A referendum for both the JLP, PNPSunday, August 16, 2020
The palm nut that goes into a mortar won't leave without a scar. — Yoruba proverb, Nigeria
The entire country now knows that our 18th parliamentary election will be held on September 3, 2020. This election will be a referendum on the Andrew Holness-led Administration of the last 4 ½ years, specifically its management of the COVID-19 crisis and the present state of the economy.
In my The Agenda piece on March 8, 2020, I said, among other things: “I believe the effectiveness, or lack thereof, with which this Andrew Holness-led Administration manages the inevitable arrival of COVID-19 on our shores will weigh heavily on the outcome of the upcoming general election. If the Administration does a poor job, that could well turn out to be the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Achilles heel for which the People's National Party (PNP) desperately searches.” ( Sunday Observer, March 8, 2020)
Based on data which I have collected on recent road trips, I am positing an unorthodox position. I believe the upcoming general election will also be a referendum on the People's National Party's (PNP) response to the COVID-19 crisis, its performance as the country's Opposition, and, specifically Dr Peter Phillips's readiness, or lack thereof, to lead Jamaica at this time.
Recall also that in my The Agenda piece on March 8, 2020, I wrote, inter alia: “I think that if the Opposition PNP misses the opportunity to demonstrate mature leadership when the coronavirus infection comes ashore, 89 Old Hope Road will succeed in further devaluing its political stocks. In fact, from a purely political perspective, when COVID-19 is confirmed in Jamaica, it will be an opportunity for the PNP to redeem itself from the disastrous mismanagement of the chikungunya outbreak in 2014.” ( Sunday Observer, March 8, 2020)
Based on an average of recent poll findings, plus data which I have collected on recent road trips, I believe the Andrew Holness-led JLP will win a second term. Folks do not want a change of the captain and his team at this time. I believe the JLP will win 41 seats and the PNP 22. I believe Dr Phillips will tender his resignation as president of the PNP within 48 hours of his acceptance of defeat.
In my The Agenda column on August 2, 2020 I identified 22 seats which I said, I believed, were marginal. I noted, among other things: “I will say who I believe will win these crucial 22 seats in an upcoming piece.”
Again, based on an average of recent poll findings, plus data which I have collected on recent road trips, I believe the JLP will win 16 of the 22 marginal seats and the PNP, 6.
1) Homer Davis - St James Southern
2) Robert Miller - St Catherine South Eastern
3) Dwight Sibblies - Clarendon Northern
4) Krystal Lee - St Ann North Western
5) Tova Hamilton - Trelawny Northern
6) Frank Witter- St Elizabeth South Eastern
7) J C Hutchinson - St Elizabeth North Western
8) Pearnel Charles Jr - Clarendon South Eastern
9) Marlene Malahoo Forte -St James West Central
10) Alando Terrelonge – St Catherine East Central
11) Fayval Williams - St Andrew Eastern
12) Zavia Mayne – St Ann South Western
13) Robert Morgan – Clarendon North Central
14) Kerensia Morrison – St Catherine North Eastern
15) Phillip Henriques - Clarendon North Western
16) Newton Amos - St Catherine North Western
1) Dr Morais Guy – St Mary Central
2) Noel Arscott – Clarendon South Western
3) Basil Waite – St Elizabeth North Eastern
4) Mikael Phillips – Manchester North Western
5) Dr Fenton Ferguson – St Thomas Eastern
6) Anthony Hylton – St Andrew Western
Based on data which I collected on recent road trips and the findings of recent polls I believe the JLP has four political aces. The Holness Administration has responded to the COVID-19 crisis in a praiseworthy manner. Once we apply dispassionate systems of assessment and measurement it becomes obvious that the Holness Administration has performed creditably with regards to the management of the novel coronavirus disease. I have substantiated this conclusion with indisputable evidence from local, regional, and international health and related authorities in a previous column.
Recall there was no template for the management of COVID-19. There was little time to prepare for its landing on our shores. Nonetheless, our country has not disintegrated into the Hobbesian state of nature which some prophesied. Of course, the Holness Administration has not got everything right; no country has.
Unfortunately, some who now occupy desperate political quarters have started to politicise what is obviously the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis. They are obviously not paying attention to what is happening, especially with many of our neighbours. Cuba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, all reported sizeable increases in COVID-19 cases during this month.
New Zealand, which is held up as the gold standard for the management of COVID-19, reported four cases last week. Prior, the Kiwis had experienced 100 days without recording a locally transmitted COVID-19 case.
The second wave is simply a global reality. We were warned.
Check this: “The novel coronavirus could affect the world in a series of waves for the next year or two, and may even come back in the fall in a wave stronger than the current one, according to a new report by the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).” ( The Jerusalem Post, May 4, 2020)
Life, nevertheless, must go on. I maintain that the country's business for the next five years must be settled. Singapore, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago recently had their national election. Meticulous sanitisation, physical distancing, and numerous other protocols were set in place to ensure that the polls were successfully held. We simply have to 'walk and chew gum at the same time'.
