Copious amounts of scholarly research have found that the best antidote for propaganda and falsehoods is the truth. Fact-aversion, fact-resistance, and fact-immunity cannot change objective reality.
With a national election in the offing, some are blatantly — others benignly — trying to rewrite our history. It would be a severe travesty for those who know the facts to remain silent. Indeed, we have a duty to point out glaring inaccuracies, especially to the unsuspecting. In fact, we have a duty to warn.
History has demonstrated time and time again that those who abandon their solemn duty to warn are as guilty as the orchestrators of severe national suffering as well as catastrophic global events.
Today we have better and faster tools to help well-thinking folks speak up and speak out against the wholesaling and retailing of falsehoods. I believe we must generously use these tools to correct and counteract the drivel and distortions of especially those who seek high and low public office.
Recently, Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding spoke at a presentation conference. There Golding sought to recast, redact, and repeal the facts of one of the most socially and economically catastrophic periods in Jamaica’s history.
I hope Golding, in one of his quiet moments, will realise that he committed a terrible error, which did not help his cause. Indeed, there are dozens of Jamaicans who are still, today, desperately trying to recover from the social, emotional, and financial traumas occasioned by the People’s National Party (PNP) administrations of 1989 to 2007. By any objective assessment, their 18½ years deserve to be lodged in infamy.
The horrible and literally deadly accounts of how the PNP took a wrecking ball to especially the economy of this country are not fairytales. Dozens of articles, studies, and so forth have documented the trail of disaster.
At the mentioned presentation conference, Golding chided Prime Minister Andrew Holness for saying that past PNP administrations had failed the Jamaican people. Golding said this was a pile of rubbish. He said the PNP, on the contrary, had a strong record of nation-building during the period 1989 to 2007.
The facts do not support Golding’s assertions. As a matter of fact, the facts are diametrically opposite to his declarations.
For nearly 14½ of the 18½-year period, PJ Patterson was prime minister of Jamaica. He is, to date, our longest serving. Patterson came to power describing himself as the “Fresh Prince”, with the slogan/promise of “Black Man Time Now”. In those days we were still trapped in the constricting jaws of who had more national legitimacy as a consequence of being born in Jamaica. Recall the PNP had spent years vilifying and demonising former Prime Minister Edward Seaga because he was born in the United States of America and was white.
Patterson’s campaign, unsurprisingly, took full advantage of the “My Leader Born Ya” fervour, which was popularised in the Neville Martin song, The Message, from the 1970s. Sloganeering is the strong suit of the PNP. But the impact of sloganeering is invariably transient. Thousands of Jamaicans discovered this fact the hard way.
Golding is doubtlessly feeling the strain of needing to win, or at least achieve a decent draw, in the upcoming local government election. That might be the primary explanation for his deliberate avoidance of the realities of the near cataclysmic economic impact of the period 1989 to 2007. And they should and must never be hidden under a bushel. In the 1970s we almost incinerated ourselves with policies that were rooted in ideology and not economics. We still have not totally recovered from the trauma of that era.
In the 1990s Jamaica pursued economic slash and burn policies that almost ruined the black business class, which emerged from many decades of blood, sweat, and tears. The near annihilation of locally owned businesses has set back this country for decades.
Recall Mutual Life (a company that operated locally for over 100 years), Goodyear Tyre Company, West Indies Glass, Homelectrix, Workers’ Bank, Raymar’s Furniture, Charley’s Windsor House, Thermo Plastics, Berec Batteries, Century National Bank, Crown Eagle Insurance, Crown Eagle Commercial Bank, Island Life Insurance Company, American Life Insurance Company, Eagle Merchant Bank, and Times Store (a company that operated locally for over 100 years). Add to these another 45,000 small- and medium-sized businesses that folded during the 90s Administration’s prolonged scorched-earth economic epoch, and little more evidence is needed to conclude that the economic trajectory which brought this country to its knees in the past is antithetical to any sustained economic growth and development. The crippling effect is obvious.
To whom much is given…
The people of Jamaica gave the PNP an unbroken run of 18½ years at Jamaica House. Yes, I know the arguments about the then shabby state of the JLP and the unattractiveness of Edward Seaga. I have previously discussed these and more. The fact is the PNP was in power for 1½ years shy of two decades.
Several noted political scholars agree that a political party needs at least three parliamentary cycles in office to make seismic changes to the economic and social fabric of a country. The PNP got four terms on the trot — 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2002. Patterson won three of these four elections, making him our winningest prime minister. I believe Mr Patterson, perhaps more than any other prime minister, had a unique opportunity to transform the social and economic landscape of this country in a manner that could have changed the fortunes of generations of Jamaicans for the better. He did not.
Events, local, regional, and international, help to determine the good or bad fortunes of an Administration. For most of the years that Patterson was prime minister the world economy was buoyant, very buoyant. The 90s was a period of boom. The economies in the Caribbean grew on average three per cent to five per cent during the period. Ours floundered!
