Observer Online’s political winners and losers of 2022

The country’s politicians would have relished the opportunity to return to the campaign trail in March after the government lifted the remaining COVID-19 protocols, including those that placed a limit on gatherings.

This would have been of particular importance to the members of the two main political parties – the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) – with the Local Government Elections due by February 2023.

There is nothing a politician enjoys more than stumping during a campaign and this cannot be done virtually since they like to get up close and personal.

That said, OBSERVER ONLINE’s recap of the 2022 year in politics has now been done and it throws up the usual mixed bag of winners and losers. Among those in the winning column are Finance and Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke for his stewardship of the economy which has resulted in Jamaica having the fastest growing economy in the Caribbean post-COVID; Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett who continues to preside over a record-shattering industry; and the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange who headed the team that organised and implemented the glitzy Jamaica 60 celebratory activities marking the country’s Diamond Jubilee.

Among those who were firmly entrenched in the losers column in 2022 are the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith (the biggest loser) for her failed, ill-advised challenge for the position of Commonwealth Secretary-General; the often rude and verbally offensive Everald Warmington who was called out for attacking Opposition Leader Mark Golding over his race, and Juliet Holness for her ill-timed, misplaced and woefully insensitive comments about comrades (PNP supporters) always being the ones living under the most deplorable conditions in her constituency.

With over 1,480 people murdered in Jamaica in 2022 and despite his best efforts, the embattled National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang failed yet again to make Jamaicans safe. He is also numbered among the losers; so too the Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell who was hit with a fine when he appeared in court over the negligent loss of his licensed firearm.

See below, OBSERVER ONLINE's ranking of the best and worst-performing politicians in 2022, starting with the losers:

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith.

Kamina Johnson Smith the biggest loser

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and the Jamaican Government were left with eggs on their collective faces after a combined $43 million was spent on the failed, ill-advised campaign by Johnson Smith to wrest the Commonwealth Secretary General position away from the incumbent, Baroness Patricia Scotland, and for the Jamaican delegation that attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in June.

Protocol dictates that an incumbent secretary general is not challenged when that person hails from the same voting bloc as you do. In this case, Scotland, who was born in Dominica, though resident in the United Kingdom, is a Caricom national and Caricom usually votes as one block in the United Nations, at The Commonwealth and elsewhere.

Following Johnson Smith’s defeat, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) outlined that $18.2 million was spent on the campaign that started with the surprise announcement of her candidacy by Jamaica House in April. Approximately $25 million was spent on the delegation, which included Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his wife Juliet, who attended the week-long Summit.

The OPM statement also confirmed that global marketing agency FINN Partners provided public relations, media relations and thought leadership services for Johnson Smith. However, Jamaica was left with nothing to show for its efforts as, at the end of a divisive campaign, Scotland prevailed by a 27-24 margin and will serve out her remaining two years as secretary general.

There was an ‘I told you so’ moment at the end of it all as the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, had warned that Jamaica was making a “monumental mistake” in challenging Scotland for the post. He said the decision threatened to divide the 15-member Caricom bloc.

It is still unclear why Holness and the government would have encouraged Johnson Smith to contest the position in the first place despite all the explanations Holness has tried to offer. In the end, one of Jamaica’s most decent and well-liked politicians was left humiliated on the world stage in what has to be an own goal on the part of the Administration.

Education Minister Fayval Williams during the Jamaica Teachers' Association 58th annual conference

Fayval Williams struggled at Education Ministry

From underperforming and missing students to teacher migration and textbook shortage, Education Minister Fayval Williams had a forgettable 2022.

Under her watch, thousands of students who went missing during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were shuttered and classes moved online have still not been properly accounted for. Despite her assurances that $2 billion was allocated to the textbook programme, school administrators have reportedly been forced to ration the few books that have been delivered to them with a full term now complete in the 2022/23 school year.

Under Williams' watch, Jamaican students continue to perform poorly in key subjects such as English and mathematics at the CSEC level and teacher migration has escalated. Opposition Spokesman on Education, Senator Damion Crawford accused the minister of not being truthful about the actual number of teachers leaving the classroom for greener pastures each year. He did so in December while making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate. According to Crawford, Williams was less than honest when she told a press briefing in September that a total of 248 teachers had resigned from the public school system between July and September.

