Columns

DC and DC pulling from old PNP playbook

Damion Crawford and Dayton Campbell preaching division and discontent

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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It's better to stumble with your toe than with your tongue. — Swahili Proverb, Tanzania

On the political hustings last Sunday, Damion Crawford, at a People's National Party (PNP) rally in Port Antonio, spewed what has been appropriately described by many well-thinking Jamaicans as “classist”, “sexist”, and “misogynist” diatribe about his political opponent, Ann-Marie Vaz. Among other things, The Gleaner of last Monday reported: “If you look at potential, the furthest this lady will go is Mrs Vaz. If you look at potential, how far can I go and how [far] will you come with me?” Crawford stated, also declaring that, “If this lady beat me, it will be a travesty!”

Unlike some, I am not surprised at Crawford's low-road political strategy.

Recall this: “Addressing Comrades at the People's National Party South West St Andrew annual constituency conference on Sunday, Crawford said his 'trick you' comment was said only as entertainment and not something to be taken seriously.” ( The Gleaner, September 15, 2015)

It is now 2019 and here goes Crawford again emptying more of his political innards.

Like 2015, Crawford is being pilloried by well-thinking folks for his continued embrace of a putrid brand of politics, which has prevented this country from achieving its full potential.

Many at 89 Old Hope Road say Crawford has a mouth which swings like a permanently broken pendulum.

Unlike 2015, Damion Crawford is now a member of the Upper House of our Parliament. And, unlike 2015, when he claimed that his “trick you” comment was mere jest, last Monday he said on a radio programme that he stood by all the statements which he made in Port Antonio, last Sunday.

Chip off the ole block

Crawford, is merely spewing bitterness from the political estuary that he feeds.

Recall this headline in The Gleaner of November 24, 2015: 'Phillips rides Andrew's house again'. The story said, among other things: “For the second consecutive week, Andrew Holness's house came in for special mention at a People's National Party (PNP) meeting. As he did in Portmore, St Catherine, two Sundays ago, Dr Peter Phillips turned up in Black River, St Elizabeth, with a mission to put clear daylight between the leaders of both political parties: Portia Simpson Miller of the PNP and Holness of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

“ 'We have a leader with a proven record. I say so and dem don't like it. We know what her values are. She has spent more than 40 years in the political vineyard working for the poor and the dispossessed of this country. Her mission is not to build nuh big house.” I said these were harbingers. I have been proved right.

Recall also this low-road embrace by the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and president of the PNP, Dr Peter Phillips, some months ago? “Make sure, Comrades, that the People's National Party is ready to become the Government of Jamaica. Remember is only one [seat] separate us in Parliament, and we don't know is which one, whether is one weh a go prison, or is a sick one, or a crazy one, but is one, and any number can play, so get yuhself ready.”

Dr Peter Phillips made these comments while addressing the constituency conference of St Ann North Western in August 2017. Crawford is a chip off Peter Phillips's block.

Many mistakenly believed Crawford's near-career suicide comments of 2015 would have caused a new and improved political animal to emerge. To those people I recommend the animal fable of The scorpion and the frog.

A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung. The scorpion convinces the frog to take him on his back. Midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog. The frog asks him, why. The scorpion says, it is in my nature.

Crawford is waltzing cheek to cheek in 2019 with divisive political tricks from the 1970s.

Recall an editorial in this newspaper on December 15, 2011, entitled 'The ghost of Hitler walked in Gordon Town in 1980...and again in 2011'. It said:

“Mr Damion O Crawford, the People's National Party (PNP) candidate for the St Andrew East Rural constituency was set last night to reopen a nasty 21-year-old wound in the square of Gordon Town.

Mr Crawford announced that the PNP organisation in the constituency would be holding a memorial service for the late Mr Roy McGann, the PNP candidate who was killed on the eve of Nomination Day for the general election held on October 30, 1980.

“ 'The event will take the form of a candlelight ceremony with drumming,' he tells us, as if to befuddle and fool us into thinking that there is something worthy of this so-called memorial service.

“Mr Crawford must know that this is a crude way of trying to gain whatever political mileage he misleads himself into thinking he can get from reviving what was a bitter episode in the political life of Jamaica. It is disrespectful of Mr McGann's memory and insensitive as regards his surviving loved ones.

“Mr McGann was killed, reportedly by the police, in an incident in Gordon Town square, forcing the PNP to bring in an emergency candidate, who eventually lost to Mrs Joan Gordon Webley — the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate Mr Crawford is facing in the December 29, 2011 election.

“Mr McGann's death came close to the end of Jamaica's most bloody and bruising election campaign in which police reported an estimated 800 people killed. It was a shameful blot on the image of our country.

“In describing the incident at Mr McGann's funeral service, Anglican priest, the Rev Ernle Gordon said in cryptic language: 'The ghost of Hitler walked in Gordon Town.'

“The real question is why has Mr Crawford decided to bring back Mr McGann from the dead, so to speak? What good can come of this? He can't even argue that this December is an anniversary of the incident. Remember the election was in October 1980 and the Nomination Day was before that.

“While no foreseeable good can come of it, we fear it will reopen a wound which we hope would have long healed. In fact, many of the young voters, we are sure, would not even have known of this incident, and probably don't know who Mr McGann was.

