Columns

Is Desmond McKenzie ready for another whipping?

Mark WIGNALL

Thursday, April 10, 2014    

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IT is usually an impossibility to convince a politician that he should engage the gears in his brain before he presses on the accelerator controlling what emanates from his mouth.

Some years ago Desmond McKenzie felt the need to voice an excess of praise and adulation for the man who apparently made him, grew him, glossed him over, and gave him his political birth — Eddie Seaga.

Out of some Freudian need, or simply because he wanted to prove that Seaga's strength could best be expressed by a demonstration of his (McKenzie's) own weakness, Desmond admitted that Seaga gave him a public beating inside Tivoli Gardens. According to McKenzie, "Him beat mi bimshee!"

That was the first and last I have ever heard the invented Jamaican word 'bimshee', but, I suppose, the crude admixture of humiliation and praise will bring this out in politicians.

McKenzie, who will be 62 years old this year, did not say what wrong he — a grown adult in his 30s — had committed in the 1980s when he was publicly flogged inside Tivoli Gardens. However, I have long been told what he had done to deserve such public humiliation.

The Kingston Western member of parliament, in 2014, did not say if he was tethered like a slave of old to a sturdy wooden post, or if his trousers was pulled down to reveal a softer side of his anatomy — his 'bimshee'.

We know that in the 1980s Lester Lloyd Coke (aka Jim Brown), known to his cronies as 'Bye Bye', was head of the JLP street forces, and Tivoli Gardens would house the headquarters of the criminal empire he would later build. Today 'Jim Brown' is truly bye-bye and his son 'Dudus' will be out of circulation for many years to come.

We know that flogging was still very much active on our law books and, maybe, that 'extrajudicial' bit on Desmond McKenzie's rear end was simply the precursor to what would later be known (and copied in most garrisons) as the Tivoli Model.

We also know that in the 1980s Eddie Seaga feared no one and was essentially lord and master of his political domain. So, if he, the white-skinned Jamaican son of Lebanese immigrants, decided that it was not only OK, but socially fitting to whip the 'bimshee' of a black-skinned son of an African slave in Jamaica; and if Tivoli saw nothing wrong with it, and later the son of the African slave would endorse its usefulness for his future, why then should we interfere with the arrangement?

The unravelling of the strong political leadership that was needed to keep in check the strength of the street operations began in the mid 1990s with the rise of Dudus and his independence from political patronage. Seaga left the political stage in the mid-2000s — seemingly forced out by the exponential increase of the street forces and the diminution of his overall influence.

Bruce Golding fared no better, although his time was limited. By the time he exited, in 2011, it was always obvious that the politics and the street operatives of West Kingston would never again enjoy any standing together on the same stage.

As member of parliament for what used to be a well-oiled political constituency, Desmond McKenzie is waking up to the fact that he neither sits astride, on top of, nor is capable of leading what has become Jamaica's most volatile constituency. He is facing his waterloo and is being more than figuratively kicked and whipped.

The talk that McKenzie is taking one side in what has become a many-sided turf war with family versus community, names versus names, and community versus community is pervasive in West Kingston, but one can never be sure. The murders and the wanton killing of children and the innocent must be driving the MP, the police and the citizenry crazy, especially as the supply of guns from the 2010 incursion are resurfacing.

At one stage during the uproar in Tivoli in May 2010 one man told me that in any search for guns in Tivoli Gardens the security forces "could never find dem, no matter how dem try". Those guns are now 'unlocked' and are back in business.

My sympathies are with the trapped residents in West Kingston; who have no choice but to live there. Some of them were held under internal siege for many years, while others had given over their collective destinies to the bark of guns. It seems futile now to ask, 'how did it come to this?'

The key is to change it, but we ought not fool ourselves in the belief that Desmond McKenzie, a man strong on mouth, can make the difference.

Although the communities of Denham Town and Tivoli Gardens are relatively small in size, the sheer density provides a nightmare for policing with every household potentially being a storehouse for a gun or two.

Some residents are still under internal siege, but to a large extent it has been practised over such long a time that, maybe, some of them would not recognise freedom if they encountered it at midday in the bright of the tropical sun.

The template was long drawn and now even some residents with whom I spoke by telephone tell me that they miss Dudus. And why shouldn't they when there was 'peace' in his time.

One man called me, "Wi want back Missa Golding!"

I pointed out to him that Golding doesn't need the headache of going back to West Kingston. "Think about it," I said, "only with a ruthless and strong Dudus could the many disparate elements be held in check. And, remember now, in 2005 there was an attempt by 'Chris Royal' to tek over di ting from Dudus. No politician in his right mind would want to deal with that now."

The man said, "I would a like you to ask Parliament fi discuss how the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) a go in West Kingston. I want dem investigate it."

Another fact which is staring us in the face is that the problems of Western Kingston cannot be dealt with by 'normal' policing. Just ask Desmond McKenzie — that is if he is not still smarting from the licks on his rear end.

observemark@gmail.com

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