“Nowhere in that (press briefing) were we told that in 2021/22, 1,310 teachers resigned. We’re not talking about the other 435 that retired. The country was being given the image that this is in line with the norm,” Crawford stated. He pointed out that in total, 1,745 teachers left the profession while 1,098 entered during the same period, “a deficit of almost 700”.

Williams has blamed supply chain issues in part for the delay in students receiving textbooks during the school year.

“Unfortunately, we are also subjected to the same supply chain pressures because all the textbooks are printed outside of Jamaica and have to be shipped to Jamaica,” Williams said during a post-Cabinet press briefing in October.

St Catherine South Western Member of Parliament EveraldWarmington (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

Everald Warmington’s use of the race card

Known for his crassness, pettiness and a seeming inability to be respectful to anyone, Everald Warmington, the JLP Area Council Two chairman, launched a broadside against Opposition Leader Mark Golding over, of all things, his race, on November 6.

In launching the attack, Warmington boldly asserted that the Jamaica-born Golding will never become prime minister because of his skin colour!

That unprovoked attack on Golding came while Warmington, who is also the Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western and the Minister with responsibility for Works in the Holness-led Cabinet, was speaking at a St Catherine North Eastern constituency conference.

Boasting about the invincibility of the governing party which controls 49 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives, Warmington, whose persistently disrespectful behavior is often cheered on or ignored by his colleagues in the House of Representatives, said: "Dem use to sey my leader born yah. Seaga (former JLP Prime Minister) born a Boston because of accident. Whey Mark Golding mother and father come from?"

Continuing, Warmington, as he was cheered on by JLP supporters shouting "shower Labourites”, and who appeared energised by his own vitriol, said: "So don't talk say my leader born yah and you attack [Edward] Seaga and you don't attack this leader. If he wants to be prime minister go back a England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but him nah beat Michael Andrew Holness. I don't talk about colour and race, but they started it, so let me finish it."

"Dem sey Seaga born up deh so, but whey fi dem leader come from? Backra master," added Warmington.

Apparently believing that no one inside the JLP can rein him in, Warmington, for good measure, further added that: "I don't toe party line. I talk from my heart, and now that I am on my way home (he has indicated that he will be bowing out of representational politics), I can say anything I want to say as long as I don't embarrass the prime minister. Let them go to hell!"

After his comments were condemned by the influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Warmington described the PSOJ and the Office of the Political Ombudsman which he has often berated, as non-entities.

He also accused the then Ombudsman, Donna Parchment-Brown of hypocrisy, claiming she turned a blind eye when Golding referred to JLP Chairman Robert Montague as the “likkle black bwoy”. Of note is that the referenced incident took place in December 2021 and Golding faced sanctions from the Ombudsman over his remarks. Golding was ordered to publicly apologise to Montague for his “demeaning” comments and to pay a maximum of $20,000 to a charity in Montague’s St Mary Western constituency.

Yet, that did not stop Warmington from attacking Golding a year later over his apparent hurt at Goldings's statement.

Juliet Holness, the member of parliament for East Rural St Andrew.

Juliet Holness backlash after ‘insensitive’ gully bank comments

Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural, Juliet Holness has moved from OBSERVER ONLINE’s list of winners in politics in 2021 to one of the biggest losers in 2022 after facing backlash for comments she made about some of her own constituents during a stump speech in October.

According to Holness, a two-term MP: “Everywhere in my constituency that is unsafe to live, Comrades (PNP supporters) live there. Yuh hear what mi seh? Everywhere in my constituency that it is not safe to live, Comrades live there”.

Continuing, Holness, who is the wife of Prime Minister Andrew Holness said: “Anywhere where river going to wash away (people), Comrades live there; Anywhere that is a garbage dump, Comrades live there and is not Labour party put them there”.

The comments made by Holness at the JLP’s Norbrook divisional meeting at the Constant Spring Primary School in St Andrew on October 23 were viewed by many as insensitive and politically-divisive.

Two days later on October 25, Holness’ statements were echoed by her government colleague, the first-term MP for St Thomas Eastern, Dr Michelle Charles.

Speaking in the State of the Constituency Debate, Charles suggested that the PNP was guilty of settling people on gully banks, in river beds and on landfills (dumps).

