Crawford didn’t put his money where his mouth isTuesday, January 12, 2016
I agree with Damion Crawford that "the truth will always, eventually, emerge". The truth is that he has been more focused on his PR and polishing his political image than dealing with the problems of St Andrew East Rural.
His success at presenting an image of himself as the champion of education and truth telling is not surprising, though, as he is an expert marketer who even teaches the craft at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
At the end of the day, though, "You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time."
It wasn’t surprising to many that one Comrade and former member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern, Dr Patrick Harris, publicly stated that: "A person like a Damion Crawford is disrespectful of the political process, disrespectful to Comrades in general, and, at worst, he is either stupid or fool-fool, and he should be put in the Ity and Fancy Cat Show’, where you don’t have anybody asking about democracy and such things to be in that."(Keep Out, Damion — Crawford belongs in comedy says former MP, The Gleaner, November 19, 2015)
The fact is that, like the electorate of St Andrew East Rural, the people of Trelawny realised that Crawford always showed much more interest in building his public image as some kind of "political rock star" or "the first dreadlocked man to be elected a member of parliament in Jamaica" than he showed in their efforts to survive, improve their lives, and move them from poverty to prosperity.
It seems that Comrades in Trelawny were not interested in being labelled "plyboard PNP" and "bad Eye PNP" and I am sure the Labourites in Trelawny were happy that the man who classed them as "Dutty Labourites" did not get the chance to diss them again.
For the past four years, Crawford has sought to build an image around his claim of focusing on spending his Constituency Development Fund (CDF) primarily on education. He has even tried to trick the Jamaican public into believing that his recent political demise in St Andrew East Rural was due to an intense focus on education, instead of political handouts.
The JLP regarded this posture as questionable, at best, and has described it on numerous occasions as a shameless effort to blame his political failures on his constituents. What is even worse, however, is that he has left his constituents to defend themselves against the unfair public opinion — fostered and promoted by him — that the people of East Rural St. Andrew vote with their bellies, and not their minds.
As the Jamaican saying goes, "He who feels it, knows it", and while Crawford’s best public relations messaging and marketing suggest commitment and unwavering dedication to upliftment through education, a tour of the constituency and conversations with its residents confirm that, while appreciable, his education programme lacked the resources to make any significant and sustainable impact on the lives of the majority of residents, including their children.
The facts also show, according to the 2014/15 Annual Report of the CDF committee of the House of Representatives, that last year he spent only $2.5 million of his total CDF allocation of $12.6 million on educational projects. This was made up of $2 million on a Grade Six Achievement Test literacy project, which is probably the vanguard of his "3-2-1 programme", and $500,000 on his examination preparation and extra classes. He spent the remainder of the CDF allocation on various other projects.
Unless he was getting a huge amount of funding from private individuals and institutions, his level of spending doesn’t seem to justify the emphasis he claims to make on education, nor does it justify the extent to which he relied on these projects in his "response to Juliet Holness".
I say this in the context that other MPs have spent as much as $8 million, and probably more, financing education projects in their constituencies, but do not project themselves as educational messiahs or patrons of literacy in their constituencies as Crawford has tried to do. It seems Crawford does not have the legacy to back his bombast as many of his own party and the Jamaica Labour Party have spent more on and done more for education than he.
For example, last year, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller spent $8 million on education from her allocation. Julian Robinson, a fellow Comrade and MP representing St Andrew South Eastern, is listed in the same report as spending $6.3 million last year on education. The Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness spent close to $5 million in St Andrew West Central, and in another inner-city constituency, Kingston Western, the member of parliament, Desmond McKenzie, spent $3 million of his $12.6 million on a special employment project to assist the huge number of unemployed people there, and still found $5 million to dedicate to educational assistance.
It is interesting to note that Crawford’s spending on education has actually been decreasing as it was reported in another paper in 2012 "data from the CDF Unit, (that) of the $9.279 million disbursed to Crawford’s St Andrew East Rural constituency for projects, he only spent $5.439 million or 58.62 per cent on education in 2012/2013". Even then, he wasn’t the one who spent the most, as over that period, Julian Robinson’s spent 88.54 per cent of his allocation on education.
If we follow the reasoning of Crawford we could conclude that all these MPs have a greater appreciation for education than Crawford, but I don’t deal in sophistry.
We haven’t heard any complaints from the constituents of these members of parliament regarding their MPs. And their MPs have also not tried to promote themselves in the way Crawford has, or to denigrate their constituents with negative and disgusting labels.
These facts strongly suggest that Crawford is perpetuating a myth about the level of his focus on education. While the general public and some on social media may be deceived, the people of St Andrew East Rural and those who look at the facts know the truth.
In St Andrew East Rural, which is both an urban and rural constituency, the people share one basic heritage of pride and ambition. They, therefore, could not forgive Crawford for promoting the idea that they the rejected education of their children for a bellyful, plyboard or zinc.
This belief is far from the truth, and demands an apology from Crawford, as in his effort to explain why he struggled and has now been dropped by the people after a single term, he has caused them much embarrassment. He should really seek to make amends with the people he has so disgracefully offended on so many occasions in only four years in Parliament and hope that they might find it in their hearts to forgive him.
In the meantime, however, I suggest to him that his real enemy is not Juliet Holness, but himself, as it is the man in the mirror that continues to damage whatever positive impact he might have had with his divisive, disrespectful and crass behaviour to his constituents and Jamaicans in general.
Robert Nesta Morgan is the Jamaica Labour Party deputy spokesperson on education and youth. Send comments to the Observer or @NestaJA
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