Lascelles the Great
Lascelles Chin (Photo: Observer file)

The eulogy by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare's epic play Julius Caesar begins with a truism in the life and death of mortals. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

Men who, in their lifetime, built enduring institutions identified with progress and created legacies that withstood the test of time belong to a different class. The inevitable shortcomings pale in significance when compared to the superhuman accomplishments. The greatest military leader in antiquity, Alexander III, more commonly known as Alexander the Great, who inspired the headline for today's column, was one such figure.

The great man theory attributed to 19th-century Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlysle helps explain the phenomenon that was and is Lascelles Chin and why he merits elevation, in the context of Jamaica's commercial development, to the pantheon of great men. Wikipedia describes the qualities this way, in part: "The history of what man has accomplished in this world is the history of great men. All things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realisation and embodiment of the thoughts that dwelt in great men sent into the world."

I am privileged to have known and worked with this great Jamaican on a professional and personal level going back more than three decades. As a business consultant to the then rising entrepreneur and the Lasco Affiliated Companies which he founded, I experienced first-hand his unbridled passion for life, boundless work ethic, immense entrepreneurial acumen, and deep compassion for people.

A bust of Alexander the Great

Chin's achievements in business, attested to by his many awards, are legendary. The hallmark of his greatness, the Lasco Group of Companies, is a top brand in Jamaica, with tentacles reaching across the region and beyond. What may not be as well known, because it often took place away from the cameras and media hype, is his penchant for helping causes. My work in the inner city, most notably Trench Town, is a testament to his selflessness, especially in giving the less fortunate a hand up, not just a handout, through employment.

His generosity of spirit led ultimately to the founding of the Lasco Chin Foundation, a vehicle for giving back to society more than he got at the start of his journey.

Superlatives fail in giving a full measure of this son of the soil. There is much more that I could say. So much more that will be said by others. Even then, there will be much left unsaid. It is hard to put it all into words with the passing of one who was truly great.

May his soul rest in peace and his memory transcend time.

Bring back the OPO

Jamaica likes to brag about its record as a functioning democracy. Two recent incidents not only make a lie of that boast but prove we have not matured in our political relations 79 years after universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1944.

On Wednesday, May 3, 2023, during a tour of the Fellowship Division in the Portland Eastern constituency of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament Ann-Marie Vaz, an ugly situation — best described as a tracing match — developed between Government minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Everald Warmington, who was conducting the tour, and People's National Party (PNP) councillor-caretaker Colin Bell, who sought to tag along. So bad was the ensuing imbroglio arising from Warmington's insistence that the tour would not include Bell, a church umbrella group rebuked the errant minister for his unbecoming behaviour and called on the prime minister to rein him in.

The other incident, which took place at PNP headquarters on Monday, May 8, 2023, could be considered an afront to press freedom. A female reporter from the Gleaner/RJR Communication Group, who had gone there to seek an interview with PNP Vice-President Mikhail Phillips on a matter of public interest regarding the installation of Dr Alfred Dawes as the party's standard-bearer for the St Catherine South Eastern constituency, was set upon in a manner threatening to her safety by people who had gathered there.

The incident drew an apology from the highest level of the PNP and triggered a flood of condemnation, including from Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) President Milton Walker.

Incidents like these expose the wrongheadedness of the Administration's decision to close the Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO). The OPO was established as a commission of Parliament under the provisions of the Political Ombudsman (Interim) Act, 2002. Its mandate was to investigate actions by political parties, their members and supporters when such actions conceivably violated the Political Code of Conduct agreed between the parties. One of the main clauses of the code focused on rank tribalism, which has become part of the Jamaican political culture.

The reason given for closing the OPO and subsuming its functions within the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) ostensibly was to save approximately $30 million for the operation of an office, which some parliamentarians wrongly believe was only justified around and during elections. The cost of reputational damage to Jamaica's democratic traditions resulting from incidents like the ones described above makes the decision penny wise and pound foolish.

This column is calling on the powers that be to bring back the Office of the Political Ombudsman.

Henely Morgan

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