us Trafigura and consistently run drugs and guns, have at the snap of a finger, or by the sprinkling of some magic dust become trustworthy and able to use this, such an awesome power?

As for persons who say’if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’ may I say; I am more trustworthy than the state apparatus and either party, I have no record of corruption. May I, therefore, have your ATM PIN (again I have more credibility than the state) and demand all personal information of both you and your employees (if you are a business owner)? After all, if you have nothing to hide you should, therefore, have nothing to fear. If one really has nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear then, by all means, please be the first to have the JCF arbitrarily kick open your door (without a warrant) and then proceed to search both you and your belongings.

I don’t expect many (or any) to take up my suggestion of giving me the data, some because they may think me mad, some because they may think me an undercover criminal and some still because what I ask is just plain intrusive, overbearing and overdemanding. Some will refuse because what they have is either embarrassing or personal and that is the kicker, some things we keep to ourselves because it is personal. One expects a degree of privacy, even while acknowledging and allowing for the necessary intrusions on life, therefore if we as a nation insist on styling ourselves as a liberal democracy we must hold the cornerstone of that institution, The Magna Carta, to be true. If we are going to continue to style ourselves as a liberal democracy then we must look at the uproar that took place in the UK and Australia and the court ruling in India when they tried to implement such legislation.

With European nations and the U.S. who are  fighting any and everyone at the moment still debating about the intrusiveness of such laws (just look at the U.S. and  how they are tearing themselves apart over data retention and grabbing), we wish to rush headlong into this thing, we aim to implement it without even a proper debate. It should not be lost on anyone that the PNP (who loved it while they were in office) have done and continue to do little to challenge this law (apart from walking out of parliament) while JLP (who have always openly wanted such a sweeping law) have rammed this through, this is so because they love nothing more than control and power, and this law has the potential of cementing both.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and this matter is no different, it is telling that groups with such differing views and agendas such as JFJ, JFLAG and JCFHS all agree (though for differing reasons) that this law as is is bad. We need a proper and wholesale ID, I agree, but not like this. It is costly and intrusive, whats-more we all know it will do squat in relation to crime (as the killings in Mt Salem, the chronic undereducation and the recent gun find show). If we honestly intended to do a proper ID we could have done it without all of the unnecessary trappings, cost and fear by melding together existing things.  The TRN, NIS, birth certificate, driver license, electoral ID etc, these individually do what the NID will do, they capture already what would be in the future NIDS database, and without the intrusion. To do such a thing would have needed amendments to many laws, and probably a constitutional change or two, however as no party has the required majority to do this it won’t be done as that would mean dialogue, compromise and most of all a love for nation above party or self and the ramming through (and the walkout) show this.

Andrew Holness, the consummate politician

Andrew Holness, the consummate politician

Andrew Holness one has to admit it is a damn good politician. That I can say that would, of course, stun those who know me, but one has to pay the devil his due, and Andrew Holness in spite of what I and others may think of him has shown himself to be a first-rate politician. People see him as pompous, as a man in love with himself or as a man who is so power hungry that he will stab anyone in the back, but that couldn’t be further from what I see.

I see a man who was handed the mantle of power in a most precarious time (and that is putting it in such airy words it is not funny) for both his part and his nation and was tasked with ensuring it didn’t sink. Now when faced with the options of either 1. maintaining power and then dealing (in the short time) with the economic issue that had to be addressed and then lose your (personal) shine, or 2. call an early election, tell the nation of the inevitable suffering that will be done by whoever wins and lose (shunting the unpopular reform burden onto the PNP). He chose the bold move, lost the general election (as expected) and then faced what seemed to be a long political exile.

With knives out for him and his position he walked a tightrope and manoeuvred some tight corners, he was roundly embarrassed and scandalized by the resignation letters scandal but even that scenario showed a man who in political terms anyway is always trying to be a step ahead of his opponents, for by demanding that type of action demonstrates that 1. you and you alone run that show, and 2. total fealty is a must and anyone who runs afoul of you will suffer the consequences (ala Arthur Williams or Dr Tuffton). Then when Mr Shaw challenged for the JLP leadership it was thought by many that Andrew was done. Instead, he won that internal battle, and he won convincingly silencing Audley Shaw and his acolytes for now.

That, however, pales in comparison to what must surely be called one of the most unexpected electoral results in any nation recently. The election of 2016 was amazing, this was a man who managed to reduce the PNP to a mere shell, an embarrassment of its former self. This was a campaign that saw the then governing party (PNP) that not only righted the economy, brought actual investment and liberalized the ganja policy getting trounced (and yes the PNP bears some blame for the defeat but that doesn’t take away from Andrews shine) in such  manner that they still haven’t found their bearings after almost two years.

