The betrayal of the intellectualsMonday, June 07, 2021
Louis E A Moyston
The Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the 2020 General Election with an overwhelming majority in Parliament, but capturing only 21 per cent of votes cast. Since this victory there has been a noticeable change in the political behaviour of the prime minister. He is asserting a leadership style reminiscent of his mentor in the early post-1980 election victory of the JLP.
In spite of having a measly 21 per cent of the vote in the last election, he made the charge that, “The intellectuals are driving away the people from the Government.” It is not his first public anti-intellectual tirade; a similar statement made at the 2018 JLP conference. It is unfair to say “the intellectuals” because it is just a few from that group informing the public. I hope this charge will awaken the many to act. If they come for the few in the morning it is certain that they will go for the rest in the evening. Ominous signs lurk behind the dark clouds on the horizon regarding the restriction of free speech and other essential rights in a flawed democracy.
This article is a response to the prime minister's recent tirade in Parliament regarding the role of the intellectuals as “pied pipers” luring the people from the Government. This reply to his recent “warnings” is also grounded in the article, 'Seaga: Liberal conservatism is the JLP's philosophy', published in the Jamaica Observer, November 25, 2018, in which I reproved the prime minister and leader of the JLP for his open anti-intellectual message. I said, “
However, Mr Prime Minister, critics are not just 'backward' thinkers. The attitude is as if no one should contest ideas of the Government. What about accountability? Please, Sir, rethink your anti-intellectual stance; you have your work to do, people voted you for that, and scholars and intellectuals have their work and purpose too. They prepared themselves for and voluntarily apply themselves seeking for truth, equal rights and justice. The contribution of the intellectuals to the emergence and development of the National Housing Trust, for example, is most significant, so do no attempt to portray scholarly tradition as a wasteland and intellectuals as 'waste people'.”
I know that your job is most challenging, but you should not spend your time replying to all the criticisms; try to make sense of then as you do your work. If you want to take all the praises, then it follows that you must take all the criticisms.
Perhaps I should share with the readers of your latest anti-intellectual speech that has been circulating on social media and not by the intellectuals. The speech was a response to the frequent criticisms against your “imperial” prime ministerial leadership and governance. The harsh conditions imposed by the lockdowns and curfews have resulted in loud calls about double standards expressed by critics.
Holness introduced his lines by saying that the disapproval is not new, “[I]t is preached every single day by the intellectuals of this country, every single opportunity they get the push the people away from their Government.” Please, Sir, recall this speech made by Dr Christopher Tufton years ago in St Elizabeth. He said, “Let me take off the mic and talk, I want a leader who is not intimidated by bright people when they are around him.”
Now, Mr Prime Minister, you forget that it is only 21 per cent of the votes you received in the last election; however, you have 49 to the Opposition 14 seats in Parliament. Are you aware Sir, that since 2007 intellectuals at The University of the West Indies have been working within the framework of American Barometer on Democracy and have consistently shown in their research findings that the Jamaican voters have lost interest in politics and participating in elections; that governments have not been providing the essential services to the people — health, education, water, roads, and upkeep of necessary infrastructure; the failure to narrow the widening inequality gap and to lower unemployment; the high level of corruption, political victimisation, cronyism, and nepotism; and the increasing threat to free speech.
The 63 per cent of the non-voting people and those who have lost confidence in the Government since the 2020 election were not guided by the intellectuals. Those issues are their concerns and the root of the exodus. Very few intellectuals have the balls to speak up. In fact, I have accused many of them who are silent of committing intellectual treason. I hope they will find reason, purpose, and voice to take a stand now. It is time for well-thinking people to begin to become active in the political narratives and activities in Jamaica.
Prime Minister, some of your actions remind me of the political behaviour of your mentor in the post-1980 regime — endless victimisations, firing of all black consultants in government, and the persecution of innocent civil servants like the Joseph Burey, among others. I read in The New York Times an interview with the minister of national security of that period. He was asked about the very high amount of youth killed by the police by the new regime, and he responded by saying that many of them were Cuban-trained guerillas who were part of a plot to destabilise the Seaga regime.
The writer of a most recent letter to the editor explained that the door of the home of the innocent foreign ministry worker Joseph Burey and father was kicked off by police in 1983; both were hauled off to the police station on “an allegation made in Parliament by the then prime minister that Burey was part of a Communist Cuban-Russian kidnap plot”. Somewhere in that mix there was that Lada motor car that was shot up by the police on Red Hills Road killing several people who had been perceived as communist agitators.
Sir, your recent speeches in Parliament remind me the reign of terror in the post-1980 regime. Dark signs are gathering behind the dark clouds on the horizon. Are we heading to the development of a new “Papa Doc” with Gestapo force known as Ton-Ton Macoutes?
As the dark clouds slowly unfold, resistance begins to appear. It appeared in Jungle when Dayne Mitchell of Arnett Gardens made harsh comments against the prime minister and was later sought after by the police. He was arrested, charged, and fined. Some time after, I noticed how the army descended on “Jungle”. It was the time when a young man was beaten and severely wounded. Then came the pastor from Orange Hill, outside of Brown's Town, St Ann, and his 'prophetic' and anti-Brogad speeches. He was arrested by a high-level, anti-corruption police squad. He was freed; the police had no charges against him. Prior this event there was the changes in the parliamentary committees with responsibility for accountability. And recently one JLP Member of Parliament said he has been waiting for 17 years to have Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis in the hot seat. Similar to how the pandemic brought out weaknesses in the society and the Government, she brought out the ignorance and darkness of some JLP Members of Parliament.
The Holness-led Government seems to no interest in accountability. Recently, Holness exploded in an anti-intellectual speech; a quarrelsome defence against charges of Government's double standard regarding the Rick's Café/Mocha Fest debacle raised deeper concern. What is he hinting? Sedition charges? There is a dangerous implication from the statement that intellectuals are making speeches that guide “the people from their Government”; implies instigating disorders. That was an open threat to a certain class of people in this country. They have no fear and will not be intimidated by the wild imagination of the prime minister. Critique is an essential ingredient for change; it is important for the leader to listen to ideas other than his own. Sir, if you spend your time repelling critiques and threatening people you may very well have no time to do your work; hence, leading to the failure of your mission.
Louis E A Moyston, PhD, is a consultant and radio talk show presenter. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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