Matters worth mentioning

Michael BURKE

Thursday, April 24, 2014    

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Every now and then I am asked my views on certain topics. It is not easy to express all of them in a single column each week. So today I will do a compendium of issues to ease the backlog of things that I want to mention and others that are in answer to queries.

Today, April 24, marks 52 years since Alexander Bustamante was sworn in as premier of Jamaica following the victory of the Jamaica Labour Party at the polls two weeks earlier. I point this out because it has been written erroneously, even by Rachel Manley, that Norman Manley was the only premier of Jamaica.

On the contrary, Bustamante served as premier of Jamaica between April 24 and August 6, 1962 when he became Jamaica's first prime minister in political independence. Jamaica gained Universal Adult Suffrage and partial self-government in 1944. There was no chief minister until 1953 when Alexander Bustamante was appointed to that post.

There were further constitutional advances in 1957 when Jamaica became responsible for home affairs (national security and defence). There were further advances in 1959 when the post of chief minister was elevated to that of premier, which gave the head of government additional powers.


There has been an attempt to bring back the crucifixion story and the resurrection of Jesus into Easter. This is commendable, despite the usual reader-catching stories that come every year — the ones that question the stated chronology of events surrounding Easter. And Easter is still topical, especially for me who belongs to a church that celebrates Easter for six weeks.

Last week I wrote about Easter. As usual it drew the ire of someone who is a Sabbatarian. The result of this was that an atheist defended me on the Jamaica Observer website. I would like to thank the atheist for his kind words and commendations of my integrity. One thing, though, Mr Atheist, just because I believe in God does not make me naïve. Nevertheless, I have always found that description of myself as somewhat amusing.

Too soon to comment

As far as the media is concerned, the most notable part of the Dr Phillips' presentation in Parliament is the ATM tax. It turns out that the tax — at least in this first instance — will be one dollar per one thousand dollars.

I usually do not comment on the budget until it is over. Many an analyst has been made to look foolish, over the decades because of what is said in the end. And I have refused to comment on a host of radio shows after the budget presentation over the years for the same reason.

If the government makes changes or makes further adjustments, how will those who commented publicly be viewed?

After all, in 1973 free education was announced at the end of the budget debate when Michael Manley, as prime minister, made his presentation on May 2, 1973. In the following year, the bauxite levy was also announced in then Prime Minister Michael Manley's presentation towards the end of the debate.

And there are many other instances in which it has been done in this way. But media houses will always call on people to comment as soon as the budget debate opens. That is the way they make money and pay their bills.

Mercy for Alpha

There will be those who have asked me to comment on the recent happenings at Alpha. I will not say much, because I do not want the youngsters to be hurt any more than they have already been with the negative publicity so far.

And for that reason I might be accused of 'sweeping things under the carpet', which Roman Catholics in Jamaica are not allowed to do — only those who are not Roman Catholics have the privilege. Roman Catholics are also not allowed to create distractions from the issues — a tool employed by the masses.

One such distraction is to put the Roman Catholic Church in negative light so that the focus will be there, instead of the place where the majority of sins really lie.

Less than three per cent of the Jamaican population adheres to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It follows that the majority of sinners in Jamaica are not Roman Catholic. At the same time, I imagine that the anti-Roman Catholics who thought priests were involved in the Alpha affair must be very disappointed to learn that no such thing happened.

But politicians will be politicians. If they are backed into a corner, they are going to defend themselves, even if it means using the truth as a weapon regardless of who gets hurt. In such a case, Lisa Hanna did what any other politician in a similar position would have done. Of course, it does not make it right, but at least it gives the matter some perspective.

But, I am happy about the call from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness who has called for an increased government subvention for the Alpha Boys' Home. According to a letter to the editor carried in the Observer, Holness stated that the Opposition would be "prepared to support a special subvention for the Alpha Boys' Home given its historical importance and significant contribution to Jamaica".

And I am happy all the more because Andrew Holness is a Seventh-day Adventist, as is the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. At the same time, I do not think that the Government can give much more, especially in light of the restrictions imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

In the 1980s I was the superintendent of an orphanage that had a government subvention, which was woefully inadequate, and this was 30 years ago when Edward Seaga was prime minister. But Holness is certainly correct and shows an understanding that foster care is not a cure all for deviant children.

And Holness has certainly taken an objective stance, which contrasts with those who will do anything to put the Roman Catholic Church in a poor light. Perhaps Sir Patrick and Andrew Holness can use their great influence to convince the Seventh-day Adventists worldwide to donate large sums of money to this most worthy cause.





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