Columns

Portia and Damion have their work cut out

Chris Burns

Monday, September 17, 2012    

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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller does not get it and has mistakenly vowed not to talk her way out of power. The truth is, Madam Prime Minister, it is not about maintaining political power because ultimate power does not reside with you; it resides with the people. The people can take away that power in the same fashion that they entrusted it to you. Therefore, your focus ought not to be on becoming a slave to the power you now have. Instead, your focus ought to be on differentiating between the power and authority that are reposed in your office and finding the right way to use them responsibly.

It is not about you the individual; it is about "we the people" and the people are saying it is time to review the communications aspect of your leadership. What is so disgusting or harmful about that, Madam Prime Minister? No one is asking you to let loose lips or hastiness misguide your utterances or impair your judgement. No one is asking you to comment on every bit of foolishness, or to become so encumbered by a load of pettiness that you forget the important things.

In fact, we know that the office of prime minister brings a particular purpose and carries a special prestige that precludes the holder of that office from becoming engaged in open cass-cass. However, as prime minister, you are the communicator-in-chief, especially in trying times. For while nothing is intrinsically wrong with your ambitions to redefine the role of prime minister insofar as delegating and communicating are concerned, you must also understand that the prime ministerial role is not a self-serving one, but one in which the holder is the chief servant - yes, service is the purpose of that office.

It cannot become the norm for the prime minister to lambaste and accuse everybody of unfairness because they find aspects of her leadership style to be defective. Good leaders are never preoccupied with how good they think they are, but rather with how better they can become. So if the prime minister is serious about holding onto the office, it could redound to her benefit to start connecting with the people, to begin a programme to keep them adequately informed, become re-engaged, reconsider her media availability strategy and bring structure to how she reacts to criticisms.

Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damion Crawford has found himself in one mighty tiff with certain members of his constituency's political organisation. Mr Crawford narrowly won the seat for the PNP in last December's general election. According to the official count posted by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica on its website, Mr Crawford polled 9,634 votes to the JLP's 9,375 - a difference of 259 votes. Voter turnout was just "north" of 58 per cent in the rather vast and politically challenging constituency. Hence, it took hard work to win the seat.

There was visible in-fighting in the constituency in the run-up to the selection of Mr Crawford over who the PNP's representative should be. In fact, Crawford had sought to run in North Trelawny, but he was not the party's choice; rumours then circulated that he would be the party's standard-bearer in West Central St Andrew, but that too did not materialise. He eventually ended up winning the East Rural seat. Damion is young, ambitious and eager to make his contribution to Jamaica. I admire his commitment and support his decision to enter representational politics.

I met him at in New York a few weeks after he was selected as the candidate. We had a great conversation about his vision for the constituency and for Jamaica, should he decide to become prime minister in the future. As would be expected, I asked him tough and in-your-face questions about his motives, drive, determination, worthiness, tenacity and readiness for the office he sought. There were absolutely no doubts that he was determined in his mind to do his best.

He made clear that his entry into representational politics was not to maintain the status quo, where politicians act as baby-fathers, baby-mothers, undertakers, obeah men, dressmakers, pastors, tailors and so on. He was clear about his vision as a legislator and even clearer about the transformational role he would play in bringing meaningful change to the lives of the people he would represent, especially in the field of education and skills training.

And although I sensed a mild disappointment in him, having surmised that he would have preferred to represent the North Trelawny constituency, there were no signs of bitterness. Damion is an independent, but a loyal party man who would help the party to achieve all it can for the Jamaican people. Take it from me; he did not enter politics for material gains. For, as you know, he had already established his own small internet-based tourism business, which from all accounts was starting to pick up steam. You see, Crawford knows well the benefits of teaching a man to fish instead of handing him a fish.

None of this is to suggest that my good friend is perfect; he is far from it. His insistence on using the bulk of his Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for education is brilliant, but given current realities, it is too futuristic for the narrow-minded. However, it cannot be that he is the sole decision-maker regarding the fund's allocation. He should engage members of his constituency, both Comrades and Labourites, to identify projects outside of education. He should not give up an inch of ground to anyone who wants him to allocate taxpayers' money toward political payback favours or to fund unbankable political projects.

Burnscg@aol.com

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