I do not dismiss the utterances of our leaders on the political hustings as mere idle talk, jest, and/or rum talk (drunken babble). I think what political leaders say in these fora are more often than not a mirror into the deep recesses of their minds.
There was a time in our politics when belligerence and gimmicks fetched a premium price in the political market. That unfortunate period culminated with Jamaica being technologically, socially, and economically far behind her neighbours in the Caribbean and Latin America.
I believe today’s political market is demanding a much more conciliatory and solutions-centred type of politics which is overtly aligned with the pulse and needs of especially ordinary folks. Folks are over the type of politics wherein you laugh and “kin pupah lick” when your political opponent slips on a ripe banana peel.
I believe the majority of well thinking people in this country have graduated from the politics which is predicated on ‘gotcha’.
What is happening and/or will soon happen to lessen the biting impact of rising inflation and the attendant consequences? That is where folks are.
Media reports of utterances by Opposition Leader Mark Golding, last Sunday, at a divisional conference in St Andrew Eastern exuded a political persona which is antithetical to our national political mood and needs. The Opposition seems to have buried itself deep in the trenches of old-time politics.
Consider these excerpts from The Gleaner of June 26, 2022. These are the direct words of Golding.
Exhibit 1: “When a Jamaican put themselves up, we have fi support still, so mi never really come out hard, but inna miself mi seh it is a little weird thing.”
Why would Jamaica’s attempt to positively increase her influence on the stage of the world seem “a little weird thing” to Golding, our alternative prime minister?
I have said this before, but it bears repeating: I think that sacrificing Jamaica’s influence for party political expediency is not prime ministerial. Our primary loyalty, in my view, must be to Jamaica, not a political party.
Exhibit 2: “If you a mek a move like that you haffi have the thing lock; it nuh mek no sense you push out and you might lose, what kind a foolishness that, mi nuh know who put dem up to it, star, but to tell you the truth it is an embarrassment.”
If this ‘logic’ — and I am being kind — were applied to recent actions of Golding himself then it becomes obvious that he is employing “fuzzy mathematics”, to borrow a quote from former United States President George W Bush.
Golding might not remember that he did cast in his political lot with Peter Bunting when Bunting attempted to wrestle the presidency of the PNP from the then incumbent Dr Peter Phillips. Dr Phillips defeated Bunting, and the PNP months after was trounced by the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the general election of September 3, 2020. Bunting himself was soundly defeated by a political neophyte — Rhoda Moy Crawford. Golding, by his logic, clearly did not have the “ting lock”
He is a trained lawyer, surely sees his folly.
Smokescreens and deviations
Straightaway I expect that some are going to throw in red herrings and say, for example, “Is just because Golding chat inna patois why you saying what you saying.”
I have absolutely nothing against political leaders speaking patois on or off the political stage. What I have a challenge with is the content of what Golding said. The language he used to communicate it does not matter. And, yes, patois is a language.
I know there are those who are going to bellow, “Suh yuh nuh glad, Sah, Golding mek more mistake.”
No! I have said repeatedly in this space that I do not believe that it is in the best interest of the country or democracy for the Opposition to continue operating off of life support.
No one in their right mind expects Golding and the People’s National Party (PNP) to agree and support the JLP Administration “pee-pee, cluck-cluck”.
Folks know and understand that our competitive brand of western liberal democracy does not work like that. I believe, however, that folks want an Opposition, especially at this time, that does not paint itself as purely petty and pedestrian.
In an era in which politics is largely visual, Golding too often come across as quibbling. When the dead weight of the PNP is added to the dead weight of Golding himself, as evidenced in several recent scientific polls, then the “survival mode” description that former Senator K D Knight put on the PNP, some time ago, is amplified 100-fold. No well-thinking Jamaican sees this as good.
I think that, while it is important for the Opposition to continually energise its base, it must demonstrate that it also has a clear and a viable alternative path to the future; one that is considerably better than the ruling party.
I believe the Opposition continues to fail, and fail miserably in that respect.
Last Monday, for example, Nationwide News Network reported Golding as saying the “PNP still had work to do on presenting a credible policy platform to the Jamaican people”. This tells me that Golding — two years into the job — is majoring in minors.
Jamaica, economically — and especially socially — is still in a very sensitive state. We still have many rivers to cross, but it is obvious — maybe except to those fixated in political colic — that there are credible reasons for real medium- and longer-term economic hope; notwithstanding our many long-standing problems.
Golding is the prime minister in waiting. I believe ever Jamaican has a duty to insist that, at a minimum, he provides answer to the following questions:
1) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas on how to grow the Jamaican economy?
2) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas to remedy the long-standing matters of social decline?
3) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas to fix the choking issue of major crimes, and murder in particular?
Jamaican also need to know how Golding’s ideas, programmes, and policies be operationalised?
