The evolution of Karl George Samuda

Thursday, May 08, 2014    

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IT could easily have been missed by readers, but we noticed it.

In recent weeks, Mr Karl Samuda, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) shadow minister of industry, investment, commerce, mining, and energy had moved closer to Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell in the quest to get cheaper energy for Jamaica.

Even while civil society groups were calling for Mr Paulwell's head, Mr Samuda quietly met with the principals of Energy World International (EWI) and was apparently satisfied that the minister was sufficiently seized with urgency of the 381-megawatt power project and that EWI could deliver.

The Opposition spokesman was able to convince his colleague, Mr Audley Shaw, about his findings such that the shadow minister of finance included a strong call to the Government to push hard ahead with the energy project, during his response to Dr Peter Phillips' budget presentation in parliament.

In fact, when a call came from the JLP for Mr Paulwell's resignation for his handling of the issue, it was not over Karl Samuda's signature, suggesting that there were differences about how the matter should be treated within the party.

Mr Samuda's belief is that the cost of energy has been crippling in its effect on the country and that no effort should be spared to bring that cost down. And he seems prepared to be patient while the process is underway. Following the Government's decision to revoke the licence granted to EWI to execute the 381-megawatt project, he urged that any new player in a future deal should be held to the US12.88-cent price offered by EWI, but should definitely not be higher, demonstrating that he had bought into Paulwell's dream.

He was also impressed by the fact that, at Mr Paulwell's insistence, other bidders had brought their offer down from as high as 18 cents to 14.5 cents, an overnight reduction he describes as "curiously drastic".

With the project taken out of Mr Paulwell's hands, we don't hear Mr Samuda celebrating or trying to score political points. Indeed, the veteran politician appears to be fearing for the future of the project under the new enterprise committee to be headed by Dr Vin Lawrence in whom he has lost confidence because of the Sandals Whitehouse brouhaha.

The 72-year-old politician could well be morphing into a statesman after a virtual lifetime of partisan politics which has seen him cross the floor from the JLP to the People's National Party and back again, all the time winning his North Central St Andrew seat.

Regrettably, there are not too many Jamaican politicians who have become statesmen in their senior years. After the cut and thrust of partisan politics, veteran politicians would have gathered substantial experience that could redound to the benefit of the entire country, once they are bereft of the narrow bounds of party activism.

If Mr Samuda is beginning to evolve into a statesman, Jamaica would be the better for it.





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