In the Jamaican context both women are unlikely to pay a political price for their comments. Nonetheless, they should be reminded of the price high profile politicians in other jurisdictions have paid for comments that appear to disparage supporters of their political rivals.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign in the United States, President Barrack Obama was in a tough re-election against Republican billionaire Mitt Romney and had bombed the first of the debates between them. Apart from defeating Romney in the next two debates, Obama’s stocks were revived after Romney was caught on a hot mic writing off 47 per cent of the country as being dependent on the government (suggesting they were lazy). In that moment Romney was seen as an out-of-touch rich guy that President Obama and his campaign were playing up.

Then when Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner in the 2016 campaign for the White House, her “basket of deplorables” comment that she used to describe supporters of then candidate Donald Trump helped seal her fate as it riled up the Trump base. Clinton went on to lose to Trump even though she easily won the popular vote.

Security Minister Dr Horace Chang

Horace Chang continues to be hobbled by crime

As long as he holds the crime portfolio and as long as more than a thousand Jamaicans continue to be murdered each year, Dr Horace Chang will likely be numbered among the losers in politics.

The reality is that the first order of business for any government is to keep its citizens safe.

Despite its best efforts the JLP government has failed to keep Jamaicans safe since it returned to power in February 2016 on a promise to do just that.

On the bright side, the Holness government has spent considerably more on national security than any other administration bar none. It has built and upgraded more police stations, trained more police and soldiers and invested in more equipment than any other government before it.

Additionally, the administration has resorted to the use of more states of emergency (SOEs) than any other administration yet the country’s murder rate remains stubbornly high at around 46 per 100,000. This is significantly higher than the regional average of 15 and the global average of six and has left Jamaicans cowering in fear.

Despite insisting that SOEs save lives, and no doubt they do or else the murder figure would be significantly higher than the 1,481 that it was on Wednesday, December 28, Chang, as the responsible minister continues to be viewed by many as a failure.

Lisa Hanna

Lisa Hanna’s decision to quit representational politics a ‘black eye for the PNP’

Although the next General Election is not due until 2025, the PNP is the big loser with the announcement by four-term Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, Lisa Hanna, that she will be leaving representational politics.

Hanna, who is the Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, made her intentions known in a letter to PNP President and Opposition Leader Mark Golding in August. She indicated that she will not be offering herself to represent the PNP in the constituency in the next election.

"I have always been a champion of change and having the courage to do what’s right even when it’s not expedient or self-serving, as I believe courage has an obligation to pave new roads for the generation coming behind us,” Hanna said.

“As such, I have recently decided to conclude my current journey in representational politics at the end of this term,” Hanna added.

The former Miss World represents one of the safest seats in the country, one that the PNP has never lost. However, she saw her usual margins of victory, which sometimes stand at several thousand votes shrink to just 31 votes in the 2020 General Election.

She won the seat in 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2020.

One public commentator, Professor of Culture, Gender and Society at The University of the West Indies, Donna Hope said of Hanna’s shock announcement: “It’s a black eye for the PNP and they’re going to feel the political fallout from it.”

Hanna was seen as one of few remaining bright sparks in the PNP and remains popular with young people while seen as a polarizing figure inside the party.

Hope did not buy Hanna’s claim that she was walking away to, among other things, make way for future generations. In a media interview, Hope said: “There are people on social media I see who are actually trying to run with that, but we have geriatrics in the Parliament who are in their 70s and 80s”.

Hope said that, as a woman, she’s not surprised by Hanna’s decision to quit.

“When you’re working in Jamaica as a woman, a professional or otherwise, there’s a point where you get to where that patriarchal glass ceiling becomes unbearable, and I understand where Lisa is probably making some decisions in that regard,” she said.

Continuing, Hope said: “The truth is that her future in leadership in the PNP is slim to none. There are a lot of men there jostling for the positions of primacy, and that’s just what it is. So while the people of Jamaica, and people like myself see her as one of the potential leaders and one of the better fit-for-leadership type, especially in the current era, the PNP apparently does not see it that way.”

JC Hutchinson

JC Hutchinson accused of nepotism… again

The longstanding Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Western, William ‘JC’ Hutchinson seems to be carving out a permanent space among the losers in politics and for the same reason – alleged nepotism.

In October, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple Philibert were urged to “sanction” Hutchinson, a member of the JLP’s executive, for actions determined by the Integrity Commission to constitute a conflict of interest. The anti-corruption body also cited Hutchinson for nepotism.

