As I see it, our country is at a decisive crossroads. We can choose to make law and order a national staple or continue to clutch decades of disorder and mayhem. We can continue along the path of prudent financial discipline or destroy 17 years of national sacrifice and descend into a suicidal and foolhardy spending spree. We can either embrace common sense social order or hug even tighter to the devil take the hindmost bedlam, state of nature confusion, the fatalistic poison of "a suh di ting set", or the moral relativistic mantra of "anything goes, anywhere, any time as long as it feels good".
We can cling to reasoned pragmatism or cuddle ideologies proven to be ruinous. We can tacitly or otherwise stay fixated on mediocrity or put a national premium on excellence. We can hold on to superstitious claptrap or embrace science and technology.
We have these and other clear generational and paradigm changing choices before us. If we make the wrong choices, I fear this country will be permanently relegated to the ignominious category of social, economic and political castaways. If we make the wrong choices our children and grandchildren would be justified to brand our generation as rotten and cursed.
Deuteronomy 30: 19 (NLT), says, "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and Earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"
My interpretation here is that God was saying just in case you do not know what choice to make, choose life.
I am obviously not God. I am, therefore, humbly suggesting that we make those choices that will not relegate Jamaica to the social, economic and political garbage heaps of the Caribbean and Latin America, where several of our neighbours are trapped.
Believe it or not, there are some among us who are heavily invested in Jamaica's destruction. They want to see the high murder rate continue. They want the mayhem on some of our streets to continue unabated. They want crudeness, and 'dunceness' to be front of the class. Why? Some among us are quite prepared to ride on the coffins of our people and mortgage the future of the living in order to gain personal power.
Misleaders and pseudo-intellectuals who tell us that we need to embrace an unusable past are charlatans who mean this country no good. The well-lettered who tell us that we must continue to nourish and cherish our low-trust, low-consequence environment while they in many instances live in the lap of luxury and enjoy the fruits of First World standards of living are humbugs and fraudsters.
We will not realise Vision 2030 of becoming "the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business" unless we make paradigm shifts in how we have been managing our affairs for the last 60 years. We will never make the necessary leap to a high-wage, high-output economy unless we make radical shifts. Those shifts cannot happen unless we substantively tackle the elephants (plural) in the room. Tinkering will not help.
Large sections of the society have come to believe that 'bandoolooism', 'blyism', and skulduggery are as Jamaican as ginger beer. No society has attained First-World status with a dominant ethos that the man who plays by the rules gets shafted and those who do not are highly rewarded.
Kudos to the Administration
On the matter of reward, I am glad the Government did not blink and give any further reprieve to miscreants who, in many instances, had been systematically breaking the road traffic laws for decades. The fact that some motorists could have amassed 100, 200, and up to 400 tickets and continue to drive on our roads tell us that the system was broken.
Last Tuesday I heard ace newsman Cliff Hughes interviewing a gentleman on location at the traffic court in Kingston who had amassed 284 tickets over a period of 39 years. His excuse was that he had a problem with rum drinking and so he did not bother to pay his tickets — instead he took solace in the bottle. He continued driving nonetheless.
The rule of law is a necessary prerequisite for economic growth and development. Those who do not subscribe, tacitly or otherwise, to this view will be hard-pressed — indeed, they will find it impossible — to identify a single example of a society that has achieved consequential levels of economic, social, and/or political success as measured by internationally recognised benchmarks without adherence to the rule of law.
Those who were shouting, "Give us more time," "Give us more time," are singing from a scratched record that I am glad the Administration and law-abiding citizens have stopped listening. How much time is ever enough for miscreants who are fuelled by chaos and mayhem? As far as I am concerned those who have outstanding tickets have been given more than enough time. They have been given 'brawta', and then some.
Recall this headline: 'Motorists with outstanding tickets put on warning'. The story delivered these and related details: "Rogue motorists are being warned that their days of racking up outstanding traffic tickets are numbered and arrest warrants will be issued for those who have not paid tickets over the past five years.
"Justice Minister Delroy Chuck issued the warning on Tuesday in his contribution to the debate on amendments to the Transport Authority Act, which were passed, and will help properly bring into effect the new Road Traffic Act (RTA).
" 'You have some indiscipline and lawless motorists who feel that these tickets can be ignored. They're collecting traffic tickets like confetti,' Chuck told the House. He said, of the 500,000 tickets issued annually over the past five years, an average of 282,000 of these end up in court, and less than 70,000 are actually paid.
" 'It means over 210,000 tickets are not paid, motorists don't turn up in the courts, and it ends up a burden on the courts because you have to issue warrants. Just consider having to write up 210,000 warrants. The Government needs to respond to ensure that when the police issue tickets that they're complied with,' he stated.
"Chuck said electronic warrants will be issued for motorists who have not paid over the five years, and that, in fact, there are more than one million tickets for which warrants should be issued.
