Strength, leadership and popularity
Back in the mid-90s when I first began working at Caymanas Track Limited as the resident security consultant, Dr Paul Wright was the physician for the entire licensed track population.
You could be treated for any ailment you had, within the limits of science, free of cost. He was fastidious in his efficiency and reliability, being present at every scheduled session at his office in the stable area.
You would think that this would make him popular among the stakeholders who plied their trade in the rough environment we called the “stable area”.
However, it was not so. Wright had another function as the chairman of the track’s disciplinary tribunal. He was hard, strong, and fair. He was also hated.
This was not because of any wrongs he did, but rather because of his strength. He punished the good, the bad and the ugly all the same. It was not about who you were. It was about what you did.
Many were good men who just broke rules. Some would soon graduate to being killers. It didn’t matter. Wright did what the rules dictated.
This small arena we call the track is a microcosm of society and an indication of how we respond to strong leaders taking hard decisions. Let’s look wider.
Now I hold no brief for Michael Manley and Edward Seaga and how they tore apart our country in the 1970s, but you can’t call them weak. They were strong men who took hard decisions even if they were unpopular. Some of the decisions were good in the long run.
Michael Manley created the National Housing Trust. That institution has impacted Jamaica’s poor more than any other decision ever made by a Jamaican Government in relation to housing solutions.
Manley was treated like a pariah by the end of the 70s and is hated by many to this day.
Edward Seaga created the Heart Trust/NSTA. This institution provides vocational training for young people virtually free of charge.
Since more recent times HEART also offers higher education solutions. Most importantly, it was there for many whose high school journey didn’t quite work out as planned.
Seaga was dismissed by the electorate in 1989 and was so unpopular that he cost the Jamaica Labour Party three opportunities to become the governing party in his later years. These are examples of how strong leaders are eventually viewed and treated by the public.
We say we want strong leadership, but once the decisions they make aren’t to our liking we demonise them. Look at the treatment being meted out to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn. She would be super popular if she did what the system, the old boys network, or the general public wanted her to do.
However, she stood her ground and ruled on points of law, not to “make a point”. This doesn’t sit well with the establishment, so she and her character are attacked.
If you wanted a director to push around then you shouldn’t have appointed a woman like Paula Llewellyn.
I see this over and over again. When Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte was a judge in the Kingston Resident Magistrates’ Court she publicly criticised defence counsel for behaving like hustlers in 2008. She was subsequently blocked from being appointed a high court judge in 2009 by the Jamaican Bar Association.
This is another example of punishing persons of strong character who speak up or do what they think is right.
The decisions that need to be taken by our Government in relation to bringing us back to pre-1993 murder statistics will require strong leadership, and these decisions will likely cost those leaders the Government. Therefore, they likely won’t make these decisions.
As a result, approximately 15,000 Jamaican citizens will be slaughtered over the next 10 years.
I saw the Patterson Government take hard decisions, like introducing the General Consumption Tax in the 90s, that changed our economy.
I saw them liberalise the exchange rate regime. That decision remodelled our country and decriminalised small importers who previously had to buy US currency in alleyways.
The criticism that followed the decision was constant and brutal.
I saw the current administration take decisions with the new firearm bill that will change the gun culture in our inner cities.
I watch the Government grow more unpopular everyday. However, if they were passing bleeding heart legislation that turned these killers back into the streets, they would likely be popular.
We need to make up our minds about what we want from our leaders. Stop asking for strong leaders if you don’t want them to lead.
Do you want versions of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew? Let me tell you, you can’t handle Lee Kuan Yew.
When the next election comes and you are to choose one of the two great men who will be offering themselves to serve you for less than what an actuary earns in the United States of America choose wisely and allow the chosen to lead you.