The commission, in a damning report tabled in the Parliament, outlined the actions of Hutchinson that led to adverse conclusions about his influence in his son Jason's company benefiting from the award of state contracts.

This marked the second time in two years that Hutchinson was being upbraided, following his demotion by the prime minister in July 2020 over his involvement in the Holland Estate scandal that also involved his son and live-in partner.

On this occasion, Kevon Stephenson, director of investigations at the Integrity Commission, reported that Hutchinson “directly and or ostensibly authorised” Claudette Baker-Archer, coordinator of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), to recommend Prostar Electrical and Construction, a private entity owned by his son Jason, for the award of contracts by the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation for the supply of electrical material and supplies.

Stephenson concluded that Hutchinson's recommendation of Prostar Electrical and Construction for the award of contracts amounted to an actual conflict of interest.

Responding to the developments involving the veteran MP, Minister with responsibility for Information, Robert Morgan, claimed Hutchinson was already sanctioned from the time the allegations had arisen.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Morgan recalled that Hutchinson was "moved from one place in the executive to another place, which was lower".

While the investigation took years and the Integrity Commission's report was released in October, Morgan suggested the government "cannot wait on an investigation to act, so we’ve acted previously on the matter".

However, it must be noted that some matters were made public for the first time by the Commission.

Phillip Paulwell

Phillip Paulwell fined for negligent loss of firearm

With the gun featuring in up to 80 per cent of all homicides in Jamaica it stands to reason that the country’s elected officials are expected to exercise a greater level of care over the safekeeping of their licensed firearms.

It was therefore not surprising that the Member of Parliament for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell was slapped with a $45,000 fine for negligence in the loss of his licensed firearm.

In the event that the fine was not paid, Paulwell would have had to serve three months behind bars.

The sentence was handed down in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on December 7 after Paulwell pleaded guilty to the criminal charge.

According to Paulwell, sometime in July, his firearm was stolen from his vehicle in Hope Pastures, St Andrew, after he made an emergency stop. He stated that he made a report to the police the following day and even provided a detailed report to the Firearm Licensing Authority.

On November 14, the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn announced that Paulwell was among five to be charged with negligence after losing their firearms.

Dr Christopher Tufton

Tufton survives dead babies’ scandal, but…

He may have survived yet again but his mishandling of the bacterial outbreak at the country’s largest maternity facility, the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, which left 11 neonates dead over the summer, took away from the otherwise very good performance of Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

Those deaths and the way the matter was treated placed Tufton among the losers in politics.

Unfortunately, the Holness administration resorted to ‘whataboutism’ and closed ranks behind Tufton when it emerged in October that the babies had died following an outbreak of klebsiella pneumoniae infections.

Tufton only acknowledged the deaths when the matter was raised by a radio station. In responding to calls for his resignation, the government quickly pointed to the so-called dead babies’ scandal from 2015 when 19 premature babies died from bacterial infections at the University Hospital of the West Indies and Cornwall Regional Hospital. Following criticism, then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller stripped the Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson of the health portfolio and reassigned him to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

In brushing aside calls for his resignation, and despite the fact that nearly a dozen babies died under his watch, Tufton told the Parliament in a ministerial statement that his case was different from the Ferguson case. His desk-thumping colleagues agreed.

The parents of the dead babies most certainly did not agree.

Tufton told the House of Representatives that "It is unworthy to compare what transpired in 2015 [with 2022] because the circumstances [are] so much different. I am trying to be very gracious because I don't want to appear to be politicising public health.

"That 2015 incident, for all sorts of reasons, generated significant anxiety around how the then Administration was managing the situation. In our case, we discovered a problem and we fixed the problem, and that's the most important issue to consider," he said.

Separately, his colleagues reminded journalists that Tufton has presided over the biggest upgrade of the country’s health infrastructure in decades. That is indeed true.

He also recently announced the roll out of a system to digitise the country’s health records and the addition of 41 new medications to the National Health Fund’s list of pharmaceuticals.

Tufton also announced that thousands of Jamaican men 40 and over who currently possess a NHF Card will now be eligible for annual screening for prostate cancer, an acknowledgement that the preventable disease is the leading cause of death among Jamaican men.

