Jamaica is having a 9-11 moment. Prime Minister Bruce Golding flying a plane of obfuscation into the Jamaican parliament, has brought a unity not often seen across classes and interests on the island. But calls for Golding’s resignation will not solve what is at the heart of the people’s disquiet: the seeming formalisation by the State apparatus of activities viewed as related to the murder, mayhem and economic debilitation of the country for most of its 48 independent years.
No one is concerned now about the details of legal gymnastics in the extradition request by the USA for ruling party supporter and alleged drugs and gun running strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. Nor are they interested in Golding’s and his Jamaica Labour Party’s semantic acrobatics in differentiating between state and party actors who colluded to hire lobbyists Manatt Phelps & Phillips in an effort to make the US request go away. Least interested is anyone in hearing the opposition People’s National Party harping for the demise of Golding and the JLP, notwithstanding it was the party’s national security spokesman, Dr Peter Phillips who brought the matter to the public’s attention and kept it in focus.
Like Barack Obama has discovered, no one is interested hearing about the impact of eight years of Bush on the economy but that he was elected to do a job of fixing the mess. Golding is discovering that fixing the mess in Jamaica is not about speaking with a golden tongue as people are demanding action and results.
But how to go forward in the Jamaican scenario? The first real and likeliest outcome is that Golding ignores the opposition, civil society, business and religious community cries to step down. Nothing could be done to remove him as long as his slender majority in the House of Representatives insists that he is the person best suited to lead them. Certified mental insanity or criminal conviction may be the only extra parliamentary legal means to remove a prime minister who overstays his welcome outside of fulfillment of a general election term.
The popular alternative many suggest, a national unity government, is not constitutionally sanctioned – if the ‘representatives’ in such an arrangement have not been chosen via the due electoral process. Nominees and self appointed persons do not have authority to make recommendations to the acting head of state (the governor general or his stand in for the British monarch).
The legitimate alternative of ‘war cabinet’ type unity government involving the representatives of the existing parties in the House is not appealing to those who believe exchanging one for the other amounts to ‘swapping black dog for monkey’. The result could well be a new genetic ‘black dogkey’ (sic) hybrid sitting atop a political garrison nation with everyone beholden to the political dons of Gordon House.
This unfortunately, is probably the only workable way out as the Jamaican people and Diaspora are now showing that they are ready to stop countenancing nonsense. The civil society business, community (including garrisons) and religious leaders who now call for Golding’s resignation should combine in a united front to pressure the parliamentary parties to cooperate within the House for s specific time with a specific agenda.
This agenda should include constitutional and local government reform possible only when a two-thirds majority or unanimous decision is required. While such reform would address the checks and balances not thought of when the 1962 Jamaica Constitution Order in Council was stitched together at Lancaster House by among others, half baked politicians and British officials living a in a country governed by conventions rather than a constitution, the process would also address social and economic issues.
The empowerment of the same people at the centre of the current crisis should be a first order of business. The captured land community which was the ‘Dungle’, from which Mr Seaga created Tivoli Gardens, is replicated in every political garrison and potential garrison across Jamaica. Its roots, unfortunately lie in the reality that the 1962 Order in Council treated the majority landless and underpowered populace with the same contempt of the 1834 and 1838 Apprenticeship and Emancipation Acts.
It cannot be left to the church and ‘do gooders’ to create free villages outside of a nationally coordinated plan. The Jamaican people need to feel a sense of ownership in the country and the band aid housing projects of the past and present do not go far enough or place sufficient responsibility on the few recipients of the largesse.
Others have proposed some concrete actions that a country free of garrison control may pursue, such as presented in Abeng News by Dr. Peter Edwards, a Marine Scientist, Environmental Economist and Policy Analyst.
But we don’t have all the answers so we suggest that you join in and make your suggestions here. We are certain that the public demonstrating their power will force others to think twice before flying a flimsy one-seater into a solid concrete structure of national consensus.