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Did Julian Robinson and Peter Phillips buy a cloak of moral and political superiority?

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. — Thomas Paine

The Junction Road in St Mary is like the aorta, the largest artery in the body. Junction connects the eastern parts of the island to its commercial and political capital, Kingston and St Andrew. The last time I remember the Junction Road being in a great driveable state was in the late 1980s when Edward Seaga was prime minister.

A bad aorta and other factors, like 18 years of blatant neglect by the People's National Party (PNP) while Harry “Peep Peep” Douglas was the Member of Parliament for St Mary South Eastern has caused critical blood flow, necessary social and economic development, to be largely cut off from the parish.

Never a better time

As one who hails from St Mary, south-east St Mary in fact, I am extremely happy to know that the Junction Road, which I have described on radio and in this newspaper as one of the worst roads in Jamaica, is finally going to be rehabilitated.

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness signed a $626-million contract with Surrey Paving and Aggregates Limited for Package 1 of the Tom's River to Agualta Vale improvement project. Work will begin in October and is expected to be completed in 14 months.

“We understand that the strategic development of Jamaica is intrinsically linked to our infrastructure development, in particular our roadways and highways. We are opening people to increased access and opportunities,” Holness said at the signing ceremony which took place at Jamaica House.

“According to Holness, the Junction Road selected itself for repair, as the state of the road deserves attention. He added that the Government is committed to infrastructure development and improving connectivity among major hubs in the country.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 15, 2017)

The PNP obstructionists

True to form, some in the PNP have already started to throw unfounded sinister jabs at the planned development work:

“But PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson told a press briefing on yesterday's private session of the four-day-long annual party conference at the National Arena that the party found it 'more than coincidental' that the announcement was being made prior to the calling of a by-election to fill the vacant St Mary South Eastern seat.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 16, 2017)

He is mistaken

General Secretaty Robinson says south-east St Mary is “PNP territory”. ( Jamaica Observer, September 17, 2017) I reckon Robinson was making a bad joke.

Cinderella-type treatment

Except for the latter part of the 1980s, when St Mary had a thriving agricultural sector and appreciable investments in tourism stretching from some parts of Oracabessa into White River — the border with St Ann, St Mary has been largely neglected. Apart from blowing the horn of his sport utility vehicle when he drove by constituents, Harry Douglas did very little for St Mary South Eastern. Is that a prescription for how the PNP treats its “territories”, General Secretary Robinson?

Maybe Robinson's comment was a “slip of the tongue”, similar to when ex-Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson unfeelingly said that the babies who died due to an infiltration of germs in a number of our main hospitals under his watch were “not babies in the real sense”.

Dr Ferguson, who refers to himself with the moniker “six-star general”, has been put in charge of the PNP's campaign activities for the upcoming by-election in south-east St Mary.

Rural folks, in their philosophical genius say, we must “tek sleep and mark death”. I agree.

Political hustings or not, it would have been good if Robinson had taken a little time to research the outcomes of the parliamentary election in St Mary South Eastern. Facts matter, Robinson!

The facts below were taken from a scholarly piece by political historian Troy Caine entitled: “It's a Dunn deal.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 3, 2017)

Parliamentary tenures of St Mary South-Eastern MPs

1. Alva E.Ross (JLP) 1967-1989 – 22 years (30.2%)

2. Harry G Douglas (PNP) 1989-2007 – 18 years, 7 months (25.7%)

3. Andrew V Ross (JLP) 1949-1967 – 17 years, 2 months (23.5%)

4. Dr Winston L Green (PNP) 2011-2017 – 5 years, 8 months (8.0%)

5. Roy D Lindo (Independent) 1944-1949 – 5 years (6.9%)

6. Tarn Peralto (JLP) 2007-2011 – 4 years, 3 months (5.7%)

The nightmare

Robinson, at last Friday's press conference at the National Arena on the occasion of the 79th annual conference of his party, made another statement that needs to be treated with great seriousness: “We are going to be watching it very carefully,” he said, warning that the Opposition will stoutly resist the project if there is any indication of partisan practices.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 16, 2017)

Was Robinson forecasting violent dislocations and demonstrations with the intent of disrupting the lives of the people of the constituency, and indeed the country, if the project is not administered in sync with the whims and fancies of the PNP?

Robinson, interestingly, explained that he has been travelling on the road since he was about four years old, and that it was in “the worst condition that it has ever been in”. Nonetheless, he repeated, maybe for emphasis, what I believe was a very ominous comment: “So, we are not against the work being done. But, I am going to issue a warning to the Government: If they use this money as a means to corruptly influence this by-election, the PNP is going to stoutly resist it,” he said. ( Jamaica Observer, September 16, 2017)

The PNP has indicated that it will use whatever means to gain political power if it thinks they coincide with the party's interests. Recall that 'Chairman for Life' Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill said publicly: “We believe that it is best for the People's National Party to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.”

Robinson was flanked by Mr Pickersgill at the press conference and he did not reprimand him.