Jamaica has had hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other disasters and the country has not disappeared like the Lost Planet of Atlantis.
The reality is a viable vaccine won't be ready for distribution until mid-to-late 2021. That is the most optimistic forecast from some of the best scientific minds. Last Thursday, I was listening to a programme on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that centred on the spread of the coronavirus and the prospects for a viable vaccine. Among other things, it was revealed that, even after a vaccine successfully meets all the rigorous international standards, it will take upwards of three years before satisfactory levels of global vaccination might be achieved.
As I see it, developing countries like Jamaica will also face another big hurdle after a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for global distribution. Some developed countries have pre-ordered/pre-purchased hundreds of millions of doses of potentially viable vaccines that are in the final stages of human trials. “Parson christen him pickney fuss,” goes the Jamaican adage.
Those who are shouting, “Lock down the economy,” might have forgotten that thousands of our citizens live from one pay cheque to another. Thousands have to depend on various forms of 'hustling', or short-term and informal employment to eke out a living.
We cannot all return to the era of the caveman. Folks have mortgage/rent, car loans, etc, to pay, and back-to-school, as we say in local parlance, is just around the corner. Most Jamaicans simply cannot and will not survive a lockdown of the economy.
Right after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed on March 10, 2020 doomsday addicts predicted an apocalyptic collapse of the economy and related social infrastructure. The latest word from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) is that the economy is beginning to return to desirable levels of stability in many areas. Based on information in the public domain, cement sales are up, construction is up, and business confidence is regaining admirable momentum. Tax revenues are up, and the tourism sector has reopened, albeit with many challenges.
Thirdly, Prime Minister Holness is viewed nationally as a very approachable and non-confrontational leader. An incident in Water Square, Falmouth, last week reinforced these important political pluses:
“Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Prime Minister Andrew Holness blasted unruly supporters of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) who invaded his campaign tour of the Trelawny Northern constituency in Falmouth this afternoon.
“ 'Anyone who is a subscriber to the Jamaica Labour Party, you will know that you do not have my support if another political party is having their event and you turn up and disturbed it; you do not have my support,' Holness told jubilant JLP supporters in Water Square, Falmouth.” ( The Gleaner, August 10, 2020)
Prime Minister Holness effectively doused what could have become ugly. But as rural folks say “one hand cyah clap.” This type of regrettable occurrence is antithetical to the needs of Jamaica's politics. One media outlet reported that the Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Victor Wright was contacted to comment on this undesirable incident. It was reported that Wright said he could not comment.
I was expecting that, at a minimum, Wright would have distanced himself from what happened in Water Square, Falmouth.
No one can deny that widespread political violence and murders that almost always accompanied elections in Jamaica are now a thing of the past. Any resurrection of the bad, old days would be disastrous for Jamaica. But history has taught us that “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”.
And fourthly, Holness is seen nationally as the leader who has his finger on the pulse of the issues which matter to the country, and young people especially. His high comfort level with modern technologies, and his frequent use of them to communicate with the youth, in particular, has endeared him to folks from various political, non-political, social, and economic strata.
Today's voters are generally far more discerning. They are supremely pragmatic. Most do not want handouts. A majority wants opportunities that will enable them to create more opportunities for themselves and their relations. I don't believe the PNP sufficiently understands and appreciates this seismic shift in our politics.
Christmas comet ride?
There is no free lunch. Someone, somewhere has to pay. I am very suspicious of those who promise any type of utopia. I am sure some will retort: “O ye of little faith.” (Matthew 8:26). That's fine! 1 Thessalonians 5:21 warns: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”
Head of the Jamaica Progressive Party (JPP) Gilbert Alexander Edwards, a returning resident from the United States of America, says his party, if elected, will repay the country's debt within 90 days after election.
For those who depend on the vehicle of reason as their major mode of transportation, this sounds quite Alice in Wonderland-esque.
Edwards needs to show us the money. If the JPP cannot convincingly do so, then it would be guilty of trying to trick Jamaicans into buying a ticket to ride a comet. This would be a most egregious act since the country desperately needs to have her feet firmly planted on terra firma at this time.
Edwards says, “A minimum wage of over $65,000 per week; free education up to the tertiary level; student loan forgiveness; and free health care are some of the things that will become a reality if the JPP is elected to form the Government in the country's next general election.” ( Nationwide News Network, August 11, 2020)
Where would all this money come from? Edwards says from his own funds.
Someone seems to be confusing August for the month of December when a certain mythical figure is said to miraculously appear from the North Pole on a sleigh powered by reindeer. I don't want to spoil the glee which some feel during Yuletide. I hear that Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, is a very amiable character that brings a lot of joy to children. Children, however, do not choose the Government of a country.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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