PNP playing a sad game with its business, nation's business

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PNP playing a sad game with its business, nation's business

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 13, 2020

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There are no short cuts to the top of the palm tree. — Bamileke proverb, Cameroon

“That is a billion-dollar question. I don't have a billion dollars.” That is Norman Horne's most recent response, at the time of writing, to the pointed question: Are you a citizen of the United States of America?

For several days various media houses have been pressing the former People's National Party (PNP) treasurer to simply say whether he is or ain't. He has steadfastly refused to say, yea or nay.

I believe Horne should be made to definitively state whether he is or is not a citizen of the United States of America in our courts. The Horne Senate kerfuffle has again revealed fundamental weaknesses in our democratic infrastructure. We have been very slow to learn from several challenges and threats to our democracy, especially over the last two decades.

The notion that people who seek public office will automatically place the national interest above their private interests is folly. The era when a person's word was as good as a notarised document is gone. We need serious constitutional reforms to bolster our democracy.

Intellectual ping pong

The Gleaner of October 10, 2020 quoted Horne thus: “ 'At this juncture, swearing-in on Friday, October 16, 2020, as intended, would be in great contradiction with my convictions, as I would be resigning from the Senate on November 6, 2020 to allow the new leader of the People's National Party to appoint senators of his or her choice,' he said in a release. 'I will, therefore, be communicating to the governor general and the leader of the Opposition my desire not to be sworn in at this time, mere weeks from November 6, 2020.' “

November 6, 2020 was a month and seven days ago. Horne has not resigned.

Norman Horne is a literate and numerate man. Surely, it is quite easy for him to simply write to the governor general and declare: I quit.

I think his failure to follow through on his public promise to resign raises several issues of trust. Trust is evidently a very scarce commodity in the PNP these days. So, too, is adherence to common sense requirements of due diligence.

Last Monday's editorial in this newspaper was spot on when it asked: “Did Mr Golding and the PNP not know that Mr Horne had not formally carried through on his promised intention — aired in the media — to decline the Senate seat? If so, how come?”

This observation in the editorial was also illuminating: “Given his background as lawyer, successful businessman, and former minister of justice, Mr Golding and his team should have been checking and double checking.”

What, though, of former PNP President Dr Peter Phillips? Did he do his due diligence? Does he bear any culpability in this rumpus?

Mark Golding, the new president of the PNP and leader of the Opposition, doubtless, is aware that the political lacerations from the leadership battle between Dr Peter Phillips and Peter Bunting in 2019 are still very raw. Golding surely is aware that spike-shaped weapons of the political kind are aplenty in the PNP. Two corrosive leadership contests in just over a year have set brother against brother, sister against sister, friend against friend. The PNP remains united in division. In this topsy-turvy reality Golding should have double- and triple-checked.

Golding's apparent failure to check whether a vacancy existed before announcing that his long-time ally and business partner Peter Bunting would fill the eighth position in the Senate comes across as a rookie mistake.

Horne, on the other hand, seems to be walking in a calculated direction. His action, intended or not, have effectively dragged the country to the brink of a potential constitutional crisis.

His explanation for why he has not resigned, among other things, strikes me as an amateurish attempt at intellectual ping pong.

He maintains that, despite raising the issue of debt owed to him in conversation with his party president, he did not stipulate payment as a precondition for his public promise to write to the governor general and rescind his appointment to the Senate.

Horne's reasoning, if it can be termed as that, in the absence of his promised resignation, does not make logical sense to me.

This headline, 'Horne tells PNP, he'll make Senate decision 'In Due Course' ' ( The Gleaner, December 8, 2020), suggests that Horne believes he has all aces in a high-stakes card game. This craziness does not augur well for a our young democracy.

Harbinger?

The Horne-PNP Senate muddle is another rusty nail in the political coffin of the PNP. A pall hovers over 89 Old Hope Road. Is it a harbinger?

Last Tuesday, Horne released a statement which was tantamount to a broadside against Mark Golding. It noted, among other things: “Cde Golding, as the president of the party, has not made any attempt to inspire the confidence of persons who did not support him in the recent leadership race. In the weeks following, he and his team have been more focused on crushing perceived enemies.

“For example: A Member of Parliament, having taken her usual seat in the House, was told by the orderly that she should move upon Cde Golding's instruction, since he no longer wished her to sit behind him.

“This display of discourteous and emotionally unintelligent behaviour is a hallmark of Cde Golding's approach to leadership. It has bred resentment and has broken any collaborative spirit which may have been considered by key Comrades.”

Political parties in Opposition are seldom a happy bunch, but the PNP's descent from crisis to crisis has caused it to become a veritable laughing stock. Its once venerated brand is suffering from a malignancy.

Approaching five years since its defeat in the February 25, 2016 General Election, Norman Manley's party has failed to pick itself up, dust itself off, and start all over again.

As I pointed out some long time ago, the PNP is operating as if it is fixated on a political death wish.

