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When it’s about Jamaica — It's personal

BY LIZ-MARIE ACHEME

Sunday, May 23, 2010    

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I confess that I haven't been myself lately.

I have been so consumed by this Manatt, Phelps & Phillips/ Christopher 'Dudus' Coke affair that I have been unable to function properly at home and at work. I have been anxious, angry and hungry for truth and hope, with every twist and turn in this whole saga.

And though my body has been in the United Kingdom where I work, my heart, mind and my attention have been wrestling with what's happening in Jamaica -- my home.

You won't be surprised then to hear that when I woke up on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, the first thing I did was to boot up the computer to seek out Bruce Golding's speech to the nation. This, after his handling of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips/Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition affair led to calls for his resignation.

He had spoken to the people of Jamaica at 8:30 pm the previous day -- that's 2:30 in the morning UK time. I had planned to wait up for his speech but I didn't make it.

On the morning of May 18, I searched for the speech like my life depended on it. When I found it, I heard a prime minister saying, "I'm sorry" and addressing the Jamaican people with what I think was humility and sincerity.

If he wasn't making headway with others, it was clear that the prime minister was off to a good start with me. Here I was at 7:00 am UK time and instead of getting ready for work, I was sitting up in bed with the laptop on my lap and saying "Yes," "No," "Exactly," to the computer screen as I listened and responded to Bruce Golding's speech. He was connecting with me. He had to. This, after all, is not a party political matter for me. It's national and it's personal.

I, like so many other Jamaicans, have been hurt, disappointed and disrespected by the prime minister's handling of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips/ Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition affair and with the JLP's insistence that the prime minister had done nothing wrong.

A Good Speech

I can't say the prime minister's speech removed all the sting from the pain I have felt so sharply over the last few days, for I am still wounded, but it did soothe me to some extent when I realised that the tone of his speech was hitting many of the right notes.

The speech was well-written and presented. The message was clear and acceptable in my view and it was pitched appropriately to the different levels of the Jamaican society. Bruce Golding was succeeding in communicating to the people of Jamaica. If he didn't reach all of us, he certainly got my attention.

I used to be sure that the prime minister would hit the right chords with the country, once he did a message to the nation. He has that kind of communication skill. But I had wondered if arrogance now permanently lives where that Bruce Golding who was voted in as prime minister previously lived. I was not sure which one of them would be taking the microphone at such a crucial time in the life of our nation. Luckily, a humbled prime minister -- the servant of the people -- Bruce Golding, delivered the apology to the nation.

There are still questions

Having given to Bruce Golding what is due to him -- we cannot pretend that he gave us all that is due to us in answering the questions that his actions have led us to ask -- I believe that there is still room for suspicion.

Some of the questions that are still unanswered include:

* Did the prime minister of Jamaica set out to deceive the people of Jamaica in the first place? Is this a case of poor handling of a sensitive situation, or a mixture of both intended deception and blunder?

* Why did the JLP feel the need to find and fund a lobbyist (Manatt, Phelps & Phillips) for 'Dudus'? Does 'Dudus' have secrets for them? Who exactly is paying for it? What were they hoping to achieve?

* If the prime minister in his role as party leader sanctioned the lobbying... Why? Did he weigh Jamaica's need for justice after suffering at the hands of criminals and the international perception of Jamaica as the land of gangsters against the justice he sought for 'Dudus'? And ultimately, whose side is he really on?

* If in fact the US has contravened the extradition treaty with Jamaica -- what place does a JLP lobby effort have in this whole affair. Isn't it a government to government matter?

* Did the Prime Minister undermine the role of the Solicitor General in all of this by pursuing lobbying efforts sanctioned by Bruce (with his JLP Leader hat on, of course, not his prime minister's hat) or was the solicitor general in collusion with the JLP?

* How does the prime minister account for taking an action as JLP leader that conflicts with/and is not in the best interest of the Jamaican people? This, after all, is the same person who told the PNP in the Trafigura scandal that you cannot jump out of one skin (The government skin) into another (the party skin) because there are consequences.

* Why didn't Mr Golding tell us that he was aware of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' involvement in the extradition affair from the outset? Why tell us now?

* How does the prime minister account for his spokesman saying that the prime minister was in deep contemplation over the whole issue and would put the interest of the party first?

* Does the prime minister put the party or the people of Jamaica first?

* We understand that Prime Minister Bruce Golding cannot go public with every detail of an extradition request. It is a sensitive matter. But is the prime minister withholding information in the interest of 'Dudus', the JLP or the people of Jamaica? What are his motives?

* How does the prime minister account for the inability of his party to understand and admit to the fact that declining to tell the nation that he was aware of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' involvement in the extradition affair amounts to dishonesty? How did they decide "He has done nothing wrong"? How can we trust a party that does not know wrong from right?

I forgive you, prime minister

Despite all of my questions, I am willing to forgo further probing of the matter at this juncture and will respond to the prime minister's plea for forgiveness with "Yes, prime minister, I forgive you. I will give you a second chance. I will give you time to repair the broken relationship with your countrymen and women and will support your efforts to rebuild our nation."

