Columns

2018 — A year of decision ...if things don't fall apart

Lloyd B
Smith

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

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So Christmas Day has come and gone — hopefully with a bang and not a whimper for you. Of course, “bang” is used in the positive sense here as the year 2017 has witnessed many bangs that have taken hundreds of lives. Indeed, 2017 can be dubbed the Year of the Gun in terms of the many incidents of shootings, many fatal, as well as the record number of guns seized by the police in various operations.

Despite the best intentions of the Andrew Holness-led Administration, inclusive of the introduction of zones of special operations (ZOSO) in Mt Salem and Denham Town, murders most foul have continued unabated. So far, Prime Minister Holness has had to eat his words as a result of his now infamous electioneering promise that if the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were to be elected to office then citizens would be able to go to bed with their windows, and perhaps even doors, open. No doubt he is now regretting having made that statement, despite his well-intentioned motive, as he has suffered the proverbial fate of “cock mouth kill cock”.

Like France at the time leading up to the French Revolution when Charles Dickens wrote one of his famous novels, A Tale of Two Cities, for Jamaica, in 2017, it was the best of times as well as also the worst of times for the country. Tourism, our major foreign exchange earner, soared to new heights, experiencing a record of over four million visitors gracing our shores. This is truly a remarkable feat, and I unhesitatingly name Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett as the Man of the Year, consummate marketer, visionary, and “sweet talker”. He has led from in front and given Jamaica a stellar place in the world's hospitality trade.

However, the downside to all of this is that Jamaica has also recorded a staggering number of murders, and what is even more worrisome, St James, of which Minister Bartlett is one of the Members of Parliament, has stood out as the murder capital of Jamaica with over 300 homicides reported.

It is against this background that I am predicting that 2018 will be a year of decision in many respects for this fledgling democracy if things are not to permanently fall apart. There is too much indiscipline in the society, teamed with rampant corruption, non-productivity — a worsening scenario which has seen Jamaica teetering at the precipice of becoming a failing State, if not a failed State.

Prime Minister Holness, if he wishes to be taken seriously, must fulfil his promise of providing job descriptions for his ministers, many of whom have so far attracted failing grades. And now that he has a more comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, he should move post-haste to shuffle his Cabinet and stop relying so heavily on his “kitchen Cabinet”.

Where crime and corruption, as well as the rampant lawlessness and disorder, in the country are concerned, he must get his act together and tame that rough beast which the late Wilmot “Motty” Perkins oftentimes alluded to on his talk show, which is shuffling towards Kingston. The number of roadblocks and citizens protests throughout the year from St Thomas in the east to St James in the west has been reminiscent of the Christmas Rebellion of 1865, which saw the oppressed blacks of this country, inspired by the oratory, defiance and courage of National Hero Samuel Sharpe, setting fire to the cane piece in a bid to gain their freedom from “backra massa”.

For some time now the Jamaican Government has taken on the appurtenance of “backra massa”, and there is beginning to emerge a similar attitude of defiance coming from the Jamaican people that has been saying a plague on both your houses, namely the JLP and the People's National Party. Thus, while Prime Minister Holness tries to cement his hold on the JLP leadership — as well as seeking to provide a winning formula to prolong his stay in Jamaica House — his penchant for Anancy-type politics may well lead to his downfall. He must take the high road and take those important decisions, though unpopular, to ensure sustained economic growth and a Jamaica that is safe and truly prosperous. Public relations gimmickry alone will not do it. He must bell the cat.

In the meantime, PNP and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is now walking a tight rope and must begin to emerge as a forceful, no-nonsense and visionary “prime minister in waiting” if he is not to face internal rebellion and a consequent rejection by the Jamaican people. He must bring to the fore what the PNP really stands for and what makes it different from the JLP. It cannot be a case of no better herring, no better barrel.

The bottom line is that the Jamaican people are becoming increasingly impatient, and the days of deliverance and “Better Mus' Come” slick campaigns by an Edward Seaga and Michael Manley can no longer cut it. The voter is now asking, with much anger and anxiety: Where is the beef?

Meanwhile, the Church as far as I am concerned, has had a most dismal year in terms of its not being able to effectively and with balance take the moral high ground. Outside of the various pronounced peccadillos by some of its men of the cloth, it must be told that sporadic marches and mass meetings alone cannot help to change the hearts of so many Jamaicans that are hell-bent on paying homage to Satan. The increasing presence of Indian astrologers and obeah workers, not to mention people who are privately becoming devil worshippers would suggest the Church is failing to bring souls to the throne of grace and repentance. This is not an attack on the Church, but it must stop being merely reactive and become proactive. The bottom line is that if Jamaica does not make a dramatic turnaround economically, socially and spiritually, “dawg gwine nyam wi supper”. The writing is on the wall, we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting like King Nebuchadnezzar. Mark my words.

On a more positive note, may I use this opportunity and medium to wish everyone a rewarding, safe and fulfilling 2018. Make that also your Year of Decision.

Lloyd B Smith is a newspaper publisher and editor. He hails from Montego Bay, where he has lived most of his life and is popularly known as “The Governor”. Send comments to the Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.

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