Golding's hollow protestations
PNP has no record of contritionSunday, September 26, 2021
Mark Golding, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, needs to understand that the lived experience of the electorate cannot be eviscerated by the sharp snap of a finger, illusionary tricks, the façade of piousness, 'Brer' Anancy-type pretensions, or the avoidance of objective reality.
Golding seems totally oblivious to the torrential wind of hypocrisy which swirls around him every time he tries to don the cloak of superior righteousness.
Comments, recently by Golding, on the matter of the resignation of Floyd Green, the former minister of agriculture and fisheries, reminded me of the story in the Bible in which a servant was absolved of humongous debts, but soon after he flatly refused to forgive a minuscule debt owed to him.
The paraphernalia of the pious do not fit the People's National Party (PNP), Golding.
In fact, some actions with that organisation have made Norman Manley's party, as we say in local parlance, look “like heng-pon-nail”. Folks will not be blindsided by that antiquated political ploy. Schizoid politics is not it.
Noted poet William Carlos Williams once famously asked: “What power has love but forgiveness?”
Friday, September 17, 2021 The Gleaner carried a story, titled 'Floyd Green to play stronger role in Parliament, says, PM'. In it Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that because of Green's expertise, the former minister could play an important role in the advancement of the work of certain parliamentary committees.
Some, for reasons best known to them, have jumped on Holness's announcement like a flustered wasp, while some vociferously shouted, “Off with Green's head!” And, still, others, “Banish him to the island of Elba or the freezing climes of Siberia, where Russian dictator Joseph Stalin buried his political enemies.
Consider this preposterous finger-pointing, Golding: “Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who joined the prime minister on tour, objected to his position, arguing that when signals of accountability are being sent it is critical that they are not diluted or appear to be a façade.
“He said Green's trespass of frolicking with friends at a party in New Kingston on a no-movement day was unacceptable to the society.
“Golding said Green made the right decision in stepping back and should not resurface until he shows a new level of maturity on important issues.
“ 'This is not the time to be trying to find avenues to sort of re-accommodate him elsewhere. He's an MP and he can play that role as an MP,' Golding said.”
The PNP president would do well to Google the political history of some of the spokespersons in his shadow Cabinet. There are persons in it who presided over ministries while extremely costly and egregious acts were committed.
The root of their actions was an amalgam of ineptitude and a cruel waste of public resources. The consequences have helped to impoverish Jamaica and damage our credibility abroad. A cursory search on Google will also reveal to Golding that, to date, none of these individuals have had the decency to tender a public apology to the country.
The PNP should rightly be taking a penitent posture in sackcloth and ashes, especially for the numerous money scandals over which it has presided. Instead, the PNP continues to close its eyes to reality, maybe in the hope that its costly blunders, which Google faithfully preserves, will disappear.
Rural folks say, “Tom drunk, but Tom nuh fool.” Folks see right through the veneer of Golding's platform.
All credible polls since 2018 indicate that folks see the PNP as detached from the fervent pulse of the majority. Golding needs to rid himself of the awful syndrome, which was a millstone around the necks of his two recent predecessors. He might begin with a contrite, and national mea culpa.
I think it augurs well for our politics that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) hierarchy did not circle the wagon after Floyd Green's demonstration of bad judgement. Contrast this Administration's response to the stout defence of former PNP ministers who betrayed public trust and the hollowness of Golding's protestation during the tour of the vaccination blitz site in the St Andrew South Western constituency becomes self-evident.
Yes, I know that Green is seen by some as a future leader of the JLP, and I also know that some political opponents are using the opportunity of his terrible public infraction to place a permanent stamp of 'not fit for higher public office' on his forehead. I believe, though, that there is something else at play, which explains severely angry calls from some quarters for the banishment of Green.
As I see it, there is a very nasty underbelly to our politics. It is very vorpal and, pronouncedly, Hobbesian. I do not include the mentioned comments by Golding in this.
There are some among us who preach that political opponents are to be categorised as mortal enemies. Those that I refer to espouse that 'political enemies' must not be allowed to earn a livelihood, must not be allowed to access the tools to express a contrary opinion, and must be marginalised until they cease to exist. This is a most tragic element of our politics. It can only prolong our collective underdevelopment.
We need to shed this burden, real fast.
Supremacy of public trust
On the subject of speed, I find it curious that, while the PNP president is calling for the undiluted punishment of Green, several bigwigs in his party, in traditional and on social media, are advocating that Green “should have been given a chance” and that the prime minister may have dealt with the former agriculture and fisheries minister “too harshly”.
I have even seen a petition making the rounds asking for support for the reinstatement of Green. I fully respect the right of citizens to retail and wholesale these perspectives, but I do not agree with their stance. We live in an extremely low-trust, low-consequence political environment. Any action, particularly by our prime minister, which fuels these negative conditions, would only serve to relegate Jamaica to the backwaters of stunted growth, increased poverty, and regional and global isolation.
