Columns

No one is buying the Ellington resignation reasons

Mark Wignall

Thursday, July 03, 2014    

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NONE of us, whether we are in school or out, are privy to the inner workings, the thought processes, the simply domestic knicks and knacks which move him, neither can we definitively state that we know the bigger professional objectives which drive Owen Ellington, or that we are in touch with his philosophical leanings.

As loyal and, many times, faithful members of the public, we can state with certainty that up until a few days ago Mr Owen Ellington, easily one of our most competent in the post of top cop, had not given us even the slightest indication that he was quitting what has to be one of the top three posts in Jamaica, that of commissioner of police. And, at the same time, we are unaware that anything outwardly seismic at the social or economic level has sent tremors inside the hierarchy of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and/or the political directorate to make his stay there highly untenable. For now.

Even the timing leaves room for suspicion that the reasons being given -- that he wants to step aside before the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry comes about so that he will not be in a position where it can be said he is influencing the matters being investigated, ring hollow and need a publicly justifiable and accepted explanation

And, as I said, the timing was off. Badly.

Reminds me of an ill-mannered uptown man who treats his domestic helper like a dirty dish rag. The helper hates him with a passion but she is aware of the man's power. On her weekend off she phones the ill-mannered boss to say that her grandmother has died, she has to attend the funeral and, to tell the truth, she will be away from work as long as her grandmother remains dead.

Ellington reminds me of that helper.

As one of the most respected top employees of the general public, deep inside, Mr Ellington knows that if his side of the street is free of garbage he ought to have no problem in telling us where garbage is, who it belongs to, and where the activities of the new wave of crime-fighting should focus on in order to clean up garbage.

But, if his side of the street is spic and span and he wants to bawl out on behalf of those of us in Jamaica who are anxious to see the crime monster whipped, he also knows that although we are the taxpayers, it is the mechanics of government and the politicians who are his direct paymasters.

Who, therefore, should he be more loyal to? That nebulous thing known as the 'public trust' or the real powerhouses in the People's National Party (PNP) Cabinet and among the senior public officers who run the mechanics of what the political policymakers decide is their most convenient political philosophy? Mr. Ellington is fairly young at 51. He has to secure his future and he knows where the ability to mess that up lies.

There is, of course, the other possibility -- that the 'authorities' have identified something about the commissioner, which had caused them 'disquiet'. For this reason alone, Mr Ellington ought to know that gossip grows (and dies) exponentially. A full explanation is desired.

Just recently, IMF chief Christine Lagarde visited Jamaica. On the assumption that people operating at that high a level on the global landscape are not prone to open expressions of 'political emotion' but instead, carefully give a few days or more of thought to the words they will use while on foreign soil, it appears to me that when she said it was the influence of the US which tipped her hand in assisting us, in essence she was saying, 'the US Government requested that we help the PNP Administration in Jamaica'.

What was unsaid but loudly so, was the very reverse of that situation when the JLP Government was openly fighting off the US request for Dudus's extradition in 2009 to 2010. Isn't it obvious that what the IMF chief was more than insinuating was that the IMF deliberately stalled helping Jamaica because a stamp of 'cease-and-desist' was issued to the IMF by the US during those times? In other words, the JLP Government overplayed its hand in its stance with the US, and the US decided to roll over on its side and make us say, 'Ouch!'

I make this point because what is usually doled out to the public as the official position or 'truth' on certain matters is many times not even the weakest concoction of something resembling truth. In the case of the IMF chief, her truths were direct, in our face and, she knew, of no material, social or economic consequence to her.

In fact, she may have enjoyed demonstrating to us, the beggars, how important her organisation and part of the world are, and how ashamed we ought to be as we stew in our politically engineered generational poverty.

Where Ms Lagarde wields awesome power on the world stage, soon-to-be ex-Commissioner Owen Ellington is a big fish in the small pond called Jamaica. By comparison Ms Lagarde wields the power of a whale!

The most troubling aspect of the Ellington matter is that nothing had come to us, or was likely to come to us, we believed, about any failings of Mr Ellington. Indeed the impression I got as I moved around the man and woman at street level was that he was 'ok', was 'trying his best', and he was leagues ahead of those we had in a not so far-off past.

Also, I did not sense that internally he was any more unloved by any other CEO who had taken a hard line in reforming the post which was overdue for such reform.

I met with the commissioner once, sat with him for a few minutes, after which he delegated the matters I had come to him about to very competent second-tier members of the JCF hierarchy. One got the sense over time that Owen Ellington was not anyone's 'boy', harking back to the days when top cops took any orders barked to them by powerful political voices.

There was always, of course, the resource problem in the JCF -- shortage and state of rolling stock, state of police stations, pay level, extra-judicial killings, general corruption of some senior members in the drug trade, and the high rate of violent crime in the society, with no solutions being offered from the political directorate in terms of any immediate or short-term social and economic restructuring.

But somehow one felt that if there was anyone identified to tackle the job and who would do it much better were he provided with those needed resources, that man had to be Owen Ellington.

In this vacuum, what happens next? Mr Ellington needs to be reminded that his sudden decision also reminds me of a man who pecks his wife on the cheek one Saturday afternoon and says, 'Soon come, baby, just having some time out with the boys,' then phones her later to say the divorce papers are on the way.

The question is: What suddenly happened between the pleasant kiss and the painful death of divorce?

observemark@gmail.com

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