The confusing wedding of 'Bebe' and the PNP

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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WHEN the cold, non-discriminating hand of death reached out for Kenley 'Bebe' Stephens last Sunday evening, his untimely passing had all of the elements of a hit. But it may not have been as untimely as some of us would like to think it was.

The People's National Party (PNP) activist and sub-cultural bon vivant of sorts was shot and wounded in November 2009 and, of course, he lived to tell the tale of his lucky escape. In his final date with life on Sunday evening he was at his gate with two men when a lone gunman approached and shot him then made his exit on foot. Unlike in 2009, when his car and other items were taken, the two men were untouched and nothing was taken, hence my reason for using the word 'hit'.

The question is why would someone want to harm someone who was lauded by PNP MP DK Duncan as having made a "significant contribution to the PNP, through the youth organisation and the West Central St James constituency".

On second thought, that may not be so much lauding Bebe as it is stating a fact.

Another fact, but one more generic and reminiscent of something that would emanate from the National Security Ministry, was stated in a release from the PNP in relation to Bebe's death. "The latest killing confirms that, while strides are being made in the fight against violent crimes and all criminality, we still have a long way in the journey to victory against criminals."

Michael Troupe, PNP councillor for the Granville Division, the stomping ground of Bebe, said: "It is a very sombre mood in Granville, everybody is mourning. Bebe was a very popular man in Granville and the entire St James."

For a man who was quietly installed in the executive of the PNP in the west, why has no one in the PNP executive attempted to canonise him, as we expect someone who made it there would have passed the rigorous integrity test that the PNP assured us would have been the norm in allowing entrance to its hallowed offices? The PNP told us this right before the 2011 election win. Or was the test only for those who were seeking to be elected? Certainly, if the recently deceased Bebe had met all of those tests of good standing and integrity we ought to have expected a much more strident condemnation of his death. Why is the PNP holding back?

In 2012, when Bebe was arrested, Superintendent of Police Leon Clunie said: "Bebe is one of the founders of the illegal lottery scam. He has been living a luxurious lifestyle, yet he has never, from our understanding, been employed in any of the services in Jamaica."

When the senior policeman uttered those words, to the best of my memory, no one in the PNP executive came out in Bebe's defence to say to Sup Clunie that he was making empty talk. So the question must be: how did Bebe move from PNP enthusiast to PNP activist to being PNP vice-president of the West Central St James constituency organisation?

Quite a step up, I would think. The PNP has to answer on the basis that, when Clunie made that statement in 2012, there was no response from the PNP categorically disputing it. No one from the PNP said that it was rumour- mongering.

Outside of the words of the senior policeman on the Lottery Task Force and the general talk on the streets of Montego Bay, nothing, to my knowledge, has ever surfaced to corroborate Clunie's statement. But Clunie is a senior investigator, not given to wild rantings.

As the party in power, and moreso as the party of Norman Manley, a man who was said to be of impeccable character and whose integrity was never questioned, one would not expect that the PNP would want to wait on clearance from the courts, to distance itself from someone whom the head of the taskforce investigating the illegal and oftentimes violent lottery scam described as "one of the founders".

Were the PNP serious about that promissory note to the nation, it would have immediately raised a red flag to its organisational machinery in St James about inviting such a person to sit on its executive.

I can well understand someone new coming along, all fired up in PNP tradition, wanting to be part of its leadership and executive. But, for someone The Star described on November 4, 2009 as "... well-known in the second city for parading around in his car with other flamboyant men while blaring raunchy music", plus having a senior policeman heading the lottery task force saying that the man was a founder of an illegal scam, surely now the PNP was more than warned.

The PNP has a history of being two-mouthed. A few years ago when Heather Robinson left representational politics after loudly stating that she was not prepared to "hug up gunman", that is, utilise as a part of her constituency organisation street 'toughs', there was not a single voice among all the PNP MPs to lend her any support.

Which PNP MP is now prepared to address the words stated by Leon Clunie, even as many are preparing in a few weeks' time to attend the funeral of their fallen hero who must have left behind loved ones to mourn him. They have genuine reasons to shed tears for him.

Which PNP MP is prepared to tell us that there is a time to embrace and there is also another time to cut that embrace with absolute finality?

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