No good deed goes unpunished
I'M baaaaaaaaaack! And just in time too. In my last column, before taking a little break, I wrote that: 'We're fortunate that as a nation celebrating its 50th year of Independence we can use this historical time, coupled with our participation in the Olympics, to remind ourselves and the world that Jamaica is the greatest nation on earth. And all of the lessons, the euphoria, the goodwill and the blood, sweat and tears from this we should use to propel us forward to even greater heights.'
That said, a belated happy birthday wish is in order to coach Glen Mills, who turned 60+ last week. We share the same birthday, by the way, and when I think of what he's been able to do — produce two of the fastest men in the world in the short space of 10 years — I realise that middle age is not the end, it is merely the beginning .
If coach Mills were to lend his talent to the management of the leadership of this country, imagine what they could accomplish on Jamaica's behalf. Mills is the legend. He is the national treasure responsible for much of the international goodwill we have been feeling.
The past few weeks have indeed been euphoric — Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals; the Jamaican flag and spirit soaring the world over; and Jubilee celebrations which went off without a hitch. Even the poinciana trees co-operated and were in full bloom, providing a rich red accent to the black, gold and green which dressed our buildings, sidewalks, fences and motor vehicles.
Well, it appears that the party is over, and while many of us are back to the daily grind, some of us have woken up with a hangover. Our Opposition spokesman on tourism has questioned (after the fact) the expenditure on Jamaica House and the promotional activities at the O2 Arena during the London Olympics. We wonder where his voice was when the budget was being cast and the objectives to justify the $140-million spend were identified.
While we wished the ministers of tourism and industry and commerce had given us the full bill and receipt of how the money was spent: ie $140,000,000 for 19,000 visitors comes out to a whopping $7,000+ per person (inclusive of catering and hospitality, staff costs, travel and accommodations, special event production and the like, we're sure) when all the accounting is done and it is determined how much free advertising the Jamaican brand received and the resulting boost to the economy from increased tourist arrivals, then perhaps all will be convinced that it was well spent.
Speaking of well spent, our favourite hot-water politician, Daryl Vaz, has turned on its ear the popular local phrase: "Good friend betta than pocket money". We know the cost of living here is very high, but $750,000 for a speeding ticket is beyond the beyond. That figure being the total bail amount paid by Mr Vaz; head of the police force's Community Safety and Security Branch, Senior Superintendent James Forbes; and businessman Bruce Bicknell after the latter two were charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and the former with breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act.
We no longer believe that "good friends better than pocket money", for we are sure that all parties involved now think that paying the speeding ticket ($5,000 in my experience) would have been far cheaper than calling on your "homies" for help.
What we are convinced of now is the other popular local phrase, which says: "No good deed goes unpunished." For it is Vaz's defence that he was merely making an appeal on behalf of his ailing friend Bicknell, whom he was seeking to save from an overnight stay in police lock-up resulting from the traffic violation.
That awful word, "corruption", has raised its ugly head in this matter. But fear not, for we know that controversial behaviour engaged in by our politicians all too often disappears in a new language which rebrands their activities in euphemistic terms: risky behaviour becomes "youthful exuberance"; inattention to one's duty is excused when "I can't recall"; and where a politician becomes involved in a matter that he shouldn't we now call it "inappropriate co-mingling".
Remember the 58-page veil of legalese and diplomatic language in which the three-member Dudus/Manatt Commission of Enquiry exonerated our public servants of any form of misconduct in their roles in the extradition of Christopher Coke?
It is on the word "misconduct" that those three wise men pinned their findings and defined the term to mean: unacceptable, deliberate, dishonest and mischievous as it applied to the conduct of those individuals involved. "Mistakes and errors were made, but no one, in our view, was guilty," the commissioners reported.
Fear not, gentlemen. We cannot expect in the case of Bicknell, Forbes, Vaz, et al, that their punishment — if in fact they are to be punished — will be any greater than those involved in the mistakes which forced the lockdown of the country for days on end, robbed women and children of a yet-to-be-determined number of sons, husbands and fathers, destroyed our reputation, and burnt through hundreds of millions of dollars.
Trying to get out of a speeding ticket pales in comparison to all of that.