Ideology seems more important than humanity to the PNP

While Venezuelans suffer, Peter Phillips and Nicolás Maduro dance cheek to cheek

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, January 13, 2019

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Truth and morning become clearer step by step. — Amhara proverb, Ethiopia


The members of the People's National Party (PNP) do not seem to understand that they cannot gain increased and or majority public sentiment through one or a combination of their old-fangled strategies of fake news, obstructionism, misguided bluster, empty chat, political deflection, 'bad mind', threats of street demonstrations, attempts at filibuster, and/or scorched-earth politics.

Post-Norman Manley, the founding president of the PNP, it has become fixated on rulership in the interest of 89 Old Hope Road, and democratic socialism, often at the expense of Jamaica. In previous articles I have presented undeniable evidence to support this perspective.

Last week our country was presented with more evidence that the PNP's primary interest is the PNP and its unenlightened defence of a cruel brand of democratic socialism and not Jamaica.

A Jamaica Observer headline, of Tuesday, January 8, 2019, read: 'PNP against legislative action to retake Petrojam shares from Venezuela'. The news item said, among other things: “People's National Party (PNP) spokesman on energy Phillip Paulwell says the parliamentary Opposition is against the hostile takeover of Venezuela's shares in Petrojam.

“Paulwell was responding to this morning's announcement by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith that the Government will take legislative action to take ownership of the 49 per cent share in Petrojam that is held by Venezuelan State-owned oil and natural gas company, PDV Caribe.”

The local adage, “Show mi yuh company and mi tell you who you are,” is often recited by rustic folks as a stern warning. Many rural folks are sages.

In May of last year Nicolás Maduro and his regime in Venezuela presided over another so-called election, which most of the international community described as a mockery of democracy. A story by the Associated Press on May 21, 2018 said, among other things: “A growing roster of nations condemned Venezuela's presidential election Monday and threatened to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure on President Nicolás Maduro's already embattled Government.

“A coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, pledged to scale back diplomatic relations with Venezuela and urge international organisations not to issue Venezuela any new credit.

“Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy decried the vote as not respecting 'minimal democratic standards', and vowed to consult with European counterparts on new measures in hopes of 'easing the suffering of Venezuelans'.”

Despite incontestable evidence that Maduro's election was anything but free or fair and/or free from fear, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP jumped out in full support of him. Recall that a release from Norman Manley's party on May 28, 2018 said, among other things: “The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has extended congratulations to Nicolás Maduro on his re-election as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela at the national polls on May 20.

“ 'Please accept my personal congratulations and those of the People's National Party on the occasion of your re-election,' PNP President Dr Peter Phillips wrote in a letter, which the party said was delivered to the Venezuelan Embassy on May 22.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 28, 2018).

Last week, Agence France-Presse ( AFP), filed a story which was republished in this newspaper. It said inter alia: “Venezuela's Opposition-controlled National Assembly declared Nicolás Maduro's presidency illegitimate Saturday, calling on the military to support efforts to 'restore democracy'.

“ 'We reaffirm the illegitimacy of Nicolás Maduro,' the assembly's new president, Juan Guaido, said as he was sworn in at the start of a new legislative session.

“ 'As of January 10, he will be usurping the presidency, and consequently this National Assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people.” ( Jamaica Observer, January 5, 2019.)

Democratic conditions are receding rapidly in Venezuela.

Last Monday, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported among other things:

“Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa has fled to the US to protest over President Nicolás Maduro's second term in office.

“Last year's election 'was not free and competitive', the former Maduro loyalist told a Florida radio station. And he accused President Maduro of systematically manipulating the affairs of the Supreme Court.”

Zerpa is not the only one fleeing Venezuela. A BBC report of December 30, 2018 filed this grim story: 'Venezuela: The country that has lost three million people'.

“In Venezuela, the discussion about how long to stay, or where to flee, and how to begin a new life, is never far from many people's minds.

“Every time I visit the country, there are fewer friends and contacts to catch up with.

“An estimated 5,000 people pack up their lives and leave every day, eager to flee the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis which has beset the oil-rich nation.

“More than three million people have fled Venezuela in recent years. According to the UN, that number is expected to rise to more than five million by the end of 2019.

“The vast majority of Venezuelans travel to other parts of South America. More than a million Venezuelans have chosen neighbouring Colombia as their new home, with half a million more travelling through it on their way further south to Ecuador, Peru and the countries beyond.

“The lucky ones, those with connections, family members already established and [have] an education have found work in other parts. But I've also met plenty of former professionals selling water or food on the streets of Peru and Colombia to make ends meet.”

The AFP, on May 30, 2017, reported these heartbreaking details which evidently have not melted a scintilla of the accumulated political plaque from the PNP's artery:

“Venezuelan police have arrested nearly 3,000 people in the two months since a wave of anti-Government protests erupted, a judicial campaign group said on Tuesday. President Nicolás Maduro's opponents accuse him of repressing protesters who are calling for elections to remove him from office. He accuses them of plotting a coup against him.

“Foro Penal (the Criminal Justice Forum) has counted 2,977 people arrested during the deadly unrest, of whom 1,351 are still in detention, Director Alfredo Romero told a news conference. Of those, 197 have been jailed after being sentenced by military courts, said a lawyer working for the group, Alonso Medina.