" 'The motorists who have not paid over the last five years and more, let it be noted that we have not given up. We are now looking at electronic ticketing — which has started in Kingston and St Andrew — but also to issue warrants electronically. So, writing up these tickets, signing these tickets will now be available,' he said." (Jamaica Observer, July 20, 2022)
Recall also this headline: 'Clear those traffic tickets!' The news item said, among things:
"Island Traffic Authority (ITA) boss Kenute Hare is warning motorists with outstanding traffic tickets that they should make every effort to clear the backlog and avoid a court warrant.
" 'I am urging drivers to pay their outstanding traffic tickets now because it is not going to be business as usual,' Hare warned. He said drivers should pay up their outstanding tickets and companies which own the vehicles and employ the drivers must have them checked urgently as the new electronic-based system is already in effect.
"Built on the back of the centralised, web-based Traffic Ticket Management System (TTMS) introduced in 2010, the Ministry of National Security is replacing the old paper-based tickets with new e-tickets, eliminating 25 points of failure and 100 per cent of hassle." (Jamaica Observer, October 28, 2022)
I could cite dozens of similar news items from traditional media, and numerous reminders on social media in which individuals with outstanding tickets were repeatedly warned that they needed to honour their obligations with due haste. Hundreds deliberately hardened their hearts and covered their ears. They, doubtless, figured they were entitled to more reprieve. This while the carnage on the streets continued. They evidently made a grave and quite possibly an expensive miscalculation.
Last Monday I heard an official of the judicial services saying on a radio programme that during much of last December the traffic courts were virtually empty. Why? We have developed an anti-development ethos that things which need to be done today should wait until tomorrow. For decades we have fetishised lateness. It is time to straighten up and fly right.
More own goals
On the subject of right, the left — meaning Mark Golding, leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition and president of the People's National Party (PNP) — came out with all guns blazing against the commitment of the Administration to the implementation of the new road traffic laws last Wednesday.
Nearly a year ago I wrote in this space that Golding represented "a throwback to an unusable past". I believe I have been proved right.
Golding continues his senseless inveighing against progressive policies which are urgently needed to enable Jamaica to move forward by great positive leaps, instead of crawling by mere inches.
For example, Golding is against the use of states of public emergency (SOEs), in spite of the fact that copious data has shown that hundreds of lives, lives of especially vulnerable Jamaicans, have been saved by the measure.
Two Sundays ago I noted here that Golding's refusal to name Opposition Members of Parliament to sit on the Constitutional Reform Committee, chaired by Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte, was another attempt by the PNP to try and stick up the Andrew Holness-led Administration.
Golding's latest political blunder was his campaign for an extension to April 30, 2023 for individuals with outstanding traffic tickets.
The editorial of this newspaper delivered a stinging rebuke of Golding continued attempts to impose tools that were fashioned in the 19th century on today's Jamaica when it noted, among other things, last Tuesday:
"If, in fact, Mr Mark Golding, the leader of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), subscribed to the idea of putting country before party he would have supported the Government's firm stance against the unruly motorists who have thousands of outstanding traffic tickets dating back years.
"Salivating, no doubt, over the prospect of drawing some votes from among angry taxi operators — the main culprits in the traffic tickets saga — Mr Golding last week begged the Government to extend the payment deadline for the offenders.
"We expect that Mr Golding, and others of his ilk, will relish the chaos at the traffic courts yesterday, using it as justification for their unwise effort to get the Government to soften its position and allow the traffic offenders to have their way.
"These offenders have, for years, thumbed their noses at the road traffic laws, running up large numbers of tickets — which they had no intention of paying, no matter how many amnesties were offered by a weak-kneed Administration — while the law-abiding road users suffered."
I believe Mark Golding suffers with the political afflictions of a "tin ear". He does not seem to grasp the political pulse of today's Jamaica.
Another political own goal by the PNP was its elaborate and nauseating attempts to politicise the allegations of fraud at Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL). That political bamboo-fire has died since this revelatory news item: "FSC told SSL in 2013 to stop conducting business." The story said among other things: "The Financial Services Commission (FSC) had, in October 2013, issued directions to Stocks and Securities Ltd (SSL) to stop conducting all aspects of its securities business unless the company received approval from the regulator; a letter seen by the Jamaica Observer has shown.
"The letter, signed by then FSC Executive Director Janice Holness, was addressed to Mark Croskery who, at the time, was the firm's president and CEO.
"The directions were issued after an internal audit of the company which is now at the centre of a massive fraud so far estimated to be more than $3 billion." (Jamaica Observer, January 31, 2023)
It should be obvious even to those with a very meagre understanding of the swirling of our political tea leaves that Golding does not know 'what ah clock a strike" in our politics. I forecast that the victory lap for the next local government will not include Golding.
Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist and a senior advisor to the minister of education & youth. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.