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Is the one-term phobia fuelling more corruption?

Lloyd B
Smith

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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There is a growing fear among some supporters of both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) that the Jamaican electorate has become increasingly fed up with both parties and is therefore opting to give each of them no more than one term at a time.

For quite some time, Jamaicans have become somewhat accustomed to what was known as the “two-term syndrome”, but since 2002 no party has been able to get a second term, thus fuelling the feeling that voters have become overly intolerant of both parties and are quick to see the back of them in quick succession.

Although there is not sufficient credible data to back up this assertion, anecdotally, and given the chronological sequence of general election results since 2002, this would suggest that there is some merit to this observation, if not concern. Let's examine the general election results since 2002 based on the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) statistics.

2002 Total number of electors: 1,301,334

PNP: 396,371 (51.59%)

JLP: 360,468 (46.92%)

2007 Total number of electors: 1,336,607

JLP: 410,438 (49.97%)

PNP: 405,293 (49.35%)

2011 Total number of electors: 1,648,036

PNP: 464,064 (53%)

JLP: 405,920 (46.3%)

2016 Total electors: 1,824,412

JLP: 436,972 (49.5%

PNP: 433,735 (49.2%)

Is this a case of “no better herring, no better barrel”? Is it, for the most part, only hard-core supporters casting their votes blindly for their party? Or, as has been stated repeatedly, a plague on both their houses?

Of the two parties, the ruling JLP should be the more nervous at this time as it is now in power. But in the final analysis, the PNP should not take comfort in this one-term phobia as in Jamaican politics “any number can play”. After all, politics is the art of the possible.

One side effect of this perceived one-term fixation is the fact that supporters whose party is in power will have developed a penchant for “tiefing” as much as they can as the Government's shelf life may be limited. Is it fair to say that this is what is happening now? Almost daily there is revelation after revelation — some of which is fuelled by partisan embellishments and unsubstantiated rumours about allegations of impropriety. Nepotism, cronyism, favouritism, lack of transparency and accountability, misuse, misappropriation, malfeasance, fraud and blatant waste due to incompetence, as well a lack of stringent oversight have been some of the accusations that have been hurled at this Administration.

Of course, as my late mother would say, “to give the devil his due” it can be argued that all of these accusations have been levelled against previous PNP administrations, so there's the rub.

In this context, what bothers well-thinking citizens who wish to rise above the narrow partisan fray is the pointing of fingers, as was attempted by JLP Senator Matthew Samuda in the Senate recently when he took potshots against the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee chairman, Member of Parliament Dr Wykeham McNeill, in the wake of the allegations of wanton overspending, made against tourism bigwig Delano Seiveright.

Unfortunately, this finger-pointing exercise as a way of muddying the waters — and in essence seeming to justify the actions of one's party — does show up the hypocrisy haunting both sides when it comes to fighting the spectre of corruption head-on and not just paying lip service. The bottom line is that corruption is corruption in any language.

In March 2017, a Jamaica Observer news article read thus: “Corruption in Jamaica is entrenched and widespread.” Jamaica must give serious consideration to what lies ahead. Lawmakers must act decisively and aggressively to confront the corruption problem.

“Jamaica has long suffered from a perception that it is a highly corrupt country. Only a few days ago the United States Department of State, in its March 2017 annual international Narcotics Control Strategy Report, described corruption in Jamaica as being “entrenched and widespread”. Even more disturbing is the fact that the US State Department has utilised virtually the same language for at least the past seven years running to characterise the magnitude and depth of the problem. Sad to say, not much has changed.

In April of this year at an international confab in Peru, Prime Minister Andrew Holness reaffirmed Jamaica's commitment to fighting corruption. Said he, “Jamaica remains committed to cooperating with international bodies and other member states to combat corruption in the forms of bribery, international graft, and organised crime. Organised crime affects us all, and Jamaica is currently engaged at the domestic and international levels to find meaningful solutions to these issues.” Sounds very good, Mr Prime Minister, but you must not only dance good abroad but “back a yard”. Your seeming deafening silence on issues relating to corruption in your Administration needs to be addressed post-haste.

One recent survey revealed that some 97 per cent of Jamaicans believe that Jamaica's politicians are corrupt. The “eat a food” mentality is rampant and, in real terms, politics is seen as a business for self-aggrandisement, rather than looking after the people's affairs.

Holness campaigned in 2016 on a platform of great promise which included the vigorous tackling of the corruption monster. If it is that some of his followers in Government have bought into the one-term phobia and are therefore 'scraping' as much as they can from the public purse then, ironically, that in itself may hasten this JLP Administration's departure from office come the next general election. Then again, this may well be seen as a catch-22 situation; damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

However, since Holness is the great millennial hope for Jamaica, he needs to get his act together and deal decisively with those in his midst who see politics as merely a matter of the competition between two warring tribes over scarce benefits and spoils.

There is a serious link between crime and corruption. Like a two-headed gargantuan creature, it will not only bring down governments, it can also destroy a country. Will “Prince Anju” dare to be a St George and slay the dragon, or will it be business as usual under his watch?

Lloyd B Smith is a veteran newspaper editor and publisher who has resided in Montego Bay for most of his life where he is popularly known as “The Governor”. Send comments to the Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.

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