He has shown himself to be an excellent campaigner, he has a campaign machine that is always in action and humming, a machine that I am sure one PJ Patterson would even begrudgingly admit is in tip-top shape. This can be seen in the way that the party trumpets any and all achievements (even ones that are not even half met), how often, for example, has one seen an advert in the paper with the JLP banner talking up their policy achievements, how often has one gone online and been bombarded with the ‘prosperity gospel’ of the JLP?  He has simply revolutionised the way campaigns are done in Jamaica with the way his party used technology and social media in the last campaign, and this by-election shows that. A surprisingly (if you have awakened from a slumber that began in the early 2000’s) large amount of this key by-election (SE St Mary) fight is being done online. Canvassing groups, discussion groups, groups that look to get the party talking points in order are all to be found online as well as the lengthy and (sometimes) witty statements that emanate from the campaign trail, all of this is as a direct result of the way in which Andrew Holness and his JLP team went about campaigning during the general and local government elections.

The composition of his cabinet also showed a man who has come far in terms of political growth. Take the positions of Bobby and Chris at MoH and National Security, now to some these ‘high profile’ positions show how much faith and trust he has in these people, and that may be so, but those appointments coupled with his (Andrew) statements on nonperformers and the positions (or lack thereof) they took during the internal election, one can also see these placements as nothing short of punishment. For realistically, who in their right mind would want the National Security portfolio, one that is almost always bound to leave your political reputation in tatters? Which sane person would want to manage our health ministry with its anaemic budget and its dilapidated or nonexistent infrastructure? This is a man who clearly while not discarding of his political opponents (as they all have their uses) is going to punish them and ensure that any route to his throne is fraught with obstacles.

The policies he has implemented or carried on with since taking office have also been rather impressive. I know I’m not the first, and I surely won’t be the last to make a comment on it, but the way that he has stolen some critical (really the only ones they spoke of anymore) left-wing policy pieces from the PNP (such as the free health care and education) coupled with his thrust at the housing question has left the opposition reeling and unsure of just how to tackle this administration when it comes to ideology (though the PNP seem to be re-aligning and regaining their socialist core). That march has been impressive to watch and watching how he handles the captains of industry within his party will be key, it will be an interesting balancing act and a most impressive feat if he can pull it off.

One doesn’t have to like Andrew Holness personally, or even his political policies, lord knows I don’t (policy-wise that is). But for me to say that I am not impressed by how he has operated in the past few years would be a barefaced lie, by all accounts he should be dead and buried, instead he is sitting pretty as PM and is looking to extend his parliamentary majority. I don’t like his policies, but he has some while the opposition dithers, I don’t like the roadmap to the national vision, but at least after nearly three decades of going around in ever decreasing circles at least, we have a roadmap. He may not be my cup of tea or even the majorities cup of tea, but he is no fool, he is very adept and is a survivor, love him or loathe him he is the most complete politician in the island at the moment, time will tell if the PNP can dislodge what is fast looking like a titan in a field of shrinking violets (see Peter Bunting et al in the PNP front-running).

The JLP’s to lose now

The JLP’s to lose now

Political soldiers are on the move, all over St Mary one will be greeted with bunting, placards, billboards and of course, flags representing the opposing parties and their respective candidates, its by-election time in South East St. Mary. But this was to be expected, with the slim margins of victory coupled with the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Dr Green (and the sticky issue that was the election petition) the campaign never really ended in this part of Jamaica, and I believe that will be to the JLP’s great benefit.

Anywhere one goes in that part of the world, from Castleton all the way to the border of Portland as I said earlier, one will see campaign paraphernalia all over the place. But just a look at them will tell you which party is ‘rolling in it’ and which party ‘cant afford a pot to piss in’. Placards bearing the image of the PNP candidate (Dr Shane Alexis) are there and in numbers too, probably outnumbering those of his opponent (Dr Norman Dunn), however (and I may be reading a lot into this but not too much) they are not of the same quality and make of Dr Dunn’s placards. A small thing, but this is just one indicator of a party flush with cash (and using it strategically) and one that is running on fumes as it relates to finances.

SE ST MARY

Dr Alexis, it is true has been trodding earth, going to many communities and reaching out to many persons, and it is true that he has brought a vim back to the PNP cadre in that constituency who have been afflicted by the broader party malaise, but that is no surprise. The simple fact is that he has to go door to door and drum up support and name recognition because he is a totally unknown quantity in the regional party and politics in general, as a result he has to ingratiate himself with the constituents, a long and arduous process as he will also if he has sense be looking for the ‘swing’ voter. The fact again is that Dr Shane Alexis has his work cut out for him if only for that one fact, though I do believe that he does stand a fighters chance and could very well be the MP after the next general election, he faces a likely (not certain but likely) defeat this time around.

