Columns

PM should lead from the front

KEN CHAPLIN

Tuesday, September 25, 2012    

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THE most successful leaders are those who lead from the front and not from behind. In politics and governance it is far better and more effective to be out there leading from the front as Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Edward Seaga have shown in modern Jamaican history.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems committed to leading from behind. Now, no prime minister can always lead from the front in all situations regarding governance. That is why there are ministers and ministers of state who have the responsibility for informing her of what is happening on the ground and suggesting how to deal with it. But there are situations of national importance of which the prime minister should be quite aware and be in front clarifying policies on projects and programmes and telling the country where she and her government stand.

One such programme is the Constituency Development Fund, a useful programme for carrying out meaningful projects in education and road repairs in the constituencies. But many of the constituents believe that the CDF fund is for political patronage, 'curry goat' feed and money to be given away to loyal political activists. In fact, many members of parliament have been using the CDF for education and road repairs and other worthwhile projects. The prime minister should have known that this was happening. Some people are suggesting the scrapping of the CDF, but I would like to see the funds increased from $10 million per constituency. For one thing, parish councils take a long time to repair farm and parochial roads, and using the CDF, members of parliament are able to tackle the repairs much quicker and prevent further deterioration.

First-time MP Damion Crawford, who this column said had shown great potential when he was selected as a candidate in the December general election, resisted pressure from some of his constituents, including councillors, that money was not given to the people to buy food. "We can't 'nyam' education," one said. Many of the parish councillors in his constituency of East Rural St Andrew supported Damion, but they were silent.

Others and a few of the "tribes" want the old practice of political patronage which has helped to create an adverse impact on this country. The clash came at a time when this column was focusing on the value of education as a vehicle for personal and national development. The point made that he should have discussed the projects and programmes with councillors of the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party is a valid one. The PNP should also have sent out representatives to explain to the people the significant shift from the politics of patronage and how the money from the CDF was to be used. From the first shot was fired, Simpson Miller should have issued a statement defending the CDF, explaining its purpose and stating where the government was going. In such matters of immense national importance, it is for the prime minister to be in front speaking and not in the back waiting to see where the wind is blowing before coming in from the cold. She says she does not intend to talk herself out of a job. What has been happening is that by not speaking out quickly and strongly, she is inadvertently placing her government in a corner that may result in her party going out of office.

Tony Hewitt's last stand

Retired police Senior Superintendent Tony Hewitt, who was my close friend for more than 30 years, was murdered recently. This has left me saddened and in shock. He was ambushed by three men at a house in St Andrew and shot dead. Tony, a sharpshooter, had a habit of keeping his firearm near the driver's seat of his vehicle or in the pocket near the steering wheel, ready for a quick draw. He always walked with his firearm, but on this occasion he made the fatal mistake of leaving his gun in the vehicle, and as he struggled with the gunmen and ran towards the vehicle he was shot three times. He did not stand a chance.

We shared a building at Ruthven Road, Cross Roads, which housed the narcotics branch and the Police Public Relations and Welfare Division. That was in the early 1970s. He was an acting corporal then and I was communication director of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Over the years we met frequently and discussed crime and conditions in the JCF. I found him to be articulate, constructive and fair. Having completed my two-year assignment to establish the Police Information Centre, I returned to my substantive public service post of editor of the editorial division at the Jamaica Information Service and he went on to bigger things, but we never lost contact. Through hard work and superb criminal investigative skills as leader of the Flying Squad, he was promoted over the years to corporal, sergeant, inspector, deputy superintendent, superintendent and senior superintendent. In view of his outstanding performance, he should have been promoted to assistant commissioner, but for whatever reasons that did not happen.

It is well known that his leadership of the constables, sub-officers and officers at the Flying Squad was of a high quality. He focused mainly on their safety and strategy when going on operations, and was a great talker, communicating in a soft, reassuring voice. Hewitt's approach to his work was very professional.

When he went on operations in the inner cities he took the opportunity to speak to the young people about pursuing a straight path, and he would not charge anyone unless he had strong evidence that he believed would stand up in court. Senior Superintendent Derrick Knight, a close colleague of Hewitt for more than 30 years, said Hewitt was a dedicated and committed professional. Tony carried out his tasks without abusing people. Knight, who served in the Flying Squad, recalled that even when he was on operations Hewitt would advise the young people to be good citizens and he always had a word of encouragement for first-time offenders to give up their crooked course. Tony Hewitt's characteristics made him an ideal cop: honesty of purpose, toughness on criminals, a soft heart for the underprivileged and applying the law without fear or favour. His murder and the frequency with which the gun is being used to kill and to maim have reopened the question of whether the penalty for having an illegal firearm should be death by hanging. Many of those who are against the death penalty prefer mandatory life sentence. The country will have difficulty moving forward with the high level of murder and mayhem being experienced.

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