The real situation

Again, if Robinson had done just a little research he would have found out that the late Member of Parliament for St Mary South Eatsern, Dr Winston Green, confirmed in an interview with this newspaper earlier this year that funds were allocated for the rehabilitation of the Junction Road. He told a Jamaica Observer reporter that he could not give a timeline for the start of the work. ( Jamaica Observer, April 16, 2017)

Research matters, Mr Robinson!

Peter, where is the principle?

Last week in my The Agenda piece I said, among other things: “I expect regurgitation will be made to masquerade as new thinking.” Sixty-seven-year-old Dr Peter Phillips, in his maiden presentation as president to the 79th annual conference of Norman Manley's party, did not deviate an iota from his failed formula. I believe Dr Phillips is the best asset of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) against the PNP. He does not seem to understand that when old wine is poured into new wine skins there is an inevitable result.

Phillips has been a member of the PNP since 1989. He has occupied numerous senior Cabinet posts. As we say in local parlance, “all of a sudden” he recognises the need for fixed election dates for by-elections. Facts matter, Dr Phillips. The PNP was in office for 18.5 years between 1989 and 2007. Again the PNP formed the Government between 2012 and 2016 - that was another four years. The JLP has formed the government for only 5.5 years of the last 28 years. Dr Phillips needs to tell us why he did not champion any of these causes.

Phillips would want the country to believe that he has now put on a cloak of moral and political superiority. Maybe he can tell the country why he did not object to the game of political hopscotch that was played in the Portmore mayoral election. This story that was carried in the Old Lady of North Street gives us a peek into why:

“Local Government Minister Noel Arscott has indicated that a mayoral election in the Portmore Municipal Council will not take place before June.

“The post of mayor became vacant following the death of George Lee last September. But, five months after, there had been no word on an election date despite growing concerns from members of the municipal council and civic groups.

“Arscott says the death of Lee was officially recorded on January 8, which under the Portmore Municipal Charter gives another six months for an election to be held. He says it is increasingly likely that the election will be held closer to the deadline to facilitate certain reforms in the council.

“The Local Government minister points to legislative changes to correct a boundary change that resulted in two Portmore divisions falling within the St Catherine Parish Council. He says the Cabinet has given approval for funds to be made available for a petition to be undertaken to legally start the process to correct the situation.

“Arscott also says there will be consultations with Portmore residents on several other reforms including strengthening the powers of the directly elected mayor.

“The Electoral Commission of Jamaica has stated that the election could go ahead without a petition being held, but the original electoral boundaries would have to be used.” ( The Gleaner, February 20, 2014)

Incidentally, on April 24, 2017 I saw an article in The Gleaner titled 'We want a written commitment — PNP demanding principled assurance of early by-elections'. There was this interesting quote from general secretary of the People's National Party Julian Robinson: “What we are seeking is a written assurance that in the event of either a resignation [or a retirement] from the Parliament, there is no undue delay in the calling of a by-election,” Robinson disclosed.

Dr Phillips might want to answer this question: When Heather Robinson resigned after she declared she wasn't prepared to hug up any gunman, how long did it take for the by-election to be announced?

Land here and over there

Dr Phillips says he plans to increase the number of people with access to land titles, including the establishment of a revolving fund to assist with accessing credit to finance titles. He says a Government he leads will also be looking at implementing legislation to transform squatter settlements across the country.” ( Sunday Gleaner, September 17, 2017)

At a minimum, we need to be suspicious of this proposal. At present, 35 per cent of Jamaicans live as squatters. ( The Gleaner, July 11, 2012). What formula will Phillips use to allocate the finite resource to ensure equity? Is Dr Phillips eyeing a land-titling scheme similar to that employed by President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe? Or is he waiting on the details of the land redistribution policy which President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is contemplating, according to credible reports from the rainbow nation? Phillips needs to tell the country. But where did I hear this sort of buffoonery before? It smacks of the failed land lease programme of the 70s.

I suspect Phillips will soon announce, the resurrection of the Nyerere Farms and micro dams that proved a disaster 40-odd years ago. Are these Dr Phillips's best bad ideas? Winston Churchill warned that: “There are two places only where socialism will work — in heaven, where it is not needed, and in hell, where they already have it.” And American thinker Thomas Sowell admonished, “ Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Dr Phillips said, “The government can immediately begin to reduce crime by reinstating the $2 billion the Opposition claims has been cut from the national security budget. He says the funds could be used to purchase intelligence equipment for the police and vehicles.” ( The Sunday Gleaner, September 17, 2017)

He continues to repeat this statement despite being corrected on his fuzzy mathematics as recent as the Tuesday before he spoke at his annual conference. I am not surprised. I recall Dr Phillips had more than a little difficulty calculating basic bank charges on national television not so long ago.

Dr Phillips will continue to trail Prime Minister Andrew Holness by donkey lengths as long as he continues to espouse Manley-type socialism. Phillips simply does not get it!

Socialists cry “power to the people” and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean “power over people, power to the State”. — Margaret Thatcher

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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