Politics

The Spies Coming in from The East

This is my final article for the month of April. Thank you for reading and I will see you in June!

High school History traces the reasons why the early settlers came to Jamaica and how they helped to shape our motto: Out Of Many, One People. The Spanish, The English and The Africans take up a big chunk of our history, this is why we spend so much time on Columbus and Slavery and Emancipation. However, the section of history after Slavery, the part that helps to make up what Jamaica is today culturally and economically, is indentureship and it is rarely expounded upon. The ethnic groups that cement themselves among us have done so pretty easily and nowadays these races, namely the Chinese, are extending from family owned stores to big conglomerates to impose on Jamaican livelihood.

This type of influence is dangerous especially since our law makers have a history of shortchanging brand Jamaica with poor management practices. Those from The East are eager to fill these shortcomings with a lot of their own criteria but, as a people, how aware are we of it all?

Waste, Debt, Borrow, Owe, Sell. Waste…

Jamaica is a country of sectors not industries and the main reason for this is because we are generally always in debt. Sometimes, if the debt is too high, we sell. It is for this reason that some people say that Jamaica hardly owns anything Jamaican. For example, our bauxite and sugar industries are owned primarily by the Chinese; the Spanish own a large portion of our hotels, the Japanese loosely have their hands in coffee and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is owned 40% by the Japanese, 40% by the Chinese and 19.9% government. We even sell parts of our public roads to foreigners; recently the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) sold some Chinese store owners parking spaces for $200,000 last year.

We should then be economical and strategic when it comes to administration because of our debt, right? This week I saw that Minister of Culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange doesn’t seem to think so. After opposition Culture Minister, Lisa Hanna accused Grange of creating a pattern of hiring personnel consultants instead of local agencies within her portfolio, Grange this week gave a confession. She stated that she was unaware of the details in a contract to hand over $15 million to a consultant for the 2016 Grand Gala. She stated:

I was not aware of the details of the contract and was not involved in any way in the engagement or contracting of Mr. Nairne (consultant). This was handled by the JCDC (local agency) management team whose prerogative it is to enter into contracts on behalf of the commission.

Sure, but why wasn’t the Minister aware of the details in a contract so large? Seemingly harmless mismanagement techniques have put us on a self destructive path as a nation. Another example was in 2011 when Air Jamaica was sold to Caribbean Airlines because of  poor decisions made while under the government and the private sector. With Ms. Grange I am irritated because if Hanna didn’t force her hand, would we have known? More importantly, what else don’t we know?

Adaptable, Dependable, Organised, Wary. Adaptable

It this kind of attitude that leaves room from slow movers, observers and opportunists– qualities that have roots in espionage if you think about it– to swoop down and offer to save us. I say ‘espionage’ because if you observe ‘Mr. Chin’s’ and even ‘Mrs. Singh’s’ families they both ‘behave’ like spies. For example, they watch our interactions and adapt in a short time to speak our patois (not our Standard English) for better communication yet they will talk about us openly in their mother tongue; they blend in to the point where people often ask, “Have you ever seen a pregnant Chinese woman?” They exist but we hardly see them because Asians are never flashy like the average Jamaican; their deep distrust of us is obvious because they only operate as a family unit, they will own a business for generations because they keep it in the family, a Jamaican will never handle the cash register without strong supervision, and they encourage marriage within their own race.

holness-chinese-signs-deal-for-parliament.jpgPrime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness signs the MOU with with China Construction of America for the commission of the new Parliament building and Government offices, March 2017 (image source).

It is these qualities of being adaptable, dependable, organised and careful that have allowed Chinese and Indian immigrants to excel in the corner stores and restaurants and electronic and furniture dealerships and also to excel in our playing field. Chinese companies are building our highways and the Logics Hub, but the most recent example of their influence in Jamaica is when it was reported that the new Chinese funded parliament building would pay Chinese workers while local contractors would be asked to “volunteer,” as well as when Chinese companies began to build local hotels over local firms.

Historically, Jamaica does not seem to see the need to critically invest in our sectors, our assets or our capabilities. We would rather undermine ourselves and our capacity to develop as a nation in the long run by out sourcing help from countries that have instilled self reliance and vision in its people instead of nourishing a strong backbone for independence and duty at home. The Spanish colonized us, The English demonized us and The Africans defined us but what about those who brought self-management and entrepreneurial skills to our shores? History class should encourage us to learn from the ones who are steadily voicing their influence in Jamaica’s Finance and Economy and maybe this would allow us to see what real life spies actually look like. –Bless.

Footnotes: so, in January of this year the government spent $800 million dollars on an island wide debushing and drain cleaning exercise. They wanted to eradicate the possibility of disease being spread by vermin like rats and mosquitos. The project was expensive; even public figures like Damion Crawford went to Twitter to express realistic expectations. Now cut to last week when heavy rains flooded Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St Thomas. In Clarendon cars were fully covered in water, people were swimming in water to go home, people were moved through water into shelters. The damage is estimated run the government nearly half a billion dollars to fix. I wonder what happened? Was there a draining problem? The Minister of of Local Government says yes, there was a draining problem. Shocker. All those mosquitos that were worried about their future… dem jus’ a live the dream now doh? You know what they say, good things always come to those who wait.

[cover art by: Johannes Stötter]

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Politics

While the Shower Reigns on, People are Losing Power

In my opinion democracy involves a system of sustained accountability and transparency that a government of a country must uphold at the mercy of its citizens. Do you agree? Unfortunately, real world democracy is never really like this, especially in poorer, underdeveloped countries like Jamaica. In Jamaica our democracy  is suicidal; it is rocking back and forth while balancing on the edge of a cliff (imagine one foot in the air, hands wielding like helicopter blades) and the fact that Jamaica has gotten to the stage largely rests on the shoulders of politicians who keep us in the dark through a poor education system that prevents us from thinking for ourselves, their whitewashing of internal party conflicts as well as a public that puts themselves before their country. Thankfully (even though that is yet to be seen), the 2015 election has placed a new government with a fresh leader before us, a government that promises to renew education and uphold the two aforementioned components of democracy, all that is left is the willingness of a people.