Folks need to be convinced that the Opposition’s ideas are ‘fundable’.
I have examined presentations by Opposition spokespersons, documents in the public domain, and listened to presentations from recent public Opposition fora. I have not seen anything resembling rational answers to the mentioned questions.
These are serious times in the country. Gimmicks and political pyrotechnics won’t positively affect our people’s pockets and dinner tables. I believe Golding needs to understand that poppy show optics, plastic smiles, and constipated glad-handing cannot smother reality.
There are serious realities of famine facing many countries around the world. Inflation is wreaking havoc on the economies of the globe. The deadly — and I truly mean deadly — consequences of rising global inflation is cutting into the ability of millions to continue to survive, let alone eke out a decent standard of living.
The war between Russia and the Ukraine, and interruptions of supply chains in China are sending shock waves throughout the world. And I could go on to list the other great troubles that are ripping into the very fabric of especially small island developing states (SIDS).
These are just some of the real and diverse matters which are consequential to the bread and butter of the majority of Jamaicans.
Gimmicks and half-baked sound bites which rapidly disappear into oblivion do not address the immediate problems which are impacting the livelihood of most Jamaicans.
Those who seek to promote division, strife, and are trying desperately to reinvigorate a type of scorched-earth political atmosphere do not know ‘what ah clock a strike’ (present realities).
I am convinced that Jamaicans want substance over hype.
The next local government and general elections must centre on workable and fundable plans, policies, and programmes that, at a minimum, must help to reset Jamaica’s economy to her pre-COVID-19 position.
Jamaicans are resilient and clever people. We can, as rural folks say,”’pick sense out of nonsense” (decipher truth from falsehood). I think the majority of voters, especially in marginal seats, are interested in far more than clickbait and trinkets of traditional, immediate gratification.
Today’s voters are, in general, much more motivated by medium- and long-term qualitative and quantitative benefits.
“Golding has big plans for this country,” a caller told host of a radio programme last week. He went on, “But he is not revealing them right now, because the JLP will steal them.”
If that is indeed what PNP central is doing I think it is making a grave mistake. I believe the vast Jamaicans are now extremely wary of Nicodemus-type plans and “puss-innah-bag” ploys.
Folks are also wary of a politics which is fixated on the achievements of 40 years ago. We have a predominately youthful population who are concerned with what they see in front of them today and what they are seeing ahead for tomorrow. Most are asking: What have you done for me lately? Political trivia “nahh keep again”.
No tears from me
Last Tuesday I listened to the executive director of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) Mickel Jackson struggling to defend the organisation’s position against the death penalty for the man accused of killing a woman and her four children.
“Jackson says while commiserating with the family and their loss she doesn’t think capital punishment should be pursued.
“Jackson says the mitigating circumstances should be taken into consideration, such as Barnett’s age.
“She also says the State should not go down the route of retribution.” (Nationwide News Network, July 29, 2022)
I believe criminals must reap what they sow. The bleeding heart liberals who strenuously lobby for the mollycoddling of convicted monsters who rape, rob, pillage, and destroy individual and sometimes whole families, often plunging them in a deep hole of generational poverty, continue to conveniently close their eyes to the suffering of the victims of crime.
The death penalty remains on our books, but there have been no hangings in Jamaica since 1988. Hanging was halted in Jamaica following the 1993 landmark Pratt and Morgan ruling by the United Kingdom Privy Council that it is cruel and inhumane to hang an inmate who has been on death row for more than five years.
We need to fix the weaknesses in our justice system and resume hanging. If you deny someone their right to life, premeditatedly, you have forfeited your own. For me, it is simply a matter of justice for the victims.
The loss of any life is regrettable. But people who have decided that they will live by the commission of the most savage and monstrous acts of murder and mayhem cannot be tamed with butterfly nets.
Last week this newspaper revealed that Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Paula Llewellyn explained in a news release that her office had filed the death penalty notice on Barnett after carefully considering the allegations disclosed in the evidentiary material gathered so far, the law, and public interest in the gruesome murders. Unlike some among us, I am not shedding any tears at the DPP’s announcement.
On the matter of the shedding of tears, the people of Sri Lanka are shedding buckets of tears right now.
Last Wednesday, WION, an international news agency, reported that: “Sri Lanka has run out of fuel. It has banned all sales for two weeks. Only trains, buses and ambulances are allowed to refuel. Meanwhile, WION reports that “an exodus has begun. Over 450 Sri Lankans have been caught trying to flee the country”.
Some among us don’t seem to understand why Sri Lanka is teetering on the edge of total social and economic chaos today. The majority of its people succumbed to political gimmicks. Reports on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) say the Rajapaksa brothers spent more than the national income and implemented ‘generous’ tax cuts which toppled Sri Lanka’s economy. We best be wary of gimmickry.
Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist and a senior advisor to the minister of education and youth. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.