THE dispute between first-time Government parliamentarian Mr Damion Crawford and members of the People's National Party (PNP) organisation in East Rural St Andrew is a manifestation of one of the biggest problems in this country — pork barrel politics.
As reported in this week's Sunday Observer, PNP councillors and officials in the party's East Rural St Andrew constituency organisation are fuming over how they perceive Government funds should be spent. They have also accused Mr Crawford of being rude, unapproachable and disrespectful of the constituency leadership.
Mr Oliver Clue, the councillor for the Harbour View Division, is quoted as saying that no money has been spent in his division, despite all the funding that Mr Crawford has received. Mr Clue has gone as far as saying that he is planning to resign as vice-chairman of the steering committee, and wants the party to find someone else to serve as councillor.
Mr Clue, though, has dismissed suggestions that the party workers are opposed to Mr Crawford's stance against partisan distribution of benefits.
Mr Crawford, on the other hand, says that the problems stem from his decision to shun old-style politics.
"The fact of the matter is, I am clear in my mind as to how Government's resources should be used and as to what I want to achieve, and I don't think many of the persons understand the concept of opportunity cost, so I am not going around the corner," Mr Crawford told us.
"If a man calls me about a car, I will tell him that that is not what the Government's money is supposed to do. If they tell me they need $350,000 to work on a house, I tell them to go to the National Housing Trust," he added.
We cannot speak to the veracity of the claims on either side of this dispute. However, we would not be surprised if the partisan distribution of spoils was at the root of the issue. For that is the nature of the politics that we have practised in Jamaica for too long.
Successive administrations have used the country's resources to ensure their hold on power. In the process, they have institutionalised a mentality of dependence and mendicancy that has kept many Jamaicans mired in poverty.
The upshot is that the few men and women who go into representational politics with the aim of creating real opportunities for people are regarded by large numbers of the electorate as either stupid or lacking in knowledge of how 'things mus' run'.
More often than not, those people are not voted into office, thus depriving the country of the kind of representative who would, as Mr Crawford said, move away from the old-style politics.
We believe that both the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) owe it to the country to create a shift in people's thinking. Both parties should start first with those among their ranks, particularly in the leadership, who still hold to the view that they need to buy votes to win public support.
The PNP already has a mechanism to do that in the form of its Integrity Commission which, the party president told us at its launch, was "formed out of the PNP's commitment to take a genuine, strong and credible stance against corruption of any form within the party and more generally within the nation". Mr Crawford will need such a body now.
And the JLP would do well to establish and empower an equivalent body.