The winners:

Dr Nigel Clarke

Dr Nigel Clarke shaping up to be among Jamaica’s best ever finance ministers

There is no question about Dr Nigel Clarke’s stellar stewardship of the Jamaican economy which he took charge of in 2018 and he will go down in history as perhaps one of the best - if not the best -finance ministers Jamaica has ever seen.

He steered the country through trying times at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and continues to chalk up wins in 2022 as the Jamaican economy returned to growth quicker than any other in the region while boasting record low unemployment levels.

Clarke also presided over the comprehensive reform of the public sector’s complex compensation system with its hundreds of pay scale, reducing those to single digits and offering what he said is a better deal for government employees.

He has also presided over the complete overall of the country’s banknotes, a move that sees two of Jamaica’s biggest rivals and contemporaries, former Prime Ministers Michael Manley and Edward Seaga appearing together on a new $2,000 banknote.

Clarke is also responsible for the successful implementation of Lynk, the sole approved wallet for Jamaica's Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) – JAM-DEX. JAM-DEX was developed by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) as a safe, efficient, and convenient way to pay for goods and services. The Lynk App presently provides an opportunity for individuals, small and medium businesses to be able to pay and receive payments using a smartphone.

And Clarke continues to demonstrate that he will not be reckless with the country’s finances. He has dismissed calls by Opposition Leader Mark Golding to provide an additional $40 billion in social support to those Golding said have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

For his actions, Jamaica continues to get positive ratings from international ratings agencies and indeed social programmes such as the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) are receiving their biggest monetary support ever due to the better fiscal space the government has.

There is enough fiscal space for Jamaica to use its own money to construct highways rather than resort to borrowing.

Olivia Grange

Olivia Grange, the ‘Queen of Culture’

The celebrations to mark Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of independence from Britain were capped by a glitzy, breath-stopping Grand Gala that showcased the country’s development over the decades during a hours-long performance by thousands of participants inside a full National Stadium on August 6, Independence Day.

The woman responsible for it all – the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport – Olivia Grange, can appropriately be dubbed the Queen of Culture.

Grange always believes in the promotion of Jamaica’s culture at home and abroad and takes her portfolio responsibilities seriously. For pulling off a seamless, high quality Grand Gala that had thousands inside the National Stadium transfixed and hundreds of thousands more glued to their television sets, Grange gets high marks and is indeed a winner.

As the minister of sport she has always given 100 per cent support to the country’s athletes and would have been justly proud of the outstanding achievements of our track and field athletes at both the senior and junior levels at the World Championships during the summer.

Grange would have been equally proud that the Reggae Girlz qualified for a second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup and that the Jamaica Tallawahs won a third Caribbean Premier League T20 title during the year.

Grange must also be credited with leading the discussions that led to the historic establishment of the Bicameral Caucus of Women Parliamentarians.

Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett (Photo: JIS)

Edmund Bartlett is among the best tourism ministers in the world

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett only knows how to win and he and his team at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) never fail to tell us about their achievements.

Not only did Bartlett and the JTB keep visitors coming to Jamaica safely during the worst days of the pandemic, the country quickly raced towards achieving pre-COVID level growth in short order after being only fully reopened in March this year.

In fact, by October it was announced that the local tourism sector had achieved record arrivals for that month, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Bartlett noted at the time that preliminary figures released by the JTB for the first three weeks of October, showed stopover visitor arrivals of 123,514. This topped figures for the corresponding period in October 2019 by some 10,026, which saw 113,488 tourists visiting Jamaica.

By December 20, Bartlett was revealing that the 2022/23 Winter Tourist Season which officially got underway only days earlier, was off to an amazing start as Jamaica had recorded over 40,000 visitors since the season kicked off on December 15, with over 11,000 stopover visitors flying into the tourism mecca of Montego Bay on Saturday, December 17.

“This start of the 2022/23 winter tourist season is the strongest in the history of Jamaica. We were able to welcome over the weekend, from December 15 to 18, a total of 42,000 visitors. That includes 37,000 stopovers and 5,000 cruise visitors,” Bartlett outlined.

“We are satisfied that the tourism sector has effectively recovered. We are equally satisfied that the market is responding strongly to Jamaica. The forward bookings for the rest of the season are equally strong. We know that the market understands Jamaica and we know that the market appreciates the quality of the product and the excellence of the experience that we offer,” he said.

