Columns

Jamaica has been afflicted by stony silence and 'bad lampism'

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

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The pumpkin plant should not be uprooted. — Acholi/Ateso proverb, Uganda

LAST Tuesday morning I went into Papine Market to buy a dozen ripe bananas. I usually get my market produce from Coronation Market, in downtown Kingston, but an extenuating factor interrupted my ritual some days ago.

As I diligently searched for the 12 best possible fruit [well, bananas are actually berries], someone shouted, “Miss [name omitted], I beg yuh tun on the radio deh, is news time.” I joined in the listening.

At the end of the 7:00 am Nationwide News Network ( NNN) local segment, a lady who was helping to unpack mangoes from boxes on a handcart at an adjoining stall inquired in a matter-of-fact voice: “Suh why Missa Bunting neva seh nutten 'bout di corruption dat did ah gwaan when fi him party was in power?”

She was responding to and assessing an insert in the newscast in which Opposition People's National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament Peter Bunting made claims of corruption against the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness-led Administration.

Bunting was lucid in what he said in the news item. He wanted to uproot Dr Peter Phillips from the presidential perch. Additionally, Bunting questioned why, despite the PNP's shouting “corruption” in the highways and byways of our country, it had failed to gain significant political traction. He said support of the 81-year old party had, in fact, remained flat.

Bunting, like Dr Peter Phillips, just do not get it.

About a year ago I wrote, inter alia: “Trouble comes to everyone at one time or another. Political administrations are no different. There is no utopian political administration anywhere in the world. For me, a key indicator of good governance is a demonstrated willingness [action] on the part of an administration to put a finger in the dike and, thereafter, repair the dam quickly. This is a fundamental difference between this Andrew Holness-led Administration and that of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. She simply allowed the country to flood.” ( Jamaica Observer, June 24, 2018)

Bunting, Dr Phillips, and the PNP need to understand that folks are not stupid. I continue to make the point that how folks consume media content, and the frequency, has substantially changed since the 70s and 80s when only a privileged set controlled the conduits of information. Today, thousands of Jamaicans have the power to instantaneously fact check the history in government of the JLP and the PNP to see who did what, when, where, how often, and the consequences accordingly.

It is a very different Jamaica from the 70s, Bunting. It is foolhardy to talk about allegations of corruption in the JLP, and conveniently blindfold yourself as regard corruption allegations in the PNP and expect folks are going to take you seriously. Take, for example, the growing corruption scandal that is engulfing the PNP-controlled Manchester Municipal Corporation. Folks are not only asking: “Suh why Missa Bunting neva sah nutten 'bout di corruption dat diD ah gwaan when fi him party was in power?” They are also asking why Peter Bunting, the Member of Parliament for Manchester Central and the PNP have kept a stony silence on this very disturbing development.

The Gleaner of June 6, 2019, carried a story entitled 'Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud scheme at $400 million, court told'. The story said among other things:

“The Manchester Parish Court heard today that the massive fraud at the Manchester Municipal Corporation has amounted to $400 million.

“Initially, investigators reported that they had uncovered just over $95 million.

“The trial began on Monday and so far five witnesses, including former mayor and former chairman of the local authority, Brenda Ramsay, have given evidence.

“A further 54 witnesses are to testify at the trial which is expected to last for four weeks.

“On trial are former acting secretary manager and director of finance, David Harris; former superintendent of roads and works, Sanjay Elliot; temporary works overseer, Kendale Roberts; and bank teller, Radcliffe McLean.

“Also on trial are Elliot's wife, Tasha-Gaye Goulbourne Elliott, and his parents, Edwardo and Mrytle Elliott, and his former employee Dwayne Sibblies.

“This morning, a former accounting clerk at the municipal corporation was called to the witness stand to be questioned about invoices she signed along with Elliott and Roberts between 2013 to 2016.”

Doubtless, I am going to hear the hackneyed dodge: “We have not said anything on the matter because the issue is before the courts and, therefore, no comment can be made on it.”

I gather from an eminent attorney that, one can in fact comment on on an issue like this, providing the comments don't pre-empt the outcome of the court's considerations.

Today, folks, like that entrepreneur in the Papine Market, are asking how come Bunting and others in the PNP remained silent while corruption allegations spiralled out of control during the previous Portia Simpson Administration in which Bunting served as a senior minister?

Recall this NNN exclusive of August 22, 2016? The news item said, among other things:

“Norman Horne told the PNP [National Executive Council] NEC that, as the party sought to fund its election campaign earlier this year, a number of times information received from potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party.

“But he says only a few members reported, or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive.

“Horne says the actions of the senior members heavily affected the party's income and had a negative effect on the national campaign.

“He suggested that some senior PNP members had bank accounts which had contributions from donors and those accounts far exceeded the money the party had access to.

“The PNP treasurer said, 'Financially speaking, there was not one central bank, but several banks, some of which had more resources than the party treasury.'