Scientific polls have found that infighting among its members is a primary reason for its continued failure to gain significant political traction, especially among the youth.

Golding, if he does not already possess them, will need to quickly develop nerves of steel, if he is to lead an urgently needed rebirth of Norman Manley's party. I think certain tapanaris will have to climb down from their pomps and pride to help make this sea-change possible.

All well-thinking Jamaicans want to see a strong Opposition. We do not want the continuation of fractiousness and factionalism in its ranks. But the present trajectory of the PNP does not inspire hope.

Man in the mirror

The PNP will not regain its political mojo unless it begins to own the man in the mirror, warts and all. It is common knowledge that in order to fix a problem there has to be a recognition that a problem exists.

As well, it is also common knowledge that some people assume the attack mode when they are cornered. I was not surprised, therefore, when I saw this headline last Tuesday: 'Crawford accuses media of manipulating material leaked from PNP'. The news items gave these and other details: “PNP vice-president and Opposition senator, Damion Crawford, is accusing the media of manipulating material leaked by the People's National Party (PNP) to give a false impression to the public.

“In a statement this afternoon, Senator Crawford said several screenshots are being circulated on social media to tarnish the reputation of the party.” ( Nationwide News Network, Tuesday, December 8, 2020)

I have seen his movie before.

A political response which continues to blame all but the man in the mirror is not a political strategy. It is not the media, the voters, or the political right, left or centre, Crawford, it is you who continues to dig your own political hole with an uncanny rapidity. Castigating certain media entities and pointing accusing fingers at certain journalists will not assuage the blame which the PNP must accept for situating itself along a trajectory of defeat.

The PNP needs to dispense with its 'attack the messenger' button. Among other things, each time 89 Old Hope depresses that knob it results in verbal and/or physical attacks on some journalists who are simply doing their jobs. I have discussed specific incidents in previous articles.

According to the mentioned news item: “He [Damion Crawford] says the PNP should be concerned about similar attempts by the media to damage the character of former PNP Treasurer Norman Horne.” This is political deflection. In fact, it is quite Henchardesque.

Michael Henchard is the protagonist in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge. Henchard blames his troubles on imagined malignant forces which he believes are devoted to human desolation. The fact that Crawford did not provide a shred of evidence to substantiate his claims tells a story.

The truth is, Horne's actions in the last many weeks have caused reasonable people to raise several questions about his character and conduct. Chinua Achebe, renowned writer and professor, wrote: “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” I agree.

Champagnie's remedy

Speaking about conduct, I believe the recommendations of Queen's Counsel Peter Champagnie should be given careful consideration as part of the remedy for averting another Horne-like dilemma.

Champagnie makes eminent sense here: “So my recommendation is for an amendment, where once there is a new leader, the existing senators, if they are, they resign en bloc to facilitate the choices or wishes of the new leader, and it would avert this kind of situation that we now face.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 8, 2020)

En bloc resignations once a new leader takes over should be a reflex action.

Our time and our politics, are, however, dominated by immediate gratification and self-aggrandizement. There was a time when gentlemanly actions directed/dictated the decision curve of especially those who occupied high seats in the arena of public life. That is no longer the norm. It, therefore, is a nonsense that he/she who appoints cannot likewise dis-appoint.

COVID-19 passport

Margaret Keenan, “an elderly British grandmother, became the first person in the Western world to receive an approved vaccine against COVID-19 at the start of a marathon campaign health officials hope heralds a fightback against the global pandemic”. ( Jamaica Observer, December 8, 2018)

The light in the tunnel is becoming much more visible now. We need to remember that a vaccine does not mean the light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

We, in Jamaica, will have to wait a bit longer than a very fortunate Margaret Keenan. Which brings me to this question: When exactly will Jamaica receive the first shipment of the life-saving medicine? One traditional media outlet in late November reported February 2021. Last week another traditional media entity said between May and June 2021. As I see it the sooner the better.

Several months ago I declared that as soon as the vaccine had got the necessary international, regional, and local seals of approval I was willing to be first to be vaccinated. I stand by that.

Conspiracy junkies, doubtless, are revving-up their engines to launch propaganda missiles against global vaccination efforts. I wish them luck!

If the conspiracy theorists are paying even remote attention they would have seen this headline: 'Qantas to require COVID-19 vaccinations for international flights' ( CNN, November 23, 2020). There is already talk of a COVID-19 passport. Some commentators say it will effectively become an 'open sesame' for human interactions/transaction worldwide.

Those, especially, who binge on superstitious claptrap are doubtless shouting: “See, I told you, the mark of the beast is here.” I humbly suggest that they read their Bible with insight.

Globally, hundreds of millions have been vaccinated against various diseases, deeply devoted Christians included. Up-to-date immunisation has been a staple for admittance to schools in Jamaica for donkey's years. Are they all destined for hell and damnation? Whether retail or wholesale, ignorance is not bliss.

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


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