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Some seem more equal than others

... and other chips

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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A child doesn't know what fire is until it burns him. — Hausa proverb, Nigeria

Comments last Sunday by the general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP), Julian Robinson, were inferred to mean that some lives are more equal than others. Robinson's pronouncements were greeted with outrage in the media; and understandably so.

General Secretary Robinson was quoted as saying: “It is particularly troubling that while we are experiencing vicious attacks on our elected or former elected officials, and heightened level of threats, the Government has proposed to withdraw or minimise the security details of former ministers of government.”

Robinson, in his press release last Sunday, gave no consideration to the dozens of ordinary citizens who have been murdered, maimed, and/or attacked since the start of the year.

Elected politicians, however we slice it or dice it, are a privileged bunch in this country when compared to the general citizenry. They have access to special health care, special security arrangements, and the like. Notwithstanding, our elected representatives are poorly paid. I have argued in this space, time and time again, that we need to pay our elected officials better. I have also argued that a new and modern parliament building, fitted with state-of-the-art, fit-for-purpose technologies, and special provisions for the physically challenged, is needed.

My reasoning is that since we must make great demands on our elected representatives, we should pay them well and, at a minimum, provide them with a rather more pleasant work headquarters. Simultaneously, I have argued repeatedly that the average worker needs to be paid way better, and conditions of work must be improved if we are going to retain the best and brightest talents to grow this economy really fast. Until these necessary objectives are achieved, we cannot, however, escape certain conspicuous realities.

I admit, however, that maybe with one or two exceptions, our elected officials, compared to the vast majority of the citizenry, are not exactly 'feeling for their next meal', as we say in local parlance, bus fair, rent/mortgage payment, and the like.

In the context of our abnormal murder rate, Robinson's call for the reinstatement and/or further fortification of special security arrangements for our elected or former elected officials — minus a parallel and stated concern for the security of the masses — was a frightening eye-opener for many.

I was not surprised one bit. This is the socialist animal spilling some of its innards once again.

Socialism is a gargantuan and ravenous Ponzi scheme. It pretends to love and care for the majority of its victims, but in reality only the puppet masters and mind managers at or near the apex of the triangle really benefit.

Like in George Orwell's classic allegory Animal Farm, those at the top believe they are entitled to special privileges, irrespective. Remember the seminal Orwellian maxim, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Selective memory

Unfortunately, too many of us either suffer with convenient, short, or mimosa-like [the mimosa commonly called 'Shame-Mi-Lady' locally] memories. Similar revelations like Robinson's have spewed from 89 Old Hope Road before. As an example, recall the genesis of the Gun Court? Recall the name Leo Henry?

These snippets from the Sunday Observer of February 17, 2013 are especially insightful. Among other things the Jamaica Observer article noted: “The name Leo Henry was already well known in Kingston and Jamaica long before two hapless gunmen opened fire on the popular businessman on a busy city street in broad daylight.

“The name would be further cemented in memory when, after his murder, then Prime Minister Michael Manley hurried the construction of a Gun Court to try persons accused of shooting crimes, painting it red 'so that it would look dread', and prescribing 'indefinite detention'.

“As the wounded Henry lay sprawled on the street, the life slowly ebbing from his body, the gunmen snatched his briefcase and revolver and made their escape.

“That was Kingston in March 1974, a city in the grips of 'an upsurge of violence', in the words of then Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Chester Orr, QC (later senior puisne judge, now retired).

“Orr was opening the case for the prosecution in the murder trial of the two men charged with the death of the 40-year-old Henry, who was managing director of Modern Furnishing Company Ltd, situated at Slipe Road in Kingston, opposite the now defunct Tropical Theatre.

“The two accused were Noel Riley, 20-year-old labourer of 2a Union Street, Mandeville, Manchester, and 19-year-old Anthony Forbes, cabinetmaker of 6 Piccadilly Lane, Kingston 12.” ( Sunday Observer, February 17, 2013)

In 1974, the then Michael Manley Government instituted the Suppression of Crime Act. It turned out to be a glorious misnomer. Crime, in particular murders, spiralled during the Suppression of Crime Act.

The Suppression of Crime Act gave the police enormous powers to stop, search and detain citizens. The trampling of human rights during the application of the 20-year Suppression of Crime Act was unprecedented. It was an unremitting sower of generational enmity and distrust between the police and poor Jamaicans in particular. Unlike the states of emergency (SOEs), which the PNP voted to withdraw their support from late last year, the Suppression of Crime Act was a tool instituted to first and foremost protect the life and property of the privileged. This was done under the socialist regime of Michael Manley.

The gist of Robinson's comments last Sunday was evidently centred on the protection and preservation of privileges for a few. Ironically, his party's mantra speaks about “a Jamaica that works for all Jamaicans, not just for a few”.

This screaming headline walks like privilege and talks like privilege: 'PNP concerned violent attacks against elected officials on the increase, shocked at the killing former councillor'.

