Cry, cry, O beloved countryTuesday, January 11, 2022
“ Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply... for fear will rob him of all, if he gives too much.” — Alan Paton
Prime Minister Andrew Holness's act of tearing up over crime as he addressed last week's National Day of Prayer is a cry of desperation, even if it's being interpreted by his critics as akin to an Oscar-winning performance.
On Sunday he gave another show of emotion by responding with uncharacteristic anger, his voice almost breaking, to a question by The Gleaner's Andre Wright regarding the unfolding Accompong Maroons' sovereignty issue.
The prime minister was roundly criticised for suggesting that the journalist was “crazy” and out of line for asking his question. And there was a further suggestion that he had overplayed the show of anger, perhaps because of criticisms that he was being a “crybaby” at the prayer breakfast.
The interchange at Sunday's press conference is worth recalling in this space:
Mr Wright: “Did the Government seek legal advice on its decision to disengage with so-called sovereign Maroons, and would the Government not be derelict in refusing to finance projects in any such territories?
And [did] the Government find it embarrassing that it seems that different arms of the State — that's the police and ODPEM [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management] — as we found out, gave approval to the hosting of the Maroon celebrations?”
Prime Minister Holness: “Your question is based on a very dangerous premise. And I said earlier that there are some threats that the average citizen looking on might think it is innocuous, it is popular, and take a liking to it. Because the discussions that are held in places that should know better do not highlight the threat.
“Jamaica is a unitary, sovereign State. There is no other sovereign authority in Jamaica other than the Government of Jamaica. I want that to be absolutely clear. None. And, under my leadership, not one inch of Jamaica will come under any other sovereign authority.
“What you are asking would be for the Government of Jamaica to take taxpayers' money and grant funds to fund another Government. This is not a Government saying they are a local government, a parish council government, which is under our constitution.
“Are you crazy? Really! Do you know what you are asking? This is the stuff of how guerrilla wars come and states break down. Wake up, Jamaica. Don't court foolishness and problems. Wake up. People have died as a result. And you expect me to stand here as prime minister and fund activities that could lead to the breaking down of our State? Never!”
It could be argued that Mr Holness is not going to win, whether he makes a public display of tearing up or being angry. Neither is the appropriate response to the problems that are besieging Jamaica.
To be sure, the reporter was merely asking a question that many other Jamaicans who could not be at the press conference might wish to ask.
Without the theatrics, the prime minister's answer would have been sufficient to put the Maroon sovereignty question to bed.
As we have been advocating ad nauseam in this space, the Government should get together with the Opposition and unite the country against the gunmen and crime. That's the kind of response that is needed from leadership.