One does not have to have a degree in global economic governance to know that countries which are well off economically, socially, and politically, place a high premium on public trust. They do no dilly-dallying when it comes to maintaining the integrity of institutions of public trust.
Such trust is an institution, a most vital one at that. Strong institutions are the oxygen of democracy. Maybe that is why, for example, the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) published by the World Economic Forum identifies the strength of institutions as the first of its 12 pillars which determine the level of productivity, competitiveness, and prosperity earned by an economy.
One only needs to take a quick glance at the latest GCR to realise that countries which score very high in the category of public trust have predominately high-skilled, high-income economies, whereas those that score very low are the opposite.
I believe Green did the right thing in promptly tendering his resignation and Prime Minister Holness did the right thing to accept it while being proportionate in tempering justice with mercy and, at the same time, giving due consideration to the importance of rapidly growing demands by citizens for overt actions of accountability in relation to those who are entrusted with public office.
This utterance by Holness is a hopeful sign for our young democracy: “It's something that I have wrestled with. Yes, our culture, I'm sure the leader of the Opposition would agree, is one where we forgive. But we are now evolving into a new dispensation, a new culture of accountability, and I think Floyd acknowledges that.” ( The Gleaner, September 17, 2021)
Of course, too, it has not escaped my attention that some who are inveighing against the swift actions of the prime minister merely are employing a stale strategy of 'same boat together', or what rural folks refer to as “nuh betta herring, nuh betta barrel” limitation.
Why? Contrast is a very powerful currency in politics. The PNP knows it has a very chequered past when it comes to holding ministers accountable. Hence some at 89 Old Hope Road are desperately trying to drag the Andrew Holness-led Administration into a similar snare. The Holness Administration should avoid that trap like the plague.
On the subject of snares, those who continue to spread misinformation and disinformation about the pandemic, as we say in local parlance, got a 'big lick' recently as evidenced in this development: “All foreign travellers flying to the US will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, who announced the new policy on Monday.
“Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before returning to the US as well as after they arrive home.
“Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine, Zients said.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 20, 2021)
It is beginning to rain very hard on the parade of the antivaxxers. I am not one to lend them an umbrella.
It is tragic that, even though some 4.6 million people globally have succumbed to COVID-19, and at the time of writing some 220 million people and counting have been infected with the novel coronavirus, there are hordes of conspiracy theorists — many, right here in Jamaica — who preach that we should not take the COVID-19 vaccine and sermonise that all we need to do is pray and/or use various concoctions.
The greater tragedy is that far too many among us buy into their foolish and dangerous prattle. Those who maintain that the pandemic is a hoax, notwithstanding the mountain of evidence to the contrary, must have had bouts of paroxysm and/or worse when they saw this headline last Wednesday: 'Six billion anti-COVID shots injected worldwide'.
It was music to my ears.
“More than six billion doses of [COVID-19] vaccines have been given around the world, according to an AFP tally Wednesday based on official sources.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 22, 2021)
The global population is approximately 7.9 billion. The traders of a contorted narrative that says more people have not taken the vaccine, compared to those who have, are exposed again for what they are, mere peddlers of lies.
We need to stop babysitting the feelings of antivaxxers. Their trump card argument that not taking the vaccine is a totally personal decision is applicable to hermits.
We live in a global environment, fuelled by interdependence, which guarantees our continued common existence.
A recent letter penned by Ginna Ingram and published in The Washington Post, titled 'Those who choose to remain unvaccinated harm all of us', brilliantly debunked the myth that not taking the vaccine is no body's business but my own.
It noted, among other things: “Society typically does not allow someone to exercise personal choice without consequences when that choice endangers others. Choose to drink and drive, kill someone: You go to jail.
“People choosing not to get vaccinated are perpetuating the pandemic, endangering their fellow Americans, and contributing to economic hardship. They are driving drunk, and we all are paying for it.
“The debate should not be framed around whether people have a right to refuse the vaccine — yes, they do — but whether they should suffer any societally imposed consequences for making that choice. Imposing consequences for behaviour that endangers others is not new.
“The unvaccinated are choosing to endanger us all, and it's time to hold them accountable, not with criminal penalties, but with other real consequences, such as losing a job, paying more for medical insurance, and required weekly testing.” ( The Washington Post, September 17, 2021)
I said here recently, but it bears repeating: The choices here, to me, are very simple. If you have your cake you can always eat it, but if you eat your cake, you no longer have it.
The purposely unvaccinated are threatening to eat our cake. Let us not fool ourselves for a millisecond. We would be foolish to allow it.
Jamaicans who have not done so as yet need to get up, get out, and get vaccinated if they want to save this country from economic ruin.
Jamaica will have to straighten up and fly right with regard to the issue of a vaccine requirement for her citizens, or risk being relegated to a Luddite existence.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.