All right-thinking Jamaicans mourn the murder of former councillor for the White Horses Division in St Thomas, Madge Morris.

We also mourn with the families of the 120 Jamaicans who have been murdered since the start of the year. Robinson and the PNP need to understand that all Jamaicans are deserving of equal protection and security, not just our elected or former elected officials.

Last Tuesday I heard Fitz Jackson, the Opposition spokesperson on national security, say on the radio that the PNP knew that it would have got a backlash from its decision to withdraw support for the SOEs. How does a party which mouths that its primary concern is the security of the masses not realise this glaring contradiction?

On the one hand, the PNP's general secretary calls for beefed-up security for a privileged group. But on the other hand, the Opposition spokesperson on national security blurts out that the SOEs which reduced murders by 21 per cent in 2018, compared to 2017, and caused 350 fewer Jamaicans to be murdered could not continue. Many in the PNP evidently do not want the masses to have what they have. This is wrong!

Loud silence and mirrors

The Leader Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips noted in a public broadcast last Sunday that the police, National Integrity Commission, and Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency “are Jamaica's ultimate line of defence against corruption”.

Dr Phillips opined that responsible leaders “must let the chips fall where they may”.

An inevitable question comes to the mind of all reasonable persons: Why did Phillips not speak out against the numerous allegations of corruption, especially while he was the de facto prime minister between January 5, 2012 and February 25, 2016?

Did Phillips publicly apply the 'chips principle' in this instance?

“Contractor General Dirk Harrison has recommended that the police launch a criminal investigation into West Hanover MP and former state minister, the PNP's Ian Hayles.

“The referral of Hayles to the police is contained in a 232-page report prepared by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).

“On page 209 of his report, the contractor general says this recommendation has been made on the basis of prima facie evidence of a breach of the Forgery Act.” ( Nationwide News Network [NNN], March 15, 2017)

Did Phillips publicly apply the chips principle in this instance?

“The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has given details of the criminal charges it is seeking to be laid against members of the St Ann Municipal Corporation and constituency executives in St Ann South Eastern in relation to its investigation into the award of contracts.

“They are forgery, conspiracy to defraud, and perverting the course of justice.” ( RJR News, November 22, 2017)

Dr Phillips formally joined the PNP in 1989. Since 1989 he has held a series of high-level posts in the PNP and senior posts in the Cabinet of former prime ministers P J Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller. Phillips cannot successfully don the cloak of 'new and different' in the Information Age.

Did Phillips publicly apply the chips principle in these instances? The Cuban light bulb scandal, NetServ scandal, or Energy World International scandals?

How does the chips principle square with a press release in which Dr Phillips reiterated his“full confidence in Phillip Paulwell as the Opposition spokesman on mining and energy, and he will not be removed from that responsibility” ( Jamaica Observer, December 11, 2018) when the Petrojam scandal visited Phillip Paulwell, the former energy minister's doors last year?

Phillips kept a stony silence during the times when these major money scandals became public: Outameni (2014), Shell waiver (1991), zinc (1989), furniture (1991), public sector salaries (1998), Operation PRIDE/National Housing Development Corporation, I could name another dozen. These scandals cost the country billions, and even more in damage to the country's reputation.

Some foolishly argue that allegations of corrupt conduct by previous PNP governments should not be cited when discussing current corruption allegations by this Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration. I wonder what accounts for their phobia of mirrors?

Is Dr Phillips publicly applying the chips principle in this instance?

Statements reportedly given to Jamaica's Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) have allegedly implicated two senior sitting PNP Opposition Members of Parliament in the giving of Government contracts to a gang leader when the PNP formed the Administration.

An NNN story stated among other things: “The reputed gang leader was recently tried in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston. He was accused by MOCA of breaching the country's anti-gang law and being the leader of a criminal organisation.

“There were jitters in the Opposition PNP when it was revealed in court a few weeks ago that photographs of the PNP politicians in the company of the reputed gangster were included in the MOCA case file. But the case was dismissed when a key witness declined to testify.” ( NNN, February 11, 2019)

The reality is 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 PNP governments. They simply allowed the country to flood.

Taxi movements

I am glad to hear that Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers will become mandatory and that taxi drivers will soon be required to wear uniforms. I am sure that some will soon begin to say that these coming measures are unsuitable for Jamaica because they are invasive and trampling upon constitutional rights. Anything which is 'upfull', as we say in the streets, is opposed by some for reasons best known to them. We should not allow these persons to long-termly detain the country's progress.

Other countries are improving their systems of public transport with the use of technology and other strategies. Why should Jamaica permanently lag behind the rest of the world?

According to a story in The Guardian (UK) last week, closed-circuit television could become mandatory in taxis in England and Wales. The authorities are also contemplating enhanced criminal background checks on every driver. These measures are intended to provide greater protection for members of the public.

Jamaica cannot afford to be left behind in the necessary race to further modernise.

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

Hold on to your dreams of a better life and stay committed to striving to realise it. — Earl G Graves, Sr

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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