Matthew Samuda

Matthew Samuda's star continues to rise

Government Senator Matthew Samuda, the Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for Water, Environment and Climate Change continues to shine.

He has a laser-like focus on the environment not seen before in any Administration. Less than 40 years old, Samuda has firmly grasped the importance of preserving the environment for future generations, especially in a country like Jamaica whose physical location makes it more susceptible to climate change like others in the region.

Samuda has hinted that the government will get tougher on those who continue to flout the ban on single use plastics that he championed. He was also quite firm that bauxite company Windalco which was deemed responsible for a chemical spill that killed off the fish in the Rio Cobre, would be made to forfeit a $115 million environmental performance bond if it was determined that it was responsible for the pollution.

He also said legislation will be amended to significantly increase the fines on companies that cause such damage to the environment.

Recently, Samuda has been rightfully talking up his successes in getting potable water to Jamaicans in every nook and cranny of the island, especially those deep rural communities which have not had water in their pipes, or, in many instances, no pipes for decades.

Samuda continues to be the Government’s attack dog in the Senate, especially on matters related to crime (he was previously Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security) and is not one to let any Opposition member of the upper chamber get away with what he considers misinformation, especially where he is able and always willing to present the statistics.

Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford, one of the best Opposition spokespersons

Opposition Senator Damion Crawford continues to grow as a politician, his comments and interventions continuing to be more measured, researched and deliberate as he makes meaningful contributions in the Senate, in press releases and through other media engagements.

These days Crawford appears more prepared whenever he speaks, relying even more on statistics and shooting less from the hips.

He has done a good job throughout the year of keeping the Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams on her toes. He has gone after her on a number of issues while making suggestions for improvements.

These include but are not limited to him attacking Williams on the absence of textbooks under the government-funded textbook programme, the continued poor passes at the CXC and CSEC levels, and the inability of the government to provide adequate meals under the school feeding programme. Crawford has also raised questions about where thousands of students who went missing from the system during the pandemic are.

The Opposition senator also made recommendations including that the age of consent should be raised from 16 to 18 years and that persons found guilty of sexual assault on children should be sentenced to a mandatory 15 years behind bars.

Crawford made those recommendations against the background of the high number of girls dropping out of school because of a pregnancy.

He also accused the prime minister of trampling on the Constitution as he defended the Opposition’s decision not to support the extension of states of emergency.

Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley.

Donna Scott-Mottley - the level-headed and widely respected Opposition senator

You may disagree with her politics but you will understand the reasoning of Opposition senator, Donna Scott-Mottley, when she explains why she takes a particular position.

She has taken this non-confrontational approach repeatedly, including with the National Identification and Registration System (NIDS) legislation and during those times when the PNP refuses to support the extension of states of emergency.

Scott-Mottley has earned the respect of her colleagues on both sides of the political divide because of her respectful and non-confrontational approach to matters of national importance. She is also often willing to compromise to get things done in the interest of the Jamaican people.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange (centre), is applauded by Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew, Juliet Holness (left); and President, Jamaica Women's Political Caucus, Merline Daley (right), after she was recognised by the Jamaica Women's Political Caucus at their 25th anniversary luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

Women’s Parliamentary Caucus a big win for local politics

Members of the House of Representatives on December 13, approved a motion for the establishment of the first Women’s Parliamentary Bicameral Caucus.

The group will comprise a sessional Select Committee sitting jointly with a similarly established Committee of the Senate.

“Today we celebrate our bridging the political divide as we establish this Bicameral Caucus, demonstrating to our women all over Jamaica that women can come together, eliminating all man-made or woman-made obstacles, and work together to achieve a common cause,” said the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, as she closed the debate on the motion for the amendment of the Standing Orders to establish the Bicameral Caucus.

She also thanked the wide cross section of Jamaican men who have “put their shoulders to the wheel in this great cause”.

Where the parties and their leaders stand….

Like they did in 2021, both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding finished somewhere in the middle.

Under their watch both the JLP and PNP held what would be considered successful annual conferences – the PNP in September and the JLP in November - with members turning out in their thousands at the National Arena for the first time since 2019.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Andrew Holness has many wins but is troubled by the crime problem

Holness, as prime minister, highlighted the successes of his government during the JLP’s annual conference, including the quick return to growth post-COVID. He also outlined the steps being taken by his government to tame the crime monster including the new, more punitive Firearms Act with its mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life for gun crimes.