“ 'This is a situation that occurs under dictatorial regimes,' Medina said.

“Prosecutors say 60 people have been killed in violence linked to the protests since they broke out on April 1, many of them shot dead. Riot police have fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Protesters have hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks.”

These excerpts from The Economist should serve as a harbinger of the brands of socialism perpetrated by 'misleaders' like Michael Manley, Nicolás Maduro, and others.

“Every weekday morning a queue of several dozen forlorn people forms outside the dingy headquarters of SAIME [Servicio Administrativo de Identificación, Migración y Extranjería de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela], Venezuela's passport agency. As shortages and violence have made life in the country less bearable, more people are applying for passports so they can go somewhere else. Most will be turned away. The Government ran out of plastic for laminating new passports in September. 'I've just been told I might need to wait eight months!' says Martín, a frustrated applicant. A US$250 bribe would shorten the wait.” ( The Economist, January 28, 2017)

The Economist, on January 28, 2017, noted among other things: “In 2001 Venezuela was the richest country in South America; it is now among the poorest.”

Another eye-opening piece by the The Economist, entitled 'Unfed and unwashed: How Chavismo makes the taps run dry', stated, among other things: “It is the rainy season in Caracas and the reservoirs are full. But most of the 5.3 million people who live in and near the city have not had regular running water for at least a month. Venezuela is an oil-rich country that cannot pay for food and medicines. Now its autocratic regime is showing that it can create shortages even when nature provides abundance.

“ 'I've forgotten what it is like to bathe in running water,' says Soledad Rodríguez, a graphic designer.

“Drier parts of Venezuela have both water shortages and power cuts. Domenico Clara, who runs a bakery in Maracaibo, capital of the oil industry, says power is cut off five to seven times a day. Without refrigeration, ingredients spoil, electronic payment systems don't work, so customers can't pay (there is a shortage of cash, too). ( The Economist, May 10, 2018)

The PNP embraces the Maduro regime with open arms, Dr Phillips and Maduro are dancing cheek to cheek, but simultaneously castigates Israel. Recall, in a release last May, the PNP condemned Israel for the violence in the Gaza Strip during protests against the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. Evidently, the widespread and irrefutable repression by the Maduro regime does not, as we say in the streets, faze the PNP.

No right-thinking Jamaican is happy with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. I agree with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade when it says that, “Negotiation should be based on a just and comprehensive agreement that guarantees the security of the State of Israel and provides for a Palestinian State, within internationally recognised borders.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 15, 2018)

For the PNP, it is evident that ideology is far more important than humanity. Some lives are more equal than others. State repression is not State repression when done by its fraternal socialists. Crude oil is more precious than the blood of some of humankind.


Jamaica's interest

I believe the memory of Norman Manley, a good and decent man, is being trampled upon by Peter Phillips and a crew whose “lean and hungry look” [Shakespeare's Julius Caesar] is invisible only to political neophytes and those who are intellectually depraved.

All Jamaica recognises the graciousness of the Venezuelan people, especially during the period when high oil prices threatened to send our economy over the brink.

Should we, as a consequence, repay the Maduro regime with blind loyalty and ignore the suffocating suppression and repression of the Venezuelan people and their institutions? I think not!

I agree with this headline: 'Jamaica to use legislation to retake Petrojam shares from Venezuela'.

I don't believe Jamaica can afford to sacrifice its fragile economic recovery and related energy security on the altar of ideological expediency.

After 12 years of talks, and with the economic clock now ticking even faster against Jamaica's interests, those who argue that we should continue to wait on Maduro need to make up their minds as to whose interests they were elected to defend first and foremost.


Whom is the PNP defending?

The PNP is evidently against everything that will advance the interests of the Jamaican people. It was against the states of emergency (SOE) and zones of special operation (ZOSO) from the get-go. Today, 360 Jamaicans are alive because of these enhanced security measures.

They are against the national identifications system (NIDS), which is critical for Jamaica to take full advantage of the Knowledge Economy. Recall this headline: 'IDB's Turner-Jones says NIDS will create foundation for digital economy'. The story said, inter alia: “General Manager, Caribbean Country Department, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Therese Turner-Jones, says the national identification system (NIDS) will lay the foundation for Jamaica to become a digital economy.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 14, 2017)

Some elements in the PNP, including trade union leaders whose umbilical cords are planted at the PNP's Headquarters, have made belittling comments about business process outsourcing (BPO) outfits, some even comparing them to slavery. They ignore the dozens of stories of BPO workers who have been paying their way through college and meeting other obligations because they have a job.

Up to September this year BPOs created 32,500 jobs. ( The Gleaner, December 16, 2018)

The PNP was brutishly against the implementation of the “$1.5-million income tax relief”. Some 400,000 Jamaicans are benefiting.

The PNP was blindly against the abolition of obligatory fees at the secondary level. The vast majority of schools were getting a mere 30 per cent compliance with regard to the payment of auxiliary fees when the cost-sharing programme existed. Today the schools are better funded.

The no-user-fee health policy in public facilities implemented during the Bruce Golding Administration is a win-win for the Jamaican economy, says the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). ( Jamaica Observer, July 26, 2017) The PNP was against its implementation too. I could go on.

The PNP seems only interested in chaos.

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


Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. — Maya Angelou


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


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