Apathy is the main poison to democracy. In the 2015 general elections Jamaica recorded its lowest number of voter turnout in her history. In 2015 47.5% of voters turned out compared to 2011’s 53%. Some believe that if The People’s National Party (PNP) had cleaned up its internal conflicts, put more effort into the lackadaisical strategy they called a campaign and suppressed the arrogance of their leader ( ‘ … Do I look like a loser to you?’) they might have been more voters and they might have remained in power. When the party (PNP) that builds itself on equality and uplifting  the underprivileged is ungracious and feels infallible it sends  disrespect to is voting pool, to the democracy. During the election The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) understood its role and stayed on the ground, focusing on it’s 10 point plan while connecting with loyal voters at multiple town hall meetings and connecting with a younger audience on social media. The party that understood that a disconnect with the people would be dangerous (voters tend to forget politicians while they struggle with bills and file paperwork for the visa so they can fly far away and never look back), won the election

PORTIA ANF ANDREWAndrew Holness (left) and Portia Simpson-Miller (right) in conversation at Holness’  Inaugural Ceremony, Jan. 5,2012 (image source).


Let us do a short review:

In its four year term in office The PNP has been consistently criticized for how it has handled major situations that feature the words accountability and transparency. Even before the general election which featured no debates, no media sit downs or interviews and hardly any social media activity because Mama P was #workingworkingworking, internal party conflicts were boiling. There was the Crawford-Blake (the businessman)-Duncan Price cobweb, the East Portland  ‘bought’ regional election that the  party allowed to stand and the recent relocations instead of release of inadequate Ministers (namely the Health Minister Fenton Ferguson who was hopelessly inadequate during the Riverton fire, Chikungunya epidemic and bacteria related deaths of approximately 19 premature babies at the UHWI) without any real explanation. Even former Member of Parliament Damion Crawford tweeted in reference to David Cameron’s resignation, “I am sure David Cameron wish he was a PNP right now, where it’s never anyone’s fault and no one resigns…”

Recently there are questions regarding PNP’s willingness for renewal after their 2016 internal election nominees were announced for party president and Mrs. Simpson-Miller was unchallenged. Even Peter Bunting resigned to challenge her, possibly for fear of being called a traitor to an already wobbling party. She seemed to have an iron clad grip on her party members until Karl Blythe rose to the occasion. Mr Blythe has volunteered himself to be the sacrificial black sheep, or the big bad wolf depending on your preference, but if he wins he may finally answer the question of if  Mrs. Simpson-Miller rules by fear or by respect.

In the meantime, The JLP under Andrew Holness’ leadership has never had to curtail  any major issues  because he has never been in power for any long period of time. This is partly due to Holness’ immature decision to remove Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams from the Senate and his strident ‘bitter medicine’ comment  that both highlighted his youth; hopefully the last four years has refined him. (Source 1Source 2)


Now as Prime Minister, Holness has been ready to follow up on promises. So far he has released his and his party members’ health and financial records and has offered reasons and retorts to the media for his questionable affairs, namely his mansion on the hill. He has also neatly filed away Everald Warmington, the sore of the party and a hero for all neanderthal chauvinists, far away from the limelight in an overseer’s position instead of releasing him. His radical 10-point plan however, has yet to rake shape but keeping promises and setting precedence is very important for a young Prime Minister and Holness seems to be coping so far.

I say all this to to say that things seem to be looking up. The PNP in ignoring their flaws and taking their position lightly are are now suffering for it and The JLP with a new leader, having learned their lesson after being left to slow burn on the back burner for four years, seem humbled and are eager to prove their worth. I am not a supporter of any one party; I am a supporter of growth, honesty, consistent renewal and humility towards the democratic process. At this current moment The JLP seems to be embodying these principles but it is early days yet and they may fall on their face like they have done in 2011 with Bruce Golding and on countless times with Edward Seaga. Regardless, it is the people that control democracy. If we Jamaicans still drag our feet and wait for handouts that may never come with this government we may see the PNP step in, with covered faults and all, and it will be business as usual.

Footnotes: Who ever said a police officer is only as good as his informant was right. In the news this week I have been seeing daily efforts by the Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC) (a fancy name for the Jamaican police who target gangs) to attract former leader of the Clansman Gang, Tesha Miller, to their offices. The police believe the recent surge in crime in regions of Portmore and Spanish are attributed to the gang and that Miller can give them the answers they need. The news reports emphasize that Miller is ‘a person of interest’, he is not wanted, so the police will only talk to him.

I have two things to say about this: 1) Since there is a high possibility that Miller has less control of the gang- if he is even still apart of it- as when he was deported from the USA in March of this  year he came home to see a new leader, he will have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving up those who are above him in the pecking order. 2) However, as the Jamaican proverb says, ‘no matter how cockroach  drunk, im nah walk past fowl yard’; in other words, which sensible gang member is going to go willingly to the enemy? How can the police think that they can have a sit down with Miller and there will not be any consequences? Everybody knows that there are criminals inside the police department as much as they are outside of it. We also know that the intolerance for ‘informas’ in the Jamaican culture has serious consequences if breached, yet the police promote the culture so carelessly, so blatantly on National television. So, in my humble opinion, the idea to attract police informants is a good one by the C-TOC but it is poorly executed.

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