The prime minister should have easily headed the winners’ column for presiding over a growing economy with record low unemployment. This includes record growth in tourism, agriculture and construction as well as major infrastructure developments right across the length and breadth of the country.

There were issues with garbage collection during the year, a situation that has eased somewhat with the arrival in November of 50 new garbage compactors. And there are major developments taking place in the health sector with construction not seen in 50 years about to get underway that will bring the country’s health facilities firmly into the 21st century.

Holness must also be given credit for his social housing programme. If no one else does, those grateful beneficiaries to whom he hands keys to a house on a now regular basis and who would never otherwise be able to afford one, is a situation that must give him a great level of satisfaction. The social housing programme is both revolutionary and long overdue.

And the prime minister continues to be well respected on the world stage.

Despite all of the above, Holness has an Achilles heel which is a persistent crime problem, particularly murders. He has now gotten into a war of words with the parliamentary Opposition, even appearing at times to want to bully or insult Opposition lawmakers into supporting the SOEs.

A question that must be asked is whether the government would have locked in the support of the PNP for the continued use of SOEs if it were more respectful in its utterances about the Opposition and its leader. While a government’s first priority is the safety of its citizens, said government must possess the ability to show humility and not arrogance when dealing with others, including an Opposition that it thinks is inferior and not worthy of occupying the same space, including inside the country’s Parliament, as it does.

Holness and his government must know that despite their super majority in the House of Representatives, all 14 Opposition members won their seats on Election Day on September 3, 2020 in the same way that their 49 members won theirs - at the ballot box.

The truth is that during the debates on the motions to extend the SOEs in the House, Holness is the one who, in both tone and utterance, is at the forefront of the attacks on the Opposition, among other things letting them know that they are no paragon of virtue when it comes to talking about human rights.

The JLP should know that while the SOE that was declared by Manley’s PNP government in 1976 is easily the worst and most politicized ever in the country’s history and which targeted members of the JLP without cause, that incident happened 46 years ago. Does Holness and the JLP ever consider that members of the current PNP may genuinely be concerned about human rights issues and the constitutionality of the repeated use of SOEs?

Based on the statistics presented by the security forces, SOEs save lives. The problem for the prime minister is that despite this fact, nearly 1,500 people were murdered in Jamaica in 2022. It is time therefore to do something else, in addition to SOEs to rein in the crime problem.

Holness also has a Warmington problem. He comes across as lecturing a nation about values and attitudes and about treating each other with respect yet he sits inside the same Parliament with perhaps the most disrespectful parliamentarian in Jamaica’s history. The records hardly show a time that Holness upbraids Warmingtons for his disgraceful and usually unprovoked attacks on others.

People's National Party President Mark Golding addresses the party's annual conference. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Opposition Leader Mark Golding presided over a more united PNP but could be wrong on SOEs

Questions have been raised about what obviously would be policy positions of the PNP if/when it forms the government based on some of the stated positions of its leader, Mark Golding.

The Opposition leader has been criticised for urging the government to be more loose with the country’s finances. Golding should be smart enough to know that such a position is cause for concern especially since previous PNP administrations were accused of “running with it” in the process wrecking the economy.

For several weeks over the summer Golding urged the government to allocate an additional $40 million to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable Jamaicans. The government insisted it has done all it could and that it had no space in the budget to accommodate such expenditure.

Leading financial analysts sided with the government.

While public commentators have made the point that a strong Opposition is needed in a two-party system of government in order to keep the government on its toes, the PNP appeared more united in 2022 even in their decision to withdraw support from the government’s main crime fighting tool, the SOE.

It is therefore good for the PNP and the country that the party appears to have gotten its act together, at least publicly, instead of the constant going at each other’s throats in vulgar displays of recent years past.

While projecting unity, the party must ask itself an important question and that is whether it got it wrong on the SOEs. It has argued that the SOEs as used are unconstitutional although the government insists this position has not been stated by any court. What is without debate for Golding and the PNP is that Jamaicans, particularly in the communities that are under the gun, want the SOEs.

Much like the JLP, the PNP had a very successful annual conference; at least their respective bases would think so.

Whether he will publicly admit it or not, Golding and the PNP will be weaker when Lisa Hanna bows out of representational politics at the end of the current parliamentary term.

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