So, the by-election in West Portland has come and gone and Daryl Vaz of the JLP has once again, this time as an unquestioned Jamaican, emerged victorious versus Kenneth Rowe, a one-time JLP2K member who switched parties. Both the JLP and PNP poured major resources into this contest hoping that their man would emerge victorious.
According to a number of polls and pundits, this election was going to be closer than the end results indicated although Vaz claimed that his polling indicated otherwise. As it turned out, Vaz and his polling apparatus apparently knew something that the other pollsters and pundits did not know and he looks like a genius and those other folks like jenny asses.
A question that now arises from this by-election result in West Portland is: what does it tell us about where things currently stand in Jamaica, if this constituency can be viewed as a microcosm of the Jamaican body politic? There are some preliminary answers.
What one could draw from this election and its results is that the majority of folks in Western Portland feel very comfortable having Daryl Vaz represent their interests in the government. Another is that these folks are politically more savvy and sophisticated than they might be given credit for. They realize that while things are not as great as they could be, they believe that the government is doing the best it can under the current circumstances and they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. Does this mean that the JLP-led government should see this as some vindication of the way they’re doing business? In a word, ‘No!’ Assuming that there were to be by-elections in the constituencies held by the other three JLP members with dual citizenships and the results were to turn out in the JLP’s favour, one might be more inclined to believe that the JLP’s woes, at least regarding their candidates, might not be as bad as one might be led to believe.
This should not be construed to mean that the JLP should think it’s on easy street as nothing could be farther from the truth. There have been any number of calls for this government to level with the populace about the true state of affairs but those calls seem to be falling on deaf ears. It’s fine for the PM to speak before a professional setting (read: business folks) and tell them the truth but how about doing so before the nation. Acting in a professional manner and with a sense of urgency would seem to be alien concepts to this government and even to its predecessor.
There is no crime bill; Air Jamaica and the Sugar Corporation of Jamaica – both money pits – are still on the government books; and the Charter of Rights, well, who knows when it will be. Crime, corruption and cronyism are still pestilences upon the land that the government has seemed reluctant to vigorously attack. Those most affected by them are the average folks just trying to get by. As has been mentioned in the past, there is that feeling that Bruce Golding has to be prodded to act rather than taking the initiative and/or being proactive. This does not bode well for his legacy.
As for the PNP, well what’s to really say? Portia Simpson-Miller went to Western Portland to campaign for Kenneth Rowe and Daryl Vaz won by an even bigger margin than when he ran against Abe Dabdoub in 2007. Thus far under her leadership, the PNP has been 0-3 in elections: lost the 2007 general and parish council elections and now this by-election. Assuming that the other three JLP candidates with dual-citizenship issues were to win their by-elections – a distinct possibility – the PNP would be 0-6 in elections in the Portia era and one would have to wonder if there would not be restlessness and rumblings in the party ranks about finding a new leader. Would Peter Phillips think about another run at the PNP leadership or will he decide after two tries it would be best if someone else were to take a shot at being the party’s top dog.
I’m inclined to believe that if/when there are other by-elections and the PNP were to not fare well that someone within the PNP would start putting out feelers to see who should replace Portia. I don’t have any inside knowledge of who would/could possibly replace Portia, if such a scenario was to happen, but Peter Bunting might not be a bad candidate. He’s a successful businessman and politician and yet he seems to relate well to folks who span the spectrum in terms of profession and class. When was the last time anyone could say that about a leader of the PNP?
In the end, this just-concluded by-election went the JLP’s way but it’s high time this dual citizenship issue is seriously and objectively addressed. At a time when Jamaica has more pressing problems to address, the question of one’s patriotism/allegiance/citizenship should not be commanding too much of the nation’s time and resources. The fact that it is would seem to indicate that the nation’s priorities are not in the correct order. Perhaps if the elected representatives and leaders would demonstrate more maturity and true leadership then Jamaica’s prospects would be much brighter and better. We can all only hope this will be.