A matter of alliances and allegiances

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A matter of alliances and allegiances

al Miller

Sunday, November 24, 2019

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Wha sweet nanny goat ah go run him belly — Jamaican proverb

There is an emerging new global world that is redefining how we think, how we do business, and how we relate as nations. This new world is calling for nations to revisit where they want to go and who they will walk with as they go.

Our new world is also demanding that we re-examine our beliefs and what informs them. Ultimately, this could mean a redefining of a nation's culture and what comprises it. The emergence of new global economic powers is influencing global friendships, alliances, and allegiances. Small developing nations like Jamaica must, against this background, position itself to ensure the growth, development, and prosperity of all its citizens, while not compromising its intrinsic positive values or betraying its people.

It is difficult for any nation, especially small developing nations like ours, to operate in the world without aligning itself to some large and strong nations. Non-alignment is a misnomer of the past that never really was.

Both past and recent events, coupled with commentary from some influential quarters, are forcing us to grapple with the emergence of these new global issues. We shouldn't be frightened; however, historically, global prominence or domination has always been an ongoing cyclical, baton-changing affair as nations rise and fall. Think Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, British empires.

As the world changes...

Much has changed in the world since the era of empires. However the philosophical belief systems, ideologies, and the desire for power and control by dominant nations remain the same, albeit expressed differently. The plight of developing nations has, therefore, remained the same — struggling for survival, while the dominant few developed nations contend for supremacy and for the alliance or allegiance of the independent developing nations. This is especially so when the developing nation has some natural or human resource to offer.

Good alliances can help a developing nation prosper. Bad alliances can inhibit their prosperity. Right allegiances can ensure the survival of a nation, especially when global conflict or global economic uncertainties are in view. Bad allegiances can cause the fall of governments and nations.

Our new-era prime minister, within his current vision, has to engage a conversation with his citizens to settle the issue of allegiances and alliances, national identity, and beliefs.

A people must know themselves, what they believe, where they are going, and with whom they are going. These are critical and timely decisions. Otherwise they will always be floundering to achieve greatness and true prosperity. Can we, as citizens, readily answer who we are? Who is a Jamaican? What we stand for and with whom we stand?

These are serious issues that need to be known; not just by our governors, but by each citizen. Besides knowing, we must also be united in our knowledge and actions. You must know to whom you are committed in terms of allegiance, and one should not be unfaithful to one's allegiance.

The countries in our western hemisphere that have historically been considered friends, despite the negatives, were best able to help Jamaica and therefore secured our allegiance are Canada, USA and Britain. More Jamaicans live outside Jamaica in those countries than those who reside here. The reality is we are almost inseparably joined. In addition, these countries speak our primary language and often open up job opportunities to our citizens. These facts have served to strengthen our allegiance to these nations.

These are settled issues for decades now because of our mutual beliefs in governance principles, such as democracy and values such as justice, the right to free speech and assembly, and the freedom of religion. Are we changing?

Let me state clearly that I am not against nations in general, or Jamaica in particular, forming new alliances. Sometimes strategic temporary alliances are important in this new era of globalisation. However, alliances must never threaten allegiances. Hence the need for good communication to maintain trust in all relationships.

With these thoughts in view, let's fast-forward to the ongoing courtship of the last 20 years between Jamaica and communist China. Our new-era prime minister recently returned from a trip to China. This newspaper, on Wednesday, November 20, carried a report titled 'Holness reveals new economic partnership with China'.

I hope we will soon hear in detail what our new partnership or alliance with China entails.

It is evident that it has helped immensely to quantum leap some infrastructure development here in Jamaica. What now are the terms, conditions, and new development targets in this new partnership? What have the Chinese requested in this new partnership as their benefits? Should we as average citizens here and abroad be concerned? The last one under the previous Administration cost us prime property and some socio-economic challenges.

The warnings

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes is a Latin phrase of long ago which has been paraphrased in English as the proverb “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” Its literal meaning is “I fear the Danaans [Greeks], even when they bear gifts.” Is there a Latin phrase for “I fear the Chinese even when they give us gifts or invitations to China?”

Current news sources have been filled with reports of various Jamaican groups and individuals being invited to China. Citizen groups of farmers, educators, and businesspeople have been invited to China for talks, trade shows, and other events that word from the Chinese Embassy in Jamaica has called “mutual respect and win-win cooperation”. But China seems to have a much wider scope of involvement planned.

Interestingly, recently a “senior United States military commander… warned Jamaica to be wary of China's presence in the region”. The report from a credible news source went on to state that, “Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the United States Southern Command, insisted that China did not share the common values and philosophies that America and Jamaica cherished.”

Just this past week it was reported that the USA Ambassador to Jamaica himself joined the fray. In stinging criticism of the Andrew Holness Administration's warming relationship with Beijing, United States Ambassador Donald Tapia has urged the Government to be wary of China's deepening footprint in Jamaica, citing the Asian country's lavish investment pitch as predatory and dangerous. These are strong words and signals coming from the USA. They speak to the issues of alliance and allegiance.

I do believe the words and warning of Admiral Craig Faller to be very significant. His concern was not about economics or project loans, but about values and philosophies. I share the same concern expressed in his measured opinion: “China [does not] share the common values and philosophies that America and Jamaica cherish.”

Values and philosophies are pillars of nation-building. They are not to be trifled with for the sake of building a highway or erecting a building. This is especially so if the nation with the higher moral road and more humane philosophies is the economically weaker one in the partnership. That to which I allude is a timeless principle applicable to all areas of life; whether personal, business, or national relationships. The Bible, long before Admiral Faller, issued a caution in this regard: Do not be unequally yoked...

This does not mean that alliances between people, organisations or nations cannot be made, but one must be careful in making alliances that one's values and philosophies are not compromised. We must be careful that “what sweet nanny goat don't run him belly”.

The right allegiances

I believe we must therefore stand with Africa, USA, Canada, and Britain because they have stood with us over the years. While as a nation we entertain the identity and allegiance conversation, I unashamedly declare that I am pro-Africa, I am pro-USA, I am pro-Canada, I am pro-Caribbean, and I am pro-Israel.

I do not believe that you can seriously be committed to biblical Christianity and the God of the Christian faith and be anti-Israel. I notice that there seems to be a few voices challenging the Government about our relationship with Israel, as if such a relationship is anathema. The same voices, however, seem to have no issue with our budding relationship with China — a country which is diametrically opposed to our culture and way of life in so any ways.

I am a firm believer in the ancient adage, “Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, and whoever curses Israel will be cursed.” So let's be mindful and careful.

It is necessary to understand that while an alliance is simply an association based on special interests and benefits, allegiance means and indicates commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness. It is also necessary to understand that allegiance doesn't mean support for everything; or condoning of wrong, injustice, or evil by the nation you have given your allegiance. We can be friends with strong allegiance to a nation without supporting their negatives. When they do the negatives, as an independent, sovereign nation, we must tell them we do not support those negative actions. We must be bold enough to say that, while remaining loyal. A good example is we may not agree with Canada, USA, and Britain on LGBTQ and abortion issues, but it does not affect our allegiance to them.

Perhaps it's time for the USA, Canada and Britain to revisit and review their relationship with us. It should be evident to all that the inroads that China is making in Jamaica is the result of these countries' significant reduction and redirection of developmental aid and funding support. As a result, China is filling the need.

Being on their back door, it behoves the USA to consider new rules of engagement for the region. Given the realities we should initiate dialogue with our historical friends — and they eagerly with us — to update the expectations of our allegiance for the future. US President Donald Trump's approach and vision might result in him being the president that does the most for the region going forward.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.


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