PNP must not gloat over small JLP protest
IN our political culture, the effectiveness of a protest is measured by the number of people who turn up. By that measure, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) demonstration in Half-Way-Tree, on Monday, was small.
That has forced JLP leader Andrew Holness and his spokesmen to supply excuses for the people who did not turn up. Heavy rains fell the night before; some people were afraid of repercussions from the State; it's not in our culture for the civil society groups who ignored his invitation to come out to demonstrate; the party did not commit enough resources, blah blah blah...
Interestingly, those who did not join the JLP in Half-Way-Tree and spoke for themselves, said they preferred dialogue over demonstration.
We don't fault Mr Holness for trying. He is leader of a political party which wants to win the next general election and form the Government of Jamaica. Sitting down and waiting for things to get worse in the economy and the country won't cut it. He has to act. But he probably chose the wrong thing over which to call a protest.
We have a sense that the throngs did not turn up because there is a growing understanding of the economic predicament in which we are as a country. Jamaicans hate the bus fare increases, as they hate all the many other painful increases which have been occasioned by the severe austerity programme under our four-year Extended Fund Facility pact with the International Monetary Fund.
We think that our people understand that, one way or another, the increased Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus fares would have to be borne by them. It's either that or taxes - six o' one half a dozen o' the other. The alternative is to scrap the bus company or descend into the chaos of the 1980s, which is worse.
Mr Holness was not convincing. Merely saying that the Government is passing on its inefficiency does not make the argument without showing where the inefficiencies are in the JUTC, and perhaps a suggestion or two as to how to fix it.
The JLP leader also made the mistake of calling for an end to price increases and taxes without saying how the Government would fund its operations. Recall that this is the same leader who, in a rare moment of political candour ahead of the last elections, told the bald truth - that what was ahead for Jamaica was "bitter medicine".
To offer no alternative and to pretend that the days of bitter medicine are past is to fool no one in their right mind. To quote one Native American tribe, Mr Holness "speaks with forked tongue".
Still, the governing People's National Party has nothing to gloat about, as was subtly attempted in their press statement praising the Jamaican people for their resilience and for accepting the revised bus fares on Monday.
Things are rough, and the point could well come when the cup runneth over and even caution is thrown to the wind. We hope that there is a group of our best minds meeting every week behind closed doors to find creative ways to transform the pain we are experiencing into gains before too long.