“What would a young man like Mr Crawford have known of the incident beyond what he might have subsequently heard or read? It does seem that he is appealing to the older ones who would have been around at the time.

“Mr Crawford is a young man, but as we often see, some of our young politicians are carbon copies of the older politicians who know no other way to operate their politics than to encourage deep divisions among the people, by whatever means necessary.

“Indeed, the ghost of Hitler walked again last night in Gordon Town square.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 15, 2011)

Crawford has started to believe his own hype. The birds tweet that political coaches around him have told him that he is the best thing to have happened to the PNP since former Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Last Sunday Crawford openly channelled Manley on the political stump.

Like Manley, Crawford has become drunk on his own political kool-aid.

Like Manley, Crawford is making the mistake of thinking he is so popular that he can, as US President Donald Trump said, “...stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters”.

Like, Manley, Crawford is grabbing at social divisions, class-barriers, colour divides, and various strains of social and economic differences to win votes.

Crawford evidently feels that the mistakes of the 70s can be repeated and the consequences will be different in today's Jamaica.

In September 11, 2015, The Gleaner also reported, among other things:

“ 'The other day I was on a platform and, as part of entertaining, I said, 'trick you'. Now you know that even if a politician trick you, he would not say it. (But) some people now jump pon it. Mutabaruka gwaan like him waan repossess mi locks, like me buy it hire purchase...” declared Crawford.

“ '(The response) was overblown... because most people saw my reaction at the time that it was really in jest, and the full context of the thing was that those who were happy that I was leaving had been tricked and not the people,' Crawford later told The Gleaner.”

American poet, the late Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Crawford is resurrecting and ratcheting up a schismatic politics. At the PNP meeting in Port Antonio seven days ago, Crawford said: “...Because of her (Ann-Marie Vaz's) class and colour some people say this lady is better than me.” This kind of separatist rhetoric culminated with the murder of 844 (official police statistics) Jamaicans in the run-up to the October 30, 1980 General Election in which the PNP suffered a landslide defeat. It is divisive talk of the kind that Crawford is now selling which resulted in the sordid 1976 State of Public Emergency.

The Smith Commission revealed that the state of emergency's calling was predicated upon the facilitation of political opportunism and not bona fide concerns about national security.

Crawford's kind of conflict-raising talk ended with the slaughter of five Jamaicans on January 5, 1978 in what became known as the Green Bay Massacre. I could go on.

The PNP says it stands by Crawford, its standard-bearer, and his statements last Sunday. This tells a story; by itself an unpleasant one. 'Tek sleep and mark death,' rustic folks say.

I agree.

Another DC

These incendiary comments by Dr Dayton Campbell, Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western, should not escape the suspicious muscles of all well-thinking Jamaicans.

Last Sunday, at the PNP gathering in Port Antonio, Campbell trumpeted, among other things: “East Portland, let's do this. We gonna do this for a fallen soldier. Ah never sick Dr Bloomfield sick and dead. A kill dem kill Dr Bloomfield in ah the middle of the battle. If dem think seh dem a guh come kill wi doctor and then come tek we seat, dem mek a sad mistake.”

Senator Crawford and Dr Dayton Campbell must know that we have travelled the tempestuous road of schismatic politics before. The results were near economically, politically and socially catastrophic. Is the PNP inviting another era of unnecessary terror upon the people of Jamaica?

I heard Campbell on a radio programme, last Wednesday, saying he was withdrawing his statements. But there is a tendency for our politicians to make incendiary statements, achieve a desired effect on the political stump, and later apologise to the general public under significant pressure. Campbell is doubtless aware.

I believe all well-thinking Jamaicans must reject what is an apparent call from Crawford, Campbell and the PNP for Jamaicans to revive divisions which brought our county to near ruin.

Some in the PNP evidently believe the Tainos (members of an Arawak-speaking people formerly inhabiting the Greater Antilles and The Bahamas) bequeathed Jamaica to them for 1,000 years.

The pull of the Pickersgillian dictum is apparently more powerful than common sense and the country's national interest for many at 89 Old Hope Road. Chairman emeritus of the PNP Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill told the country some time ago: “We believe it is best for us to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead us or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.”

The PNP formed the Government in 23 of the last 30 years. Maybe for that or other reasons they have come to the mistaken view that they are Jamaica's party of natural choice. Pickersgill's dictum revealed that an obsessive political entitlement strain is rampant in the PNP.

Portland Eastern has had a PNP Member of Parliament for 30 unbroken years. The PNP is not campaigning and ramping up what it has done to improve the lives of Portland Easterners over those 30 years. Why? The answer is simple, the PNP's mistreatment of the people of the constituency has resulted in mounting poverty and immense feelings of hopelessness.

Good news

This kind of news continues to demonstrate that Jamaica's tourism product is comparable to the best. A story in this newspaper recently said among other things: “Preliminary data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica shows that cruise tourism has seen an almost 300 per cent increase in earnings over the last 10 years.

“In 2008 the sector earned $7.5 billion, and in 2017 cruise saw earnings of $22.6 billion.” All right-thinking Jamaicans should be pleased at these improvements. ( Jamaica Observer, February 28, 2019)

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

To know how much there is to know is the beginning of learning to live. — Dorothy West, The Richer, the Poorer

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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