EAST Rural St Andrew Member of Parliament Damion Crawford has my sympathy. It is not an easy road when one seeks to shun curry goat politics. It is committing political suicide, it is going down a slippery slope, and it is going against the norm. In the final analysis, it is not playing by the unwritten rules of politics in Jamaica which justifies the distribution of scarce benefits and spoils. It is expedient to specialise in handouts in order to survive, especially if one wants a second term in order to ensure a pension. Well, I prefer to serve one term by doing the right thing rather than winning several terms doing the wrong thing.
Ever since I entered elective politics, I have come face to face with the ugly side of people representation when a few malcontents and disaffected, misguided souls head for the trough and stay there, ranting and raving, demanding to be constantly fed from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), MP's pocket or from any other source, whether legal or illegal.
Let it be known that when one dares to be different or speak out, then one is often ostracised even in one's own party. The sad truth is that in an increasingly financially parlous environment, no political party will be able to sustain itself in the long run, if it seeks to perpetuate a culture of dependency which is expedient in winning an election but becomes arduous when it comes to governing a country equitably and with the best of intentions. In such a scenario, it is the lumpenproletariat that eventually rules the roost and calls the shots.
When Norman Manley and other genuine patriots founded the People's National Party, it was primarily established on the basis of volunteerism. Today, too few Comrades at the grass-roots level are prepared to go the extra mile on the basis of sweat equity. Indeed, it has reached a troubling stage whereby some so-called Comrades are only prepared to do anything whatsoever for the party unless they are "paid". What is even more worrying is that they have been aided and abetted by those who still believe that a bellyful and a rum money should keep these irascible partisans at bay. In my inaugural speech on September 10, 2011, at the constituency conference of the new seat of St James Central, I made it clear that I was not into handouts and that we needed to shun the "licky-licky, nyami-nyami" mentality. In other words, teaching a man to fish rather than giving him a fish every day. I did not get as much positive press as my parliamentary colleague Damion Crawford has been getting (maybe because I am not a dreadlocked rastaman - LOL!)
Having made such a statement, I have been the subject of many barbs and there are some members of my constituency who resent the stance I have taken and who are constantly abusing me and plotting to get rid of me. Needless to say, they have very little to offer the PNP, their community or the MP. Having realised the predicament I was in, I sought to establish a Constituency Development Committee which was immediately shot down by these disgruntled people who claimed that I was attempting to work around them rather than with them.
These persons have no interest in community development, just personal aggrandisement, hence their constant attempts to control the MP, in order to determine how he spends government resources, who should surround him and who should ultimately control the MP. That is the nature of "curry goat politics" to which I say a resounding no!
Let's face it, for any MP to go down that road, he or she must have a great deal of money, much of which must come from his or her pocket. Is it any wonder that several politicians have ended up being paupers at the end of their tenure? After all, it is no secret that some past politicians are now barely surviving, having literally given their all to serving the people. Marriages have been broken up, businesses have gone bust, all in the name of being a "good politician".
When Norman Manley decided to quit his leadership of the PNP, he had this to say: "My generation had a distinct mission to perform. It was to create a national spirit with which we could identify ourselves as a people for the purpose of achieving independence on the political plane. I am convinced, deeply convinced, that the role of this generation is to proceed to the social and economic reform of Jamaica." For this process to truly begin, we must begin the process of educating our people and weaning them away from "curry goat politics".
Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party or the Government of Jamaica.