“This gives credence to reports that there were parallel campaigns taking place by rival factions in the PNP in the run-up to February 25.” ( NNN, August 22, 2016)

Recall that the then party chairman, Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill, defiantly told us that, “Nothing will come out of the Office of the Contractor General's investigation into the campaign funds scandal.”

Pickersgill is now chairman emeritus of the PNP. He is the same person who 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.”

Neither Bunting, Dr Phillips, nor anyone in the top-tier leadership of the PNP, to the best of my knowledge, has ever come out and said, 'I dissociate myself from the statements of Pickersgill.'

Similarly, when the former General Secretary Paul Burke told Nationwide News Network that the PNP might have got 500 fewer votes in the Westmoreland Central by-election if some supporters of the PNP had not bought votes. And additionally said, “I am not going to deny that there are members of the PNP who made or fulfilled promises... Some of our supporters felt that if they did not do what they had to we would have reduced our majority or lose.”

Neither Dr Phillips, Bunting, nor anyone in the leadership of the PNP, to the best of my knowledge, came out and said, 'I dissociate myself from vote-buying which took place in Westmoreland Central. I suggest to the PNP that, in addition to reasons which I outlined last Sunday, they are not being listened to outside of their rabid base, because folks are insisting, “Physician, heal thyself!” (Luke 4:23)

It seems to me that the leadership of the PNP has sought to cover their ears like the Sadducees and Pharisees did with regard to their own failings. Why then does leadership aspirant Peter Bunting and PNP President Dr Peter Phillips wonder that support for their party has flatlined, except for its fanatical base?

St Ann North Western Member of Parliament Dr Dayton Campbell said on NNN last Tuesday that frank discussions on the problems of the PNP's leadership and related challenges have not yet been had. Unbelievable!

It is now three and half years since Norman Manley's party was rejected in our 17th parliamentary election.

Dr Campbell also intimated on NNN last Tuesday that the present leadership has not accommodated suggestions to facilitate deep, open, and candid introspection and examination of why the PNP lost the most recent general election and why they continue to lose elections.

This is arrogance on steroids. That is still the PNP's number one problem.

Bunting, it is not rocket science!

The 'bad lampers'

There are those among us who are obsessed with the burning of 'bad lamp' for Jamaica simply because their party was booted from Jamaica House three and half years ago.

I believe that there are some among us who, because of unenlightened self-interest, do not want to see crime, in particular murders, collared and quartered. They have a vested interest in seeing an environment that is carpeted by weeping and moaning provided it does not come to their doorsteps.

Who are these haters?

Recall some time ago a former commissioner of police made the point that the crime situation in Jamaica appeared to have a switch, where you can turn crime on or off. He said the controllers of the switch needed to be discovered.

Since the start of the year the security forces have halted the flow of dozens of illegal guns and hundreds of assorted rounds of ammunition from entering into the criminal ecosystem.

I doubt it is minimum wage earners who are importing these weapons of death and destruction. Why are we not able to catch and convict the CEOs and CFOs of death? It seems to me that those who a former commissioner said seem to be able to turn on and turn off the crime switch have 'bucked it', as we say in local parlance, in relation to the importation of illegal guns and ammunition into our country.

What is their ultimate motive?

A long time ago I pointed out that the 'bad lampers' are working overtime to try and keep Jamaica in a state of destitution and abject poverty. While some bad lampers jealously protect their First-World-type standards of living, they feverishly continue to romanticise poverty and glorify the 'suffera mentality' in the eyes of the general public. This blot should have been extinct from the 70s. But, sadly, this dinosaur survived. Objective evidence of Jamaica's improvement is eviscerated from their decaying consciences because their singular objective seems to be the pursuit of self-aggrandisement.

The tragic irony is that many of these 'me-myself-and-I proponents, by any means necessary, are part and parcel of a cabal who, among other things, have helped to retard Jamaica's development for decades. Their promotion of timid ignorance is unworthy.

Only those who believe Santa Claus is real will think everything is hunky-dory in Jamaica. We have many problems. But no one who is honest can dismiss the objective evidence which proves that our economic indicators are headed in the right direction. Both local and international agencies of great credibility and repute are agreed on this. So why do bad lampers continue to fight the facts?

Last week the internationally reputable Miami Herald published a factual article entitled 'Jamaica once couldn't pay its light bill. Now its economy is welcoming Porsche and BMW'. Among other things, the article said: “Earlier this month, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who led the Jamaica Labour Party into office in 2016 by promising steep tax cuts and job creation, welcomed a US$6.5-million R Hotel in New Kingston. The budding tourist zone is also preparing to welcome a new solar-powered AC Marriott next door to a two-year-old BMW showroom, and not far from a Porsche dealership. A mile and a half away to the south-west, young men and women are fielding customer service calls for tech giant Amazon and other US-based companies out of the newly constructed 58 HWT Tech Park.”

Why are some among us so extremely offended by Jamaica being shown in a good light internationally?

Bad lampism is my explanation.

I hope the bad lampers will rid themselves of their unfortunate malady, and fast.

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


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