Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding needs to do some dusting of his cabinet. But only after he’s dusted himself off. The abundance of divisive nonsense-statements that he and his band of ministers seem to come up with is drawing more than ribaldry from a nervous and watchful public.
Following his diagnosis of “termites” in the brain of his political opponents, his observation of “extortion” practices among those in the teaching profession and his now-famous “no gays in my cabinet” affirmation on British television, Golding has bred an expectation among his critics, and even in some supporters, of issuing ad hominem knee-jerk statements that in the past have only succeeded in devaluing his political currency, and continue to widen the chasm that political affiliation has already created among the nation’s citizens.
Like past US President George W. Bush made himself the poster boy for mangled speeches and malapropisms, and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin the advocate of statements that went nowhere, Golding, once believed to be the last hope for Jamaica, is fast emerging as the whipping-boy of his cabinet, paying penance for the baseless utterances of his ministers.
The latest inanity fell from the lips of Member of Parliament for South West St. Ann Ernest Smith, who suggested that homosexuals should be denied permits for firearms. Why? Because they are violent people. Said Mr. Smith: “I am very concerned at the extent to which homosexual activities seem to have overtaken this country … that homosexuals in Jamaica have become so brazen, they’ve formed themselves into organizations and are abusive, violent and something that the Ministry of National Security must look into is why is it that so many homosexuals are licensed firearm holders.”
Then Smith stuffed his foot even further down his throat by pointing out that according to reports he had read, the police force had been “overrun by homosexuals”. Another reason for a witch-hunt, or possibly a group on which to blame the current wave of police brutality and corruption; another case of foot-in-mouth disease from another prehensile mind that has grabbed hold of a phobia bordering on national hysteria, conveniently used to distract the Jamaican public from a bankrupt government’s emerging failure to inspire a nation whose spirit has lost its luster.
The few sparks of brilliance (remind me of them, please) that Golding has displayed in communicating a message of hope to his constituents, have been snuffed out by his weighty silence on other important issues. The Jamaican public is now more interested in observing wide-eyed the progress of new American President Barack Obama, awakening to what constitutes good governance, through his action-oriented first weeks in office, his intent to engage his constituents, to keep his finger on the public pulse, bridging the political divide, moving in lockstep with a still-captivated electorate, and silencing detractors with his dexterity in harnessing the energy and momentum of a successful election campaign.
With Obama’s every thoughtful, premeditated move, whether prudent or not, Jamaicans are being made more aware of what they are missing, and it deepens the sourness of Golding’s half-hearted attempts at communication with them. His radio call-in program had sparked brief interest before it descended into just another self-stroking exercise of seeming to address individual gripes and complaints, making no significant dent in tackling issues and dealing with concerns of national importance.
Watching President Obama choose his cabinet was pure drama, but it also brought home to many observers, how even after the benefit of an extended period spent in opposition, the Prime Minister’s exercise of assigning ministers to ministries was still such a charade that has resulted in a few casualties. We see our future in the hands of mostly elderly men, sluggish, tired and uninspired, when the nation needs a bright, energetic visionary to inspire it out of the doldrums. Jamaicans have also become acutely aware of the frailties of the Westminster system of government which has tended to bolster the tribalism that has hallmarked (or pock-marked) Jamaican politics since independence in 1962.
The Prime Minister’s increasing unpopularity also finds its source in his propensity to vacillate over the simplest of decisions, his lack of follow up regarding outstanding issues (the Tivoli shooting of Five in January 2007 still remains a mystery) and an apparent stubbornness in appointing a qualified Public Relations advisor. Only an unqualified advisor, if any at all, could have allowed the abundance of PR unforgivables with which he has been littering the political highway.
The burning issue is: If Golding doesn’t succeed, what options exist for Jamaica? Does the electorate return to the polls to replace him and his team with the architects of the nation-building plan that was a non-starter after eighteen tortuous years? In this time of great economic uncertainty, without the nation’s fiscal state and the vision for rescue plans laid bare to them, Jamaicans are waking up to the reality that the promise of a “new course” has led to the same gully, and that Golding’s pre-election glitter has gone with the wind.