The PNP’s 18½ years in power, between 1989 and 2007, left Jamaicans poorer. These statistics reflect the destruction of the strong economic scaffolding which the PNP inherited:
*1989 — 7.0 per cent
*1990 — 6.3 per cent
*1991 — 0.5 per cent
*1992 — 2 .7 per cent
*1993 — 2.2 per cent
*1994 — 1.9 per cent
*1995 — 2.5 per cent
*1996 — -0.2 per cent
*1997 — -1.6 per cent
*1998 — -1.0 per cent
*1999 — 1.0 per cent
*2000 — 0.9 per cent
*2001 — 1.3 per cent
*2002 — 1.0 per cent
*2003 — 3.5 per cent
*2004 — 1.4 per cent
*2005 — 1.1 per cent
*2006 — 3.0 per cent
*2007 — 1.4 per cent
Note that the year 1990 enjoyed momentum from the JLP Administration of Edward Seaga.
Patterson was given much; however, comparatively the Jamaican people got very little in return. The PNP, again based on facts, did not deliver. No amount of propaganda or “samfie” by Golding can change that.
It is evident to me that a pronounced amount of political bipolarity has set in at 89 Old Hope Road. Two extremes seem to be operating simultaneously. This is hurting the PNP, I believe.
Recently Transport Minister Daryl Vaz revealed that the PNP’s spokesman on the said portfolio was part of the process of deciding the fare increases for public transport operators. Golding, while on the hustings, made declarations which gave the impression that his party was a stranger to this process.
Then, a few days ago, while speaking at a PNP North East Manchester candidate presentation rally in Christiana, Golding described as peculiar the fact that Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s wife, Juliet, had been elevated to the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Golding and those who sit on the Opposition benches applauded in Parliament as she was escorted to the Speaker’s chair. None of them raised a single, solitary objection.
There is something extremely disingenuous in this kind of behaviour. It does not augur well for a future PNP Administration led by Golding. Are we to use these instances and others before as harbingers? I think, yes. Well-thinking Jamaicans have a duty to warn and expose these.
Recall that on October 5, 2022, Prime Minister Holness said this, among other things, in Parliament: “The National Security Council, in reviewing the development plan, has observed an insidious and growing threat in the area, where alleged gangsters were capturing lands in the area adjoining the Clifton community, creating their own informal subdivision and selling the lands under the false pretext of ownership or building on it themselves.”
Golding has said more than once that he does not support squatting. He has also said so in Parliament. But what did he do in this instance? Recall that speaking from the perch of his jaunt to England at the time, Golding promised that “compensation would be sought”. He also promised that action will be taken against the Government for demolishing homes “without due process”. Has he delivered on these promises? False compassion exploits the vulnerabilities of people.
Also recall Golding’s stern defence of people who lived on lands which Professor Simon Mitchell, a sedimentary geologist and head of the Earthquake Unit at The University of the West Indies, said was “unstable due to several geological forces”. Recall this banner headline, ‘River clash — No relocation of flood-hit Weise Road residents — Golding’. (The Gleaner, November 13, 2020) The news item quoted Golding as saying, “There’s no need to relocate the residents. They don’t want to be relocated. Just clean the gully and maintain the gully edge; that’s all that needs to happen.”
Golding, in the mentioned incident, described “the homes on Weise Road as ‘well established’.” But last week when Jamaica was struck by a magnitude-5.6 earthquake and 70-odd aftershocks, he spoke confidently about Jamaicans being safe and being careful to build according to established standards which will enhance safety. Is this dissonance good for our developing democracy? No, it is not!
Consider this too: “Speaking at the same meeting, Opposition Leader Mark Golding told residents that under the law they have a right to the property that they now occupy. He said the People’s National Party respects the laws of the country and the rights of property owners.
‘Many of you are property owners in your own rights. You may not have a legal title yet, but you have been living on the property and you have invested in your property far beyond the 12 years prescribed by law,’ Golding noted.” (The Gleaner, April 23, 2022)
Recall early last year a long-standing battle over lands in Little Bay, Brighton, and Salmon Point in Westmoreland, which had been in the public domain for donkey’s years, reignited for the umpteenth time. This bitter feud has outlived numerous administrations. In the midst of this very flammable situation, Leader of the Opposition Golding, a constitutional officer, goes into the space and does what I believe is the equivalent of pouring accelerants on a fire.
These instances of political bipolarity should make us very afraid.
I am convinced that some among us are just not fully paid up members of the human race.
Last week, as soon as the horrific shock of the earthquake started to recede, some decided to use the opportunity to worsen the anxiety attacks, increase in blood pressures, and numerous other physical and mental challenges of hundreds of Jamaicans.
Sadly, some, for reasons best known to them, are sorely upset the quake did not do severe damage. These are heartless brutes. They are undisputedly the worst among us. While some were hurrying to pick up their children from day care and schools, some took to social media, posting falsehoods; for example, that the Half-Way-Tree main road had split into two. Others made prank calls to the fire service and the police. It is time we acquire the technologies, they exist, to catch these miscreants.