Dr Dunn has no such worries as it relates to name recognition and has no nagging questions about what his message is (he is a known quantity). Having run, and only just lost in the last general election (with such a narrow margin that a petition was working its way through the courts) and being born in the region, people know him. Couple those with the facts that both the JLP (with its very good marketing) and most importantly he himself has never left campaign mode (by all accounts he has been operating as if an election could have been called their ever since he lost). They have the ground covered, they have the people canvassed, they know the local issues already, they understand the local mentality as it relates to politics. The JLP is in a nutshell well oiled and prepared for this election and personally, it would be bordering on an upset (I’m sure Belmont Road would be fuming) if the JLP lost.

I don’t feel this is a referendum on the Andrew Holness administration, in spite of what Dr Phillips of the PNP would want us to believe. This is, however, a serious test for the PNP and could be the beginning of an Indian Summer for the JLP. If the PNP lose and give the JLP, even more, breathing space (they already act at times like its a parliament of 53-10rather than one of 32-31) then Andrew Holness would have a green light to either destroy them with policy measures that ‘no well thinking Jamaican could oppose’ such as ZOSO, or if he is wise (and he strikes me as politically adept) call a snap election whenever things bump back up and further weaken a PNP that is only now bearly showing signs of stemming the cannibalization.

The ball is in the court of the JLP, with the councils under their control and with a candidate who has never stopped campaigning the election is the JLP’s to lose. They must avoid blunder, walk on eggshells and stay far from a scandal at this point in time and if they do that then they have a hand on the trophy already. The PNP must be in a frantic mad dash at the moment as they aim to retain the seat and continue to ‘bite at the heels’ of the government, however they shouldn’t be too down if they lose and that shouldn’t herald the resumption of the civil war. They should instead take stock, try to retain Dr Alexis as the caretaker for the seat (as he has built up some rapport and is very young) and aim for the long run, that is the only way that they can hope of having a permanent chance in that seat.

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

Good job Andrew, onto the harder stuff

Andrew Holness seemed set to have a difficult time after the elections, what with a one seat majority and a bag of promises, but much to the pleasant surprise to the majority (bar the real diehard comrade) he has been performing well. With the ‘payday’ somewhat implemented, auxiliary fees ‘banished’, a local government cleanup and some ‘transparency’ in government he has some successes to speak of.

However more needs to be done as most low hanging fruit has been picked or is in the process of being picked. Let us move on to more meaty matters, ones that will decide not only your legacy but also shape the future of the nation. Start the implementation of legislation that limits the terms a prime minister can serve or implement a retirement age for politicians, this is especially necessary seeing as how we have some elders on both sides of the aisle who refuse to go quietly off into the night. Maybe implementing that policy for internal JLP officers so that they may get accustomed to and eventually support the policy in parliament.

Jamaica’s prison issue is also one that needs immediate attention. Jamaica’s two major prisons are a shameful legacy of our colonial past, are hundreds of years old (not necessarily a bad thing), are beyond repair and just not up to the task of what a prison is for, rehabilitation. With the prisons so overcrowded and with little to no rehabilitation taking place for want of decent centers we have a vicious cycle of persons entering prison bad and returning to society as hardened and learned criminals. With the JLP having opposed the prison deal with the UK while in opposition, the hard question is if, how and when will G.P and Spanish Town prison be a thing of the past?

The rebuilding of Port Royal and downtown Kingston as a whole should also be high up on the agenda. This I place in the ‘hard stuff’ category because for my entire lifetime we have been waxing lyrically about beautifying downtown and it still looks like some post war scene in areas. Fixing downtown and Port Royal would be a boon for the economy and the people of Kingston proper. It would give them access to decent and affordable housing which would instill in the inhabitants a sense of pride. The renovation of the two would also spell jobs in both the short and long term, short term with the construction jobs that would be on offer and long term with the tourism sector that should theoretically be in place for Port Royal (see the at least half dozen proposals for tourism in the area).

Education while getting a shot in the arm at the secondary level needs more investment. Primary education should be the main priority of any future education drive, because simply put if a child leaves primary school unprepared odds are high that the child will struggle in high school. 

Family planning needs to be looked into again. Too many young persons are having children and persons who cant afford children have multiple kids that end up more often than not remaining trapped in a cycle of poverty and criminality.

Finally the government and Andrew must address the homelessness that is stalking this land. In downtown alone you have scores of persons mentally ill, finsaced, sick, unemployed or rape victims running scared who need our immediate attention and help. The local government minister Desmond McKenzie in his incarnation as mayor of Kingston spoke of opening a home for them some years ago, the plan must be revisited because these people need our help.

None of the mentioned are easy or have quick solutions but they need to be done. We have the answers to the questions as we have been repeating them in unison for a quarter century, the time now is to act and act methodically. If not then we may very well be wasting the best opportunity for a real change since the seventies.