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.
About Mark Lee
Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by abengnews. abengnews said: New blog posting, Jamaica's 9-11 moment – http://abengnews.com/OG […]
Well written piece Mr. Lee. The metaphor in the last paragraph is apt. Constitutional reform should be the name of the game.
Thanks Oliver. Unfortunately, it seems most people care more for the titillation, scandal and sensationalism than in pursuing solutions.
We all know that Jamaica is not going to get better without new leadership that is untainted by the corruptive and corrosive influences that have ensnared the two major political parties. Yes, one can argue for constitutional reform and it is certainly needed. However, there must also be political reform and that has to start within the political parties themselves and that does not need constitutional reform to get started. As I wrote in a piece for Abeng back in last year, it’s time for both the PNP and JLP to get rid of the deadwood within them or jettison the flotsam or whatever one wants to call it. This episode has exposed the shocking fact that the JLP has no leadership succession plan after Bruce Golding. The PNP at least has a Peter Phillips who could lead it but who does the JLP have who could command the respect and trust of the Jamaican people? I mention Mr. Phillips because he, more than anyone else in the PNP now, seemingly is the most intelligent and articulate of that bunch. We know that it is going to take a generational change for things to get done in Jamaica. Today, both the UK and US have leaders who are under 50y-o and they plan to and have shaken up the systems in those countries. Seeing how much we like to emulate these countries perhaps Jamaicans need to summon anyone under 50 with half a brain and a forceful and engaging personality to become its next leader. They certainly can’t do any worse than the dimwits that have led for these last 20+ yrs.
If we have to depend on the political parties to do something then that only points to the weakness of our system.
A good constitution guiding the legal framework of our political framework to one of accountability is a better move than casting bets on parties and personalities.
Many a punter at Caymanas Park have put their faith (and money) on a horse that was supposed to be a surefire winner, only to see said horse finish out of the frame with subsequent blame put on fixes, the jockey etc.
A country’s political system should not be run in that way.
Mr. Dawes’ mention of Peter Phillips reminds me of Howard Abrahams picking winners for the next racemeet.
Saying Peter Phillips represents the future is like saying the next big thing in music recording will be audio cassettes – both statements would be absurd.
What is needed is civil society, business and media etc. to in a unified way demand revolutionary changes and insist that the politicians follow.
Its this business of waiting for the politicians to lead that is the reason for the status quo.
Break the party/ government confusion – if you are a M.P. you cannot hold any other job or position (including party positions or even Prime Minister)
You also have to reside in the constituency you represent.
Donations to parties to be publicly filed.
I could go on and on but the point I want to get across is that the political parties have a vested interest in the status quo and any changes will have to be forced on them.
They are in the business of party power instead of nation building.
The changes have to be led outside of them.
I don’t profess to know who the next leader of Jamaica will be or if even one of the two major parties will even form the gov’t come the next election. I also mentioned Peter Phillips of the PNP as a potential leader because I believe that in his prior positions as a gov’t minister he has done a good job (not necessarily a great job) when compared to others. The circumstances under which folks like a Peter Phillips was allowed to do his/their job(s) as ministers has to be taken into consideration. Is he the best person to lead the PNP? Compared to the current party leader, yes. Is he the best person to really and truly lead the PNP? I don’t know but he can’t be any worse than Portia and we know that no one else in that party’s leadership hierarchy is leadership material. The same goes for the JLP. Thus the conundrum Jamaica faces: who do folks want to lead them if/when there are no suitable candidates? As I concluded in my prior post, perhaps it’s time for some 40-something to offer up him/herself as a potential leader of Jamaica. In both the UK and US, two 40-somethings did and they are now leaders.
Peter Phillips did a “good job’ in the ministerial portfolios assigned. Really ! that’s breaking news to me. Just to be sure the Peter Phillips I am talking about is the one who was minister of Health, minister of Transport & minister of Security. I cant remember any of them advancing under his tenure. But if you admire somebody who can speak intellectual gobbledygook then he is easily the brightest spark there is out there. But if you want someone who has Jamaica at heart and is looking to lead us out of the quagmire, I strongly suspect he is the wrong man for the job.
@ Oliver, seeing that you think rather lowly of Peter Phillips and of my seemingly talking him up as a potential leader, who would you suggest as a possible leader for Jamaica. It’s rather easy to criticize others’ choices/opinions but please make a recommendation/suggestion as to who Jamaica’s next leader should be. Let’s not kid ourselves for one minute, part of Jamaica’s problem, besides lousy leaders, has been a do-nothing Parliament. You have folks who treat Parliament as a joke with their lousy attendance records and just the plain contempt and disrespect in which they hold addressing the people’s business at Gordon House. This is but one of a number of issues to be addressed. In the end, what is going to help turn Jamaica around is, more or less, a total overhauling of the way things are done. What we’re all waiting for is who will lead and inspire us to get thing done.
I am not big on personalities, I am more interested in systems.
Who will lead the constitutional and political revolution necessary to effect meaningful change ?
I refer to Bob Dylan – The answer is blowing in the wind.
Very good analysis of our political crisis The key point to be noted and discussed is stated by you: “The empowerment of the same people at the centre of the current crisis should be the first order of business”. I submit that the answer lies neither in alliances or swapping of political representatives of our corrupt system of political clientilism nor in constitutional changes designed to reform this undemocratic system, but in its replacement by a bottom-up political and economic system that empowers the ordinary people. Your readers might be interested in reading an article that argues this point at greater length entitled, The Key to Dismantling Garrisons: Empowering the People, not the State, to be found at this link