The last few weeks in Jamaica has been rather tumultuous, more so than usual because of information that has come to light regarding the extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke to the US to face justice for alleged crimes and, this week, the utterances of one Raymond Wilson.
Wilson is the head of the Police Federation, which represents the rank-and-file Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) officers. The Police Federation, as with other Government of Jamaica (GOJ) employees, is involved in protracted negotiations about wage and work issues for its members. The GOJ has said it cannot afford to pay its employees promised and contractually agreed-to wage hikes because it simply does not have the money to do so. It also imposed, unilaterally, a two-year wage freeze and this has and is not sitting well with its employees.
Still, my point is not to discuss whether or not the GOJ can afford to pay its folks what they want or believe they should get as it is to talk about the lack of leadership and what its effect is having on Jamaica. Rather, it is to point out the fact that with all that’s going on in Jamaica it’s just more of the same old nonsense and BS but with a different cast of characters.
The history of politics in Jamaica, specifically from the 1970s until now, has been for those running for the prime minister’s job and for the party wanting to form the government to over-promise and under-deliver. We have had lousy political leadership, lousy economic growth and a society where inanity, illiteracy and ignorance are being practiced, promoted, proffered and pushed by the political leadership as well by the leadership of the two main political parties, the People’s National party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Today, we have two stories that, in my opinion, seem to best capture just what’s happening in Jamaica in terms of leadership and why nothing can be done unless and until there is a change; a change not just in terms of a different party or someone new but of the way things get done and who is to lead that change.
First, we have the Coke/Manatt, Phelps and Phillips saga that simply will not go away, no matter how hard the JLP-led government wants it to. Second, we have a situation whereby the head of the Police Federation, is reported to have referred to the government as corrupt, criminal and, in so few words, does not gives a rat’s ass about his members.
In the first case, this all came about because the US government, through a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Treaty with the GOJ, requested the extradition of Christopher Coke to face drug-smuggling and gun-running charges in a Federal District Court in NYC. The story is well-documented as to how Coke finally ended up in the US getting ready to confront the American justice system.
Recently, the Gleaner newspaper, via the Access to Information Act (ATI), was able to obtain copies of e-mails between GOJ reps, Harold Brady, a prominent Jamaican attorney and the JLP’s main legal honcho and reps from the US law/lobby firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (MPP) discussing treaty matters and other issues which would appear to directly relate to the extradition proceedings against Coke.
According to Bruce Golding and the JLP leadership hierarchy, the e-mail correspondence cited by the Gleaner was a matter strictly between the JLP and MPP and did not involve the GOJ. He said that MPP was paid by the JLP and recently was reported as saying that the payment was from a prominent businessperson who was a JLP member. He declined to name the individual. MPP claimed then and now that any work it did was on behalf of the GOJ and not the JLP and based on info in the e-mails GOJ employees, in their official capacities, were either directly involved in discussions or were supposedly informed about them.
With regard to the fallout from the recent utterances of Wilson, his tirade in which he accuses the government of being corrupt and willing to protect criminals at the expense of his membership was and is eye-opening. Eye-opening not in the sense that this is anything new but in the sense that it was said in a setting and at a time where folks either thought it was (in)appropriate and in the capacity in which they were uttered. He made the remarks in his capacity as head of the Police Federation and, whether one likes it or not, in his capacity as a GOJ employee.
It should also be noted that Mr. Wilson made these remarks as part of an overall speech criticizing of the GOJ in its stance against better wages and working conditions/facilities for his members.
The Coke extradition/MPP imbroglio and the clear case of insubordination by Wilson, while they might be looked at for their novelty, are just more examples of the sorry governments and the sorry state of governance Jamaica has had to put up with over the last 40 years. That Bruce Golding can try to convince sensible folks that a political party can discuss treaty matters with another sovereign nation is not only insulting but makes him look rather stupid.
Anyone with half a brain and whose head is screwed on right knows that treaties between nations are negotiated and entered into between governments and not between a political party and a sovereign government. That GOJ employees, in their official capacities, would work on party business and be compensated by taxpayers is not just wrong but criminal. That Golding really and truly was convinced that the JLP would have got the time of day from the US government to revisit parts of the MLA Treaty makes one want to question not only his intelligence but his sanity.
That members of parliament now have to depend on ‘dons’ and ‘area leaders’ to not only get out the vote but to dispense and disperse government largesse is a sad commentary on the state of affairs. That both the JLP and PNP find it a most difficult undertaking to rid themselves of MPs and prominent members with a cloud over their heads and that there is no ethics committee in Parliament that can investigate them is sad.
That folks like Kern Spencer and Phillip Paulwell in the PNP and Joe Hibbert in the JLP can still be seated in Parliament after all the scandals and questionable activities they have are alleged to have engaged in is scandalous.
That the PNP leadership can hype the party’s ‘Integrity Commission’ as its way of demonstrating its intentions to becoming less welcoming to corrupt reps is a travesty. The fact that this commission’s role is strictly advisory and any of its recommendations can be summarily rejected by the party’s leadership should not be overlooked. All this plus the fact that this commission won’t be looking at the present bunch of reps to determine how ‘fit and proper’ they are to represent this once great party is a sad joke.
That Raymond Wilson can go on a political rant about how corrupt this government is and fail to realize that part of the reason folks see the government as such is because of the actions and behavior of the particular GOJ employees he leads is ludicrous. That, in all likelihood, Wilson will not be canned nor disciplined by this government would not be surprising seeing how compromised it is as a result of the Coke/MPP affair.
How funny, in a rather perverse way, would it be if Golding summoned Wilson to his Vale Royal residence to give him a dressing down and fire him? Everyone would then want to know who’d fire Golding. This is neither irony nor comedy.
That government, over the years and whether PNP- or JLP-led, have sheltered and given succour to criminal entities for their help come election time make it seem as if Jamaica is and has been led by its version of La Cosa Nostra (aka the Mafia) with the leader being the capo di tutti capi.
Still, while we can blame, criticize and denounce the government and politicians for being corrupt and linking their fortunes with criminal elements, we the people are not blameless in all of this. We can stop voting for the idiots and demand more and better from those who want to lead and represent us. We cannot and must not be tolerant of stupidity, hypocrisy, bad behavior and insubordination from politicians and GOJ employees – especially from the latter in their official capacities.
We must demand that GOJ employees be courteous in their interactions with the public, exhibit professionalism in doing their jobs and treat folks with respect. From the political leadership we must demand transparency, accountability and integrity in conducting the nation’s/people’s business and upholding and working within both the letter and spirit of the laws of the land. Finally, an informed and educated populace is Jamaica’s best bet to stay a democratic nation