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Gambling for resurrection

The 'wrong and strong' are desperate

GARFIELD HIGGINS

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The river is never so high that the eyes of a fish are covered. — Yoruba proverb, Nigeria

 

When a politician recognises that he/she is staring down the barrel of defeat he/she has to find ways to upset the equilibrium. Some grab for elaborate disruptors to try and disturb the political status quo. Others throw political grenades in the hope that they can upset the dynamics of imminent failure. In political science theory this kind of desperate behaviour is termed 'gambling for resurrection'.

The term is also used in international relations to broadly refer to a situation when a leader has lost his salt domestically and is desperate to the point where he/she — more often than not a he — is willing to risk war or prolong war in the hope that such an action will help to keep him in power. As an example, think of the instance where Saddam Hussein launched scud missiles towards Israel when the Americans and other forces were bearing down on Baghdad. He thought the firing of scuds into Israel would provoke some Arab states to start attacking Israel.

Throughout all of last week I heard folks in media asking why Dr Peter Phillips, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and president of the People's National Party (PNP), allowed himself to be so severely embarrassed at a recent press conference, where he, Opposition spokesperson on water, environment and climate change Dr Fenton Ferguson, and Opposition spokesperson on agriculture and rural development Victor Wright made specific allegations of massive corruption at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

Dr Phillips said these words at the press conference: “We have bushing scandal 2.0, which is of even more enormous proportion than the first bushing scandal. And I should point out also that bushing is not part of the remit of RADA in relation to roads. What we have is another massive rip-off scheme being undertaken by an agency of this Jamaica Labour Party Government [JLP].”

Dr Fenton Ferguson said this as he stood alongside his president at the press conference: “From the documents presented it is clearly showing that of that $1.6 billion spent on farm roads over recent times, $600 million would have been spent in my constituency and over $1 billion in Western St Thomas. It is, therefore, of great concern to me and to the Opposition that this kind of use of public funds, especially in a sector that is supposed to be a critical player in relation to the growth agenda and food security, that we could be going down this pathway of wanton waste and not getting value for money.”

To respond in local parlance, based on information in the public domain and documents provided by the chairman of RADA,”Nutten nuh guh suh!” It was a fake scandal; more than likely intended to cast a dark cloud over the successful JLP annual conference, held last Sunday, and hopefully to prop up the PNP's crumbling campaign scaffolding.

When the PNP's dud was exposed any apprentice political strategist among its handlers should have told 89 Old Hope Road to quickly apologise and keep their mouths shut thereafter. Instead, this Peter Phillips-led PNP has dug in its heels and has chosen the hazardous route of wrong and strong in an age where the very words they spoke at the press conference can be retrieved at the press of a button.

I believe, Dr Phillips is obviously gambling for resurrection.

On social media, some acolytes of the Rise United crew — affiliated with the leadership campaign mounted by Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting — boisterously entertained themselves as Dr Phillips fell on another rotten banana peel.

There are some poignant lyrics from Dr Slinger Francisco's hit song London Bridge. The Mighty Sparrow, as he is globally known, is one of the Caribbean's greatest storytellers. I borrow Sparrow's words here, not to in any way gloat, but to paint a picture of self-inflicted damage:

“England was a mighty place many years gone by.

Now England is a troubled place, please don't ask me why.

To quote an old Englishman whose name is Sir Jack Union,

He told me in song so sing along

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, I say, falling down.”

 

Rescue plan or desperation?

The birds, those reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, Bananaquits, and John Chewits are tweeting that an influential group located at the upper echelon of Norman Manley's party has hatched a political plan which they hope will claw back some electoral respectability to the PNP.

The birds shriek that the group plans to convince Dr Phillips to privately accept and then announce publicly that he will stay on for only two years if the PNP wins the next general election. In exchange, the defeated leadership aspirant, Peter Bunting, would galvanise his Rise United faction to come out of political hibernation and coalesce around Phillips's bid to become prime minister.

The birds also warble that the plan envisages that Bunting would also throw in his considerable war chest.

The ubiquitous Black-Bellied Plovers, Bananaquits, and John Chewits also chirp that the 'rescue plan' of the insider group conceives that Bunting and his team would campaign in Manchester, St Elizabeth, St James, Trelawny, Hanover, and Westmoreland, while Dr Phillips and his outfit will criss-cross Kingston, St Andrew, St Mary, St Thomas, Portland, Clarendon, St Catherine, and St Ann.

Given the limited inclusion of Rise United members in Phillips's shadow Cabinet, and their almost non-inclusion in the 'Duh Road' outings, one can only wonder about the level of energy they will pump into the 'elect Peter Phillips as prime minister of Jamaica campaign'.

Peter Bunting, among others, has publicly stated that he does not believe that Dr Phillips can lead the PNP back to Jamaica House. How will Bunting hold a straight face when he has to say the exact opposite next year on the political hustings?

Additionally, oftentimes in politics, when you allow the momentum to escape your grasp, it is near impossible to get back that political mojo. The PNP had a renewal of sorts during the leadership contest some months ago. I believe it was squandered by the ungracious treatment of Bunting's faction following the results of the battle. That was a major political error by Dr Phillips.

