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Manley-mania is dead, Dr Phillips!

Political tomfoolery and blind followership no longer in the formula

GARFIELD HIGGINS

Sunday, September 22, 2019

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Someone tolerant drinks the milk of the heifer. — An Oromo proverb, Ethiopia

The suffera mentality (romanticising of poverty), economic stagnation and mismanagement, promotion of envy, an anti-business disposition, insufficient attention to matters of cleanliness, civic pride, and public order — these are but a few of the political and historical burdens of People's National Party (PNP) administrations and its brand of democratic socialism. Common sense suggests that 89 Old Hope Road, given its demonstrated failure to achieve significant political traction, especially among the youth, would have set out to rebrand itself with an image that is conspicuously dynamic and suited to today. But common sense is not so common after all.

Even political neophytes in Norman Manley's party should have recognised by now that the PNP's current platform is antithetical to the attitudes, values, and aspirations of a very large constituency of voters. The PNP doggedly hangs on to its sodden-witted political demarcations of the left, and its irrelevant dogma is dragging it under and fast.

Last week Dr Peter Phillips and numerous higher-ups in the PNP journeyed into St Ann and Trelawny to register their opposition to what they say is bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country. I believe Phillips's sojourn was executed to piggyback on the gatherings of certain religious groups. Phillips is a political animal, so he took advantage of a political opportunity to reach a bigger audience. That's understandable. However, a basic rule of modern political strategy is that when or if you decide to inveigh against a policy and/or programme of an opponent you need to present a clear, viable, and simple alternative to the voters who you are trying to woo.

Dr Phillips's handlers evidently were absent from class when this basic module was taught. At a minimum, they should have done supplemental courses. If they had done so, Phillips certainly would have been spared the political embarrassment for the umpteenth time.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, so I won't indulge in any speculations, as I have seen elsewhere.

I believe Phillips and his outfit went to Trelawny believing that they were going to be greeted by a thunderous reception. Instead, they were received by well-informed workers, community leaders, and other enlightened stakeholders who interrogated their motives and found them wanting.

Headline: 'Bauxite workers express concerns over 'anti-mining' to PNP officials'

The story said among other things: “Noranda Bauxite workers on Friday pressed Opposition Leader Peter Phillips to clarify the People's National Party's (PNP) position on the ongoing Cockpit Country anti-bauxite mining campaign which they have said is misrepresenting the true facts and could have negative effects on their jobs and the industry.

“The employees met Dr Phillips while he was on a tour of Noranda's bauxite mining area in St Ann on his way to a Cockpit Country Warriors' public vigil scheduled for Stewart Town Friday night.

“The Opposition leader's tour was interrupted by scores of employees who posed questions on the party's position re[garding] mining in the Special Mining Lease [SML] 173.

“The employees said that the SML 173 area has been officially confirmed by Government mining regulatory agencies as being outside of the Cockpit Country Protected Area.

“The employees expressed their concerns at the support being given to the allegations that Noranda's activities will be disruptive to the Cockpit Country and the environment.

“They reiterated that Noranda is not and has no plans to mine in the protected areas, that Noranda shares the national respect and concern for the heritage of that area, and reminded that bauxite mining provides a livelihood for not only hundreds of Jamaicans at Noranda but also several thousand community residents in areas where the company operates.

“The employees also expressed their disappointment that the company and the company's management had not been advised of or asked to take part in the tour through their operational areas in St Ann.” ( Loop Jamaica, September 14, 2019)

Manley-mania is dead, Dr Phillips. This is not the 1970s. Folks are no longer prepared to gulp down the PNP's concentrated political kool-aid. They no longer unquestioningly trust many of the former mind managers and pseudo-intellectuals from some of our tertiary level institutions who are often buttressed by elements of especially traditional media, who marshal certain narratives. A critical mass is no longer willing to sacrifice their physiological needs on the altar of political expediency for any political party. Folks are looking for political approaches which materially and otherwise add to their lives; not reduce and devalue.

People have realised that many on whose behalf they have made huge sacrifices have grown fat and consistently show the signs of ostentatious living, while their standard of life has invariably been fixated on meagre.

Folks are asking how come some politicians can afford to send their children to the best schools, sometime abroad, yet they lash out against the abolition of obligatory fees in our secondary schools and rain 'fire coal' on access to free basic health care in Jamaica, while they have access to First-World standards of medical services which we pay for?

People are not 'bad-mind' for asking why some are putting giant hurdles in the path of others. They are simply asking, “Why can't I have what you have?' This is a very sensible question from a maturing electorate.

For too long we have genuflected to people who have effectively underdeveloped this country with disastrous policies, grounded in a failed ideology.

Folks nowadays see straight through political Anancy-ism from a mile away.

Over a year ago, I wrote, inter alia: “There is a new and more discerning type of voter who is no longer concerned with who planted the tree. That is immaterial to them. They just want to know the tree is there. Their focus is who can maintain the shade and fertilise the tree to continually bear edible and 'pickable' fruit. This group of pragmatic voters is expanding fast.” ( Jamaica Observer, March 18, 2018)

Dr Phillips and his crew just do not get it.

 

The other side of the bauxite hill

I am glad that workers and other stakeholders journeyed from St Ann and Trelawny to Kingston to represent their reality and simultaneously counter the false narrative of the PNP in relation to what they claim is bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country.

Headline: 'Noranda workers counter criticisms of bauxite mining rights'.

