Oppose, Oppose, Oppose!

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Oppose, Oppose, Oppose!

...and obstruct, obstruct, obstruct

Dorlan H Francis

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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After Norman Manley and his People's National Party (PNP) was soundly beaten by Alexander Bustamante and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in Jamaica's first election of December 14, 1944, Manley, in is concession speech, promised to organise, organise, organise, and oppose, oppose, oppose. The PNP has remained true to that calling. It has organised itself into an election-winning machinery and, when in Opposition, its members oppose everything with what must be a conscious intent to obstruct.

The 1944 election results saw the JLP winning 22 of the 32 seats that were contested. The PNP won five and Independent candidates won five. Norman Manley, as leader of the PNP, did not win his seat. The PNP's poor showing was for no other reason than that it was a party of snobs who had no love for poor people.

The PNP was formed in August 1938 and six years later could field only 19 candidates for the 32 seats. The PNP wanted only lawyers, doctors, teachers, and big businessmen to represent it. The Drumblair boys had utter disdain for the poor.

On the other hand, Bustamante, who was for the people, both rich and poor, was able to field 29 candidates, even though the JLP was only formed in July 1943. Bustamante allowed Isaac Barrant, a sideman on a truck, to represent the party in St Thomas Eastern, and he won by huge margins. Leopold Lynch, a tailor who rode a bicycle, represented Portland Western and he won. Leslie Rose, an ordinary Jamaican represented St Catherine South Eastern and he won handsomely. And the 'contest of all contests' was John Regeorge Henry, a farmer with a few holes of bananas and who rode a donkey, beating Bryan T Lawson, a school principal in St Catherine Western. It should be clear that the JLP was the original lover of poor people. But because the JLP do not keep people poor, the perception is that they do not love the poor.

The PNP quickly discovered the errors of their snobbish ways and they pivoted to pretend that they love the poor. They even keep people poor so that they would have a natural constituency of people who would support them.

As well, it is in the PNP's strategy of opposing that they have been most destructive and has been a hindrance to Jamaica's development. It opposed the building of the gully system, disparagingly referring to the Bustamante-led Government as “gully Government”. Can you imagine what Kingston and lower St Andrew would be like had it not been for the Sandy Gully network?

The PNP opposed the building of 30,000 hurricane houses after 1951 Hurricane Charlie left the majority of Jamaicans without shelter. The PNP opposed the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). They called it SIN and urged Jamaicans not to contribute to it.

The PNP opposed the building of the Kingston to Spanish Town highway and forced what was originally conceived as a six-lane highway to be built as a four-lane highway, which is only now being made into a six-lane highway at much greater cost.

The Hugh Shearer Government got a World Bank loan of US$9.5 million to build 50 secondary schools in 1967. Due to the conversion from pound, shilling, and pence to dollars and cents, the Jamaican currency experienced some amount of devaluation. The conversion occurred in September 1969, but legislation which gave effect to that conversion was passed from January 1968. The devaluation started from then and impacted the school-building programme. In addition, the JLP, being its frugal self, under-budgeted for the building of the schools. They used estimates of US$2.00 per square foot when the world was moving towards US$3.00 per square foot. As a result of those incidents, along with the young country lacking technical know-how, the schools were not built on budget. This gave cover to the most deceitful organisation in the Caribbean to allege that two schools were missing. The same deception was on display with the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).

The PNP opposed the development of Portmore. Norman Manley famously asked if Edward Seaga was planning to drown people in the swamps of Portmore. They were not able to see beyond the obvious. They could not have conceived of the Dyke Road (which Seaga did), and how it would have prevented the Rio Cobre from flooding the plains of Portmore. They could not have imagined how lands could have been reclaimed, as it was done in Portmore, Ferry (where Nestle and Tropical Battery now have headquarters), and in Ocho Rios where Rooms on the Beach was built.

The PNP is now opposing the town of Bernard Lodge with the same vehemence with which they opposed Portmore. They opposed the establishment of the national identification system (NIDS) and they remain a constant thorn in the side of the Government about the states of emergency.

Probably the most destructive action of the PNP to date is their false allegation of corruption which surrounded the Rooms on the Beach deal. Their other mindless oppositions were steamrolled and we got our gully system, we got our hurricane houses, we got our NIS, we got our Kingston to Spanish Town highway, we got our fine school infrastructure that was “built by Labour”, we got Portmore, and will get Bernard Lodge, but we have lost the Rooms on the Beach deal. We have lost a $67-billion investment and all the jobs and town improvements that would have come with that. What we don't know is the signal that behaviour may have sent to other potential investors. Will they suffer reputational damage at the hands of a power-hungry party which thrives on casting spurious allegations, should they decide to invest in Jamaica?

For the PNP to have criticised the selling of assets at a discount to a serious and substantial developer was rank hypocrisy. This criticism came from a party that gave the Chinese 1,200 acres of lands as incentives for them to build the Edward Seaga Highway, also known as the north-south link of Highway 2000.

Dorlan H Francis is the Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for St Andrew Western. He is also a personal financial adviser and author. Among his books is The Economic and Financial Crisis of 2007 - What Caused it, How to Avoid a Repeat. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or dhfken@hotmail.com.


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