Many of our people will, over time, forgive the prime minister but for now, he will be kept at a distance. Our nation is still hurting and words are not enough to make it alright. It takes time for healing and we are waiting to see if these words will be backed up by action.

I accept that there are many Jamaicans still who are not able to understand or appreciate my position. Having called for the prime minister's resignation, for them an apology -- no matter how sincere and eloquent -- is not a good enough atonement and I understand why they feel this way.

As hard as it is to swallow, I invite them to consider the view that if Mr Golding has truly repented (and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity at this time), our country may actually stand to benefit more if he continues in office.

If he does resign, when I look ahead, I see a worse predicament. I see Jamaica's economical recovery programme destined for disaster. I see a country where there are no viable alternatives to take over the mantle of leadership, neither in the JLP nor the PNP. I hear Jamaicans crying out, "Who shall lead us?" and I see a political system and culture that doom us to a similar variety of bad governance down the road.

I believe there is more to be gained if Mr Golding stays in office and delivers on those promises he made in his speech. Promises of constitutional reform, dismantling of garrisons and tougher crime measures -- promises that if kept, should make it more difficult for politicians to put party over country, sleep in the same bed with criminals and sell out the Jamaican people and get away with it.

We have no guarantees that Bruce Golding will be able to rebuild the trust the Jamaican people placed in him when they voted him into power. There are no guarantees that he will deliver on his promises either, but I believe it is the right thing to give him the chance to try.

Trust is earned and he will have to work hard to regain the trust of the people of Jamaica.

To earn this trust, he will have to lead a team that learns to listen. The prime minister must keep himself and his team in check, to ensure that they act responsibly and humbly, as servants of the people. He must also learn to manage both truth and perception so that he prevents rather than escalates difficult situations into national crises.

I concede that even before this crisis, Bruce Golding has had a difficult job. It's hard enough to manage a people and party when there are competing and often conflicting interests. Since coming to power, he's had to tackle one disaster after another -- natural and man- made -- and right now our nation is facing multiple difficulties: economic, political and social. Jamaicans from all sides have come to agree that "Him really salt."

Add to that, the fact that this is Bruce Golding's first experience of being prime minister. He has to be learning on the job and every mistake has extraordinary national consequences.

It's a hard job being prime minister of Jamaica and whatever criticisms I level at him, I wouldn't have the guts to be Bruce Golding right now.

It's not over

Having listened to the prime minister's speech, I believe it is the first step in the right direction. But it's just one step. This matter is not behind us yet. The PNP are expected to call for a no-confidence vote in Mr Golding, which means our attention and time will continue to be focused on this issue. We also wait to see if the private sector and civil society will resume working relationships with the prime minister.

The fact that the extradition proceeding will be moving forward, there are fears that law and order may be compromised as those who support Christopher 'Dudus' Coke assert themselves. Already downtown Kingston is tense and there is panic in other parts of Jamaica as well.

If there are more skeletons in the closet in this whole affair, they may yet come tumbling out and will haunt Bruce Golding, the JLP and Jamaica. This extradition matter has only just begun.

Jamaicans for Jamaica - show your face

As for the Jamaican people, we have a history of being a country of nine-day wonders. It has to change. We have to take responsibility for the state of the country and be participants in its cleansing and rebuilding. We have asked for a trustworthy leader but we too must be men, women and children of good character who value honesty, fairness, justice and truth in our own lives and in our activities with each other.

We have to continue to be vigilant and proactive citizens -- not JLP and PNP, the parties in between and No P.

We, after all, are in charge of our destiny. We cannot leave it to the Government and we cannot be led by the Opposition, we must scrutinise them both in the interest of Jamaica.

We've had a taste of people power. It's been so long since we stood up together for something on a matter of principle and not party.

We have the power and the ability to make a difference without burning tyres in the road and destroying the very country which we seek to build.

This passion and patriotism, this exercising of free speech and lobbying power that have emerged as a result of the extradition case should be harnessed, built upon and used.

But we cannot stop there. Those of us who speak our patriotism must back it up with action. Those of us who show our patriotic status on facebook and get the word out on twitter have made a good start. What a difference we could make if we also show our faces and join hands in rebuilding our schools, our communities -- our nation.

As it's time for confessions, I admit that I am one of those Jamaicans who I am calling to action.

I have been reflecting on what my country means to me. I have been trying to identify my own gifts and talents and have been asking myself, "How can I help to build a better Jamaica wherever I am?"

Jamaica is in a mess. We have to clean it up. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Whose job is it to clean up Jamaica? It can't be "the Government" alone.

"If not me, who? If not now, when?"

I have challenged myself to roll up my sleeves and do my part to change my nation and so must all of us as Jamaicans.

God has blessed our country -- Land of Bob, Bolt, Belafonte, Bennett -- and that's just the Bs (I got that from The Book Thief by Markus Zusac).

Jamaica is the "one love" island -- affectionately called -- JA, Jamrock, Jamdown (That's not original either. I got that from you.)

Together we can build our nation.

lizmarieacheme@yahoo.co.uk

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