The story said, among other things: “Word of the possible protests was passed to the newspaper yesterday after more than 200 employees and community leaders from the Cockpit Country area travelled to the headquarters of Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), on Constant Spring Road, to counter what they said was a campaign against Noranda Bauxite Company's mining operations just outside the protected area.

“Spokespersons for the demonstrators, who packed into six 30-seat Toyota Coaster buses and a single 60-seater to make the trip to Kingston, said that they went to JET because they wanted the environmental watchdog to hear the facts.

“They accused JET and other activist groups of spreading 'propaganda and false news' by demanding that there be no bauxite mining in or around the protected area.

“ 'The environmentalist groups, the artistes, and sections of the media are trying to lock us down,' said Alfred Henry, a mining superintendent at Noranda Bauxite.

“ 'This industry is very critical and we cannot use politics and downplay the situation so that the investors move out,' he stated.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 17, 2019)

These workers and other stakeholders are now being branded as bullies by some 'human rights and accountability advocates' because they took their concerns to the head offices of JET, last Monday. Some have taken great objection. How dare these rabble-rousers demonstrate near the JET offices? And I imagine a tonal quality reminiscent of a colonial era that is unmistakeable.

Why not the JET offices, I ask? When JET spearheads a protest, are those who participate branded as bullies? The workers did no violence. They intimidated no one. They did not prevent anyone from expressing contrary opinions, but ironically some among us are labelling these honest, hard-working citizens as bullies. One stakeholder from Trelawny put it best when she asked: “So, wait, a dem alone have rights inna Jamaica?”

I believe what is really hurting these 'human rights/accountability' advocates is that they no longer have the power to commandeer the public narrative space.

Last week, I saw on social media a video in which a representative of environmental interests at National Heroes' Park was shouting over a loud speaker, among other things: “This is a war!” That kind of language rings of bully-ism to me.

Since the workers and other stakeholders began defending their interests, some have come out and said the purity of the issues are being made political. I am sure they would have been quite happy if the workers had simply remained muted.

Attempting to discombobulate local and international investors who help to create hundreds of jobs and keep food on the tables of thousands of Jamaicans is not going to earn the PNP any significant political traction. Those days are done!

Statements by the deputy general secretary of the PNP Basil Waite “urging demonstrations against Noranda and a strategy to damage Noranda in the international media” ( Jamaica Observer, August 3, 2019) can only result in great damage to the livelihood of thousands of Jamaicans and the wider economy at large.

Waite, among other things, recently said on social media: “We also need to stage a demonstration against Noranda and plot a strategy to damage them in the international media… Our strategy has to be multi-pronged community demonstrations, NGO community, private sector…demonstrate at Noranda's local office, get diaspora involved to demonstrate at their HQ in the US, etc...”

The PNP continues to emit an anti-business persona characteristic of the 70s. I am not surprised.

Phillips told us in 2017, when he was affirmed as his party's fifth president, that democratic socialism — a system which has failed miserably wherever it has been experimented with — still has a place in the developing 21st century. He also told us he was “embracing democratic socialism”. ( The Sunday Gleaner, March 26, 2017)

During the PNP's recently concluded contentious leadership campaign Phillips reminded the country that he was a devout democratic socialist who intends to implement policies and programmes consistent with democratic socialist principles. We have been warned not once, but many times.

This approach brought our country to near ruin between 1972 and 1980. These were some of the painful results: “In 1980, at the end of Manley's first eight years as prime minister, the tourist hotels were almost empty, and so were the supermarket shelves. Much of the middle class had moved to Miami or Toronto. Almost 900 people had been killed in the run-up to the election, partly as a result of warfare between gangs allied to political parties.” ( The Economist, March 1997).

It seems the PNP has learned very little.

The PNP has never been able to meaningfully grow our economy. I have provided incontrovertible evidence in several previous articles on that subject. The PNP has been wedded to a suicidal strategy of the redistribution of income in the absence of the economic means to do so. You can't redistribute that which you have not produced. That is common sense. So-called socialists the world over seldom live the type of sedate economic lifestyle which they prescribe for those who fall prey to their political smoke and mirrors.

Consider this: “Venezuela's president feasted on expensive steak at a celebrity chef's restaurant on Monday, a scene made striking by the fact that millions of people back home are starving.

President Nicolás Maduro was seen dining with his wife on Monday at an Istanbul branch of Nusr Et, the international chain of restaurants owned by the Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, also known as Salt Bae. ( Business Insider, September 18, 2018)

Robert G Mugabe, a despot who departed this world earlier this month, shamelessly ensured that he and his family lived in splendour. He wore expensive Brioni Vanquish II Suits and got First-World medical care in Singapore. Mugabe's wife shopped at some of the most expensive stores in London and South Africa and spent millions, while ordinary Zimbabwean lived in squalor.

The Order of Jamaica was conferred on the tyrannical Robert Mugabe during a State visit to our country. This was done in 1996 under the P J Patterson PNP Administration. According to the Jamaica Information Service: “The honour of the Order of Jamaica (OJ) may be conferred upon any Jamaican citizen of outstanding distinction or upon any distinguished citizen of a country other than Jamaica (honorary member). A member of the order is styled 'Honourable' and the motto of the order is: For a covenant of the people.”

I could give past and present examples from around the globe on how the public narrative of socialist leaders is absolutely opposite to their actions. They enjoy a capitalist existence, sometimes more capitalistic than even the capitalists. Be warned!

I made my views very clear about the Cockpit Country in previous articles from as far back as 2014. I stand by those views. The way forward is for all stakeholders to decide.

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


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