Much is expected...Sunday, April 18, 2021
ALMOST a week has elapsed since allegations began swirling that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Central George Wright is the man who was seen violently assaulting a woman in a video which has been making the rounds on social media. Wright has yet to formally confirm or deny whether he is the man in the now-infamous video. This is hugely unacceptable and must be frowned upon.
I believe the Andrew Holness-led Administration must separate itself from Wright with dispatch. If they fail to do so, well-thinking Jamaicans would be correct to conclude that the Administration's recent pronouncement against gender-based violence was mere hot air or, worse, a cruel ridiculing of the sufferings of thousands of citizens in this country.
Lethargy is not a sensible political strategy in these times. Folks are tired of mealy-mouthed expressions of concerns, unfulfilled promises, useless pontifications, purposeless grandstanding, and pointless political palliatives. Well-thinking Jamaicans are clamouring for seismic actions which will steer us away from the long-standing and very costly afflictions that have thwarted the social, economic and political development of our country.
Gender and Culture Minister Olivia Grange was quick and clear in registering the Government's condemnation of the brutality captured in the mentioned video. Among other things, Grange said: “The Government is firmly against acts of violence. This video is deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable. We cannot condone any act of gender-based or family violence; we cannot turn a blind eye.
“I keep saying that we can end the violence, but it requires all of us to end the violence, and that means that we each have a role to play in ending the violence. We have to intervene in what we know happens next door and we have to make a report.
“We will continue with our anti-gender-based violence campaign as we have to develop a mindset and practice in Jamaica that there is no excuse for abuse.” ( Jamaica Observer, April 12, 2021)
That the Holness Administration has once again rejected the 'circle the wagon' ruse — a staple of the Portia Simpson-Miller Administration between 2012-2016 — has not escaped my notice. That's a positive for Holness and his team. But they need to move beyond that positive.
Luke 12:48 reminds us that: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (New International Version)
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been given much; a third bite of the highest-elected office in the land, in fact.
In his swearing-in speech on September 8, 2020 at King's House, he gave these solemn commitments:
“With such a large and convincing mandate, the greatest challenge will be to manage internal demands and behaviour of those who form the majority. There will be those who feel that the majority is basis for arrogance, gives licence to do as they wish, creates opportunity to pursue their selfish ends and their personal ambition, gives room for complacency, and tolerance for errors. Those who hold such views would be sadly mistaken and soon separated.”
It seems to me that the controversy surrounding the legislator has presented another opportunity for Holness to match his words with reassuring and definitive action. Holness was given a second-consecutive mandate just over eight months ago. It was a historic trouncing of the Dr Peter Phillips-led People's National Party (PNP). A resounding triumph could quickly turn out to be a double-edged sword if extremely high expectations are not met. Landslide political victory must result in landslide representation and results at all levels.
Some among us, for reasons best known to them, have been involved in a game of a 'cross-threading' (deliberate obfuscation) in relation to one's constitutional rights and one's political obligations, including that as an exemplar. I submit that the two are quite separate issues that ought not to be confused.
No doubt, this is a matter that will be pursued in the courts. We wait on our system of justice to pore over the matter and identify the truths therein.
There is a long history of differential treatment of individuals in this country based on class, colour, economic, political, and other considerations. I think the Jamaica Constabulary Force has done a tremendous amount of work over many years to convince many more of us that we should have confidence in the police's ability to investigate matters dispassionately. I hope we get no indication that years of admirable work will be cancelled. The country is watching to see how this matter allegedly involving Wright will be settled.
Were the JLP, the police or the justice system to fumble or stumble it would signal the start along the rocky road of, among other things, electoral defeat.
Hypocrisy on steroids
We have a talent of identifying the beam in our brothers' eyes, but not ours. This is one of the great millstones around our collective necks as a developing democracy. Like sharks smelling blood, some who were dormant, silent, or in political hibernation for the last several months found their tongues last week. They demanded Wright's resignation with immediate effect. I was not surprised.
Well-thinking folks, should, however, be asking them to explain what accounted for their stony silence when other news items occupied great prominence in the news cycle with other political representatives being before the courts for assault charges.
The usually supple lips of many gender specialists, civil society gurus, and social media campaigners were then sealed like a fully clasped vice-grip when news surfaced of assault by former Cabinet members.
I am mortified and terrified by those in political representation who only see through one eye. They, like many of the professional politicians in our midst who have never had to meet a pay-bill, manage a business, meet exacting deliverables, or do any real back-breaking work, are a scourge on the land. All of us, who wield influence, small or great, whether on a public or private stage, need to get it through our heads that loyalty to Jamaica is more important than loyalty to a political party. Whichever team messes up while in Government, we must light a fire under them. Otherwise, we march apace along a road to total failure.
Good job, Dr Tufton
Some weeks ago, I pointed out that Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton and some members of his team were bungling the management of the coronavirus pandemic. I think Tufton has clawed back some valuable points as evidenced in the recently concluded vaccine blitz across the island. The inoculation of just under 84,000 Jamaicans over four days is historic. All media reports that I have read say those involved in the life-saving exercise did a Herculean job.
I got my jab at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, last Sunday. I can attest that the process, for the most part, was efficiently managed from start to finish. The supervision of the queues and related logistics by the Jamaica Defence Force was admirable, and the medical students who assisted with registration were first-rate. I think, however, that many more hands were needed to expedite that later function.
The public health nurse who administered my jab did an expert job. I say so because I, like many Jamaicans, have a phobia of needles. I did not feel a thing. I will continue to encourage folks to take the vaccine.
Except for soreness at sections of my left arm, and slight fever on the second day, I have had no significant side effects.
The conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, political ambulance chasers, and 'bad lampers' — those who believe that they can only look good if Jamaica is reduced to rubble — must be licking their wounds. All their spinning of falsehoods for the last many months has largely come to naught. Evildoers, the Good Book says, will always get their comeuppance.
I have been saying in this space for months that the near-free rein the spreaders of misinformation and disinformation have enjoyed needed to be challenged with reservoirs of truth. Three Sundays ago I noted, among other things: “One does not need tested glasses to see that a terrible crisis is upon the land. Those who tell us that God told them to tell Jamaica that prayer and fasting, minus the taking of the COVID-19 vaccine, will tame this calamity, are fraudsters and one-arm bandits.
“I am a fervent believer in God. The God I serve does not encourage helplessness. He gave us a brain and we are obliged to use it to help solve our problems.”
I stand by this position.
Incidentally, I see another set of fraudsters have arisen. These are those who are using deepfake technology to spread lies about vaccines. I would not be surprised if they are cousins of those who direct and manage troll factories.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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