Dr Phillips's latest political cock-up was preventable. Last Sunday, Dr Phillips planted himself into an even deeper political hole at the party's National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Trelawny. I heard a report on Nationwide News which said, among other things: “Dr Phillips says the PNP never said the Government spent all of the $1.6 billion on its alleged RADA Farm Roads Rehabilitation Programme.”

Dr Phillips is a man of considerable schooling. I gather he has a PhD in political science or some such related discipline. He needs to understand that the sum of 2+2 equals four, except in George Orwell's dystopian classic, 1984.

Secondly, Dr Phillips needs to understand the principle of holes as applicable to politics. When you have found yourself in a hole you ought to stop digging. Of course, it is mighty difficult when a politician is gambling for resurrection for him to hear any voice except that of the naked jungle political instinct of survival. As with creatures of the wild, this is when they are most dangerous.

The JLP would do well to remember this.

Jamaicans saw in December 2018 what political desperation will cause the PNP to do. The results for ordinary citizens were painful. Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP withdrew their support for the continuation of the states of public emergency (SOEs) in St James, sections of St Catherine and the Corporate Area in the face of 353 fewer Jamaicans murdered in 2018 compared to 2017. Up until when the PNP pulled the plug on the life-saving SOEs figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force showed that murders were down by 22.2 per cent. After the PNP's withdrawal of support for the SOEs gunmen and criminal gang members who had not been killed, incapacitated, or captured, almost immediately resumed their crime spree.

Recall that head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Major General Antony Anderson, and head of the Jamaica Defence Force Lieutenant General Rocky Meade asked for more time so that the enhanced security measures could achieve all objectives. The qualifications of these men in security matters are impeccable. Dr Phillips and the PNP said no!

Phillips said his reason was the protection of human rights. The greatest human right is the right to life. Some said Phillips's decision was the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

At the time, I pointed out that something, a rotten strategy of the Chaos Theory was at work. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He famously said, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Dr Phillips, in 2018, needed to make something happen that had not in the then two-and-a-half years since the PNP had been booted from power. The PNP needed to upset the political temperature and hoped to interrupt the majority political sentiment in favour of the JLP. They, therefore, gambled for resurrection.

They made a mega miscalculation.

 

JLP conference takeaways

Even the hardest marker would agree that the 76th annual general conference of the JLP was a masterful production. The three most important takeaways for me were the announcements that centred on measures to foster the rule of law, plans to construct six STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academies, and the reintroduction of the 'Length Man Programme'.

I have said in this space numerous times that we cannot build a nation where there is the absence of the rule of law. I was glad to hear that certain areas, like Half-Way-Tree, will be declared zero-tolerance zones and more zones of special operation (ZOSOs) are to be initiated in 2019. I have argued that our murder rate is severely abnormal and registered my support for the SOEs and ZOSOs. I maintain those positions.

The plan to build six STEM academies across the country is wonderful news. I hope one will be located in the north-eastern section of the country, preferably St Mary.

Of course, those who identify a problem for every solution are already flogging the idea. I am not surprised. Nonetheless, their concerns must be seriously listened to, and their good ideas incorporated, consistent with the pathway which must be travelled if Jamaica is to become “the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business”.

I am, of course, very happy with the announcement for the reintroduction of the Length Man Programme. The input of technology in how the programme will be operationalised is good news. I don't believe, however, that this programme can 'long-termly' be the answer to the social and economic regeneration which I have argued in previous articles is absolutely necessary in rural Jamaica, and indeed the entire country.

These are all plans. I await the specifics on how they will be implemented. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Professor Yuval Noah Harari, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is one of today's foremost global thinkers in the areas of history and philosophy. He has argued in many of his works that, in similar fashion as the previous industrial revolutions produced the working class and the challenges that resulted, the present global economy and the realities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution may produce a 'useless class'. I recommend the reading of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Harari's most impressive work to date, in my estimation.

 

Still no abiding city

Recall that when Senator Damion Crawford was named as the candidate to contest the by-election in Portland Eastern earlier this year I remarked that politically the goodly senator had no abiding city.

Crawford was supposed to have gone to Trelawny Northern in 2015. It never happened. Crawford has, reportedly, explored a political foothold in the constituencies of Kingston Central, St Mary South Eastern, and St James Southern. There are now reports that Crawford is eyeing St Catherine South Eastern.

His last stint as Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural earned him numerous political enemies. He was booted as their standard-bearer as the delegates argued that Crawford was too autocratic in his leadership style. Crawford was vilified by many in his own party, and the public at large, because he told the constituency that he was not interested in running again, but at the eleventh hour he made a 180-degree turn. Since then the birds sing that Crawford has been branded by some in the PNP as a political carpetbagger — a political candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections. It speaks volumes that the most popular politician in the PNP does not have a seat in the Lower House. Crawford may still be without a seat when the votes